Return to Hoogvliet

The Rotterdam district of Hoogvliet, located more than ten kilometers from the city center, is a boring suburb if ever there was one. I’ve spent the first 22 years of my life there. And I was not very enthusiastic about it, to put it mildly. A town with forty thousand inhabitants, but without a theater, a cinema or other forms of culture and nightlife. And with architecture from the disastrous decades of the sixties, seventies and eighties, which did not make me happy either.

Two apartments slabs from de nineteen sixties in Zalmplaat neighbourhood in the Rotterdam district of Hoogvliet
1 – Zalmplaat neighbourhood

Roots

I don’t visit Hoogvliet very often these days; there aren’t very many people I know there anymore. But once in a while you have to go back to your roots, so last week I took the metro once again to my old hometown to make an 11 kilometre walk down memory lane.

Those who want to follow in my footsteps may find this map useful. The numbers refer to the photos. For those who prefer walking nodes: the nodes 76-88-86-98-34-04-46-15-19-76 will take you more or less along the same route.

(Interactive map: zoom or click on the icons for more information)

At first sight…

The first impression after arrival at metro station Hoogvliet is not very pleasant. Could there be a more desolate station square anywhere in the Netherlands? If you know one, please tell me…

Somewhat desolate square with busstops in fornt of the Hoogvliet metrostation near Rotterdam
2 – the station square

Church

From the metro a charming old dike leads along the meager remains of the old village to the town center, if that’s what you can call it. With only one old building of significance: the Village Church. Once the village continued for kilometres beyond this point, but in the nineteen sixties everything was mercilessly destroyed.

The old church of Hoogvliet with modern buildings in the background
3 – the Village Church

I don’t want to spend too many words, and certainly no photos, on the center itself. It once had, with some imagination, a certain appeal to lovers of modernist architecture, but after a renovation there is nothing left of that.

Chill Hill

But hold on, it gets better! On the north side of the Westpunt neighbourhood is a park called the Heerlijkheid Hoogvliet. With, among other things, the Chill Hill, with its red plastic lounge sofas and, from the summit, a beautiful view of the oil industry beyond. I would have appreciated a cafe or restaurant here, but maybe I should not expect too much on a Monday in January.

Chill Hill, an artificial hill in Heerlijkheid Park in Hoogvliet with red seats and a view towards the industry beyond
4 – Chill Hill

Green Belt

The Heerlijkheid is part of the Green Belt that more or less surrounds Hoogvliet, just like Ruigeplaat forest located a little further away. In my childhood days, this was a rather dull recreational area, but after a whirlwind devastated that in the nineties, it has been allowed to become more wild. And along the formerly inaccessible bank of the river Oude Maas, a beautiful steel and wood walkbridge has been constructed.

Wooden walkbridge through the tidal forest along the river Oude Maas near Ruigeplaatbos in the Rotterdam district of Hoogvliet
5 – Ruigeplaat Forest

Bridge

It may be clear by now that Hoogvliet does not have a lot of history to visit. But this portal of the old Spijkenisse bridge is an exception. To the right we see the new bridge, built in the seventies, that I had to cross by bicycle on my way to school every day. Aesthetic requirements clearly played no role in the decision-making at that time …

A remnant of the old Spijkenisser bridge with the new bridge in the background
6 – Spijkenisse bridge

Skyline

From the bridgehead one can clearly see how neighboring Spijkenisse is building an ambitious skyline. Ambitious in terms of height, at least.

View from Hoogvliet towards the recent highrise in Spijkenisse on the other side of the river Oude Maas
7 – Spijkenisse skyline

After the bridgehead there’s another nature reserve: the Visserijgriend, or Fishing Willows. This area used to be completely inaccessible. It was one of my big frustrations: living close to a big river, and being denied access to it by barbed wire and no entry signs. The fact that there is a nice hiking area here today, with plank bridges, reedlands and willow forests, is a tremendous improvement.

Wooden walkbridge along a field of reeds in nature reserve Visserijgriend (Fishing Willows) near Hoogvliet
8- Fishing Willows

The Little Lake

I conclude this little tour with an idyllic image of the Little Lake, which was formed long ago because of a dyke breach. In my younger years this was an exciting and adventurous area. It is even smaller than I remember, like more things in Hoogvliet. But that may always be the case when you visit places of your childhood.

Small lake lined with reeds, bushes, trees and grass near Zalmplaat in the Rotterdam district of Hoogvliet
9 – the Little Lake

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