Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Last Day in The Netherlands

I mentioned, in my previous post, the possibility of changing the planned route of my trip, giving up Prague for the purpose of reuniting with my best friend back in London as he’ll be there for a few days (he lives in Israel). And so, as much as it would be hard for me to give up visiting Prague – and I was really looking forward to it – I decided to head back to London and meet my friend.

That will happen tomorrow morning. On Friday, I will be taking the train back to Brussels, spend a day there (I had heard that it’s a nice place to visit), and take a train to Frankfurt on Saturday, so I am ready to depart back to Canada on Sunday around noon.

So at around 9:00am this morning I took the train from Delft to Rotterdam. A major city in The Netherlands, I was curious to see what it has to offer. Weather was (actually, still is) gloomy, with occasional drizzle. Very slow morning – everything appeared to go slower than usual: the people, the bikes, the cars…

The train makes it to Rotterdam in less than fifteen minutes, dropping you in Rotterdam Centraal, which is (lets see if you can guess this right) Rotterdam’s central station - quite a major transportation hub with trains, trams, buses, and any other form of transportation known to mankind other than horse & buggies and space shuttles. This stations is where you want to go in order to connect to train rides to Brussels, which is the closest Eurostar transportation hub (takes you to London within exactly two hours).

Funny to realize that, factoring in check-in, security, boarding, baggage claim etc – getting from Delft / Amsterdam to London is faster, cheaper and more enjoyable than by flying. Seriously, the rail system here in Western Europe is something Europeans should be proud of and I can only wish that North American governments will realize that it is about time to borrow this concept and implement it at home.

I still need to get more intimately knowledgeable with the European train systems before departing on my ultimate European journey during the spring-summer of 2010, following Mark Knopfler and the band. I intend to rely mostly, if not exclusively, on public ground transportation during the European leg of the tour – which won’t work for the North American leg as distances are too great for the existing public transportation infrastructure and schedules.

Anyway, back to Rotterdam: what I found was very different from what I expected. I haven’t been there for too long, but what I found, in sharp contrast to Amsterdam, a “modern” city. Architecture-wise, it is much closer to the typical mid-sized North American city (say Calgary) than to Amsterdam. Later, the reason became clear: during World War II, Germany has demolished the entire city centre, so whatever you find in the city centre of Rotterdam is, in European terms, new.

Had I had to race an English Bulldog (OK, OK; English Bulldokh) for food this morning, I would have probably won; I was that hungry and was passionately seeking a place to sit down, have some light breakfast and, of course, espresso. Wandering the streets of central Rotterdam, I haven’t really seen too many places offering food, or coffee, that were open. The streets appeared to be quite empty – emptier than what I would expect in a working day.

So it’s either I caught Rotterdam in a bad day, or it caught me in one of mine.

I ended up having a mediocre sandwich and a phenomenally, tremendously, victoriously terrible cappuccino at the plaza next to the central station, then went on my way back to the train station.

First thing I did as I returned to Delft was to call my father, who happens to be the person whom I admire the most, and wish him a happy 56th birthday. Can’t wait to see him again in my next visit home, most likely this coming December.

Next I proceeded to look at what’s new and exciting. A link on my Facebook page took me to an interview Mark gave to the Sky network about his new album. Not my favourite interview of all times, to say the least – the sole responsibility being Sky’s. I couldn’t help but starting yet again to think about the music business – a word combination that, in my opinion, presents a terrible dilemma for musicians of Knopfler’s scale. This is a subject for another post which I will keep for tomorrow’s 4-hour train ride from Delft to London.


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