A Tale of Two Cities: Bombs, Bankruptcy, and Rebirth

One of the jobs of city government is to take care of its residents when disaster strikes, and the recent COVID crisis has given each of us an opportunity for a real-time view of whether they are … or aren’t, up to the task. But what happens when an emergency impacts the very bones of the city itself: the buildings, streets, parks, and all the essential functions and services?

We lived in Asheville, North Carolina, and in the days of unfettered travel, we visited Rotterdam, Netherlands; so we have our own tale of two cities.

These are radically different cities on opposite sides of the globe, each of which experienced man-made disasters that threatened to destroy them. 

The problem solving strategies used by each couldn’t have been more different, but there’s no arguing with results. Today, both cities are successful, vibrant examples of perseverance, and luckily for residents and visitors, the proof is preserved in architecture.

Our next couple of posts will discuss each one in detail, but the teaser is that Asheville paid the bills to keep the lights on while letting their historic buildings take care of themselves, and Rotterdam took advantage of a clean slate to make a clear bet on the future. 

We hope you’ll stay with us to see how sometimes doing nothing is the best thing, and if you’re forced to change, make it a big one. 

Good Health and Happy Trails,

James & Terri

Photo Credits: 2. Adrien Milcent   3. Simone Hutsch   4. Victor Garcia   5.  Explore Asheville 

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

27 thoughts

    1. Rusha, natural disasters happen every day around the world, but we humans have ourselves to blame for the problems in Asheville and Rotterdam. I hope you find the series interesting. ~James

    1. Sue, despite all the attention for national politics, I suspect that for most people city governments have more day-to-day impact on individual lives than any other branch. These two posts are a hats-off to them. ~James

  1. Hi Terri and James, Wow, fascinating photos! Great description, “perseverance” and “proof is preserved in architecture.” I look forward to see where you are going with these two intriguing, diverse concepts.

    1. Erica, historians have a habit of analyzing the results of our actions, but spend little time on what wasn’t done. But what I found interesting about Asheville’s architecture was what didn’t happen. Stay tuned for our next post. ~James

    1. Thanks Chris. I hope you enjoy the series. BTW, how goes the “Rona” in Oz? In our neck of the woods, the infection rates are down considerably, vaccination rates are increasing, and folks are beginning to actually see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s still the tail-end of winter here, so we’re staying close to home, but as it warms, we’re hoping to hit the road for some domestic travel. Are folks traveling much there? ~James

    1. Bama, Asheville is a medium-sized city in a beautiful location, and it frequently shows up on “Best Places to Live” lists. So if you’re ever in this area it’s worth a visit. ~James

    1. I agree Juliann. We really enjoyed living in Asheville. People move there from all over, so there’s great diversity, and of course, the location is fabulous. ~James

  2. I was going to post that I was disappointed the photos don’t have captions, but then I hovered my cursor over each and found that was the magic trick. It worked for all except the big yellow building, which I am guessing was taken in Asheville.

    We visited Asheville in 2005, and seriously considered relocating there upon retirement, but ultimately decided to stay in New Jersey. It will be fun to revisit with you.


    1. Shelly, we lived in Asheville for a year and really enjoyed it. In addition to being a beautiful location, it has lots of alternate lifestyle folks that make it colorful and vibrant.

      As for the captioned photos, we try to label most of them, but aren’t always successful. And the big yellow building is indeed in Asheville. It was just up the street from our cool apartment which was in a turn-of-the-century hospital. ~James

  3. Hi Guys, I recognized Rotterdam’s Cube Houses and Market Hall in your feature photo collage. In October 2019, we stayed a month in the small town of Moordrecht between Rotterdam and Gouda. We have such wonderful memories of our time in that area, and look forward to seeing your upcoming posts.

    1. Joe, I remember your time in the Netherlands and also remember reading you posts on the all-important Dutch water management system. We’ve spent a fair amount of time in the Netherlands, and we manage to pass through on just about every trip to Europe. If we were to pick a spot in Europe to live for a year it would probably be in the Netherlands somewhere. I hope that you and all your loved ones are well and healthy. ~James

      1. Thanks, James. A year in the Netherlands would be a dream. I hope you realize it someday. Thank you for the well-wishes and health and happiness to you and Terri too.

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