Saturday, 10 June 2017
Our fast intercity train did not take long to reach Rotterdam Central Station. This is a very odd-looking building – someone remarked that it resembles the open mouth of a shark about to leap out of the water. What do you think?
I was very hungry and thirsty by then, so I was most relieved when one of Richard’s colleagues sensibly suggested that we should have some refreshments at Starbucks restaurant inside the Station. Thank you, Carla, what an excellent suggestion.
We had some coffee and tea – and a bite of the fluffiest lightest donut, dusted with just a hint of sugar, that I had ever tasted. I could have easily polished off the whole one.
Afterwards, we went our separate ways to check into our various hotels. Some of Richard’s colleagues were staying at the Hilton, others were in the Holiday Inn, and we were booked into Hotel Emma, which is in Nieuwe Binnenweg. Fortunately, it was not far from the Central Station. Along the way, we passed De Doelen, which is the conference centre, where the Engineering Meeting for the Square Kilometre Array project is being held this week.
This, you may know, is an international project to build the largest earth-based radio telescope array in the world. It is being co-hosted by South Africa and Australia, but engineers and scientists from many countries around the world are involved. It is quite fascinating. I was lucky enough to fly with Richard to the site of the telescope in the Karoo once; it was very impressive indeed!
Walking to our hotel was unexpectedly exciting!
My friends and I quickly learned that you need eyes in the back of your head! There are not just cars on the road, but also cyclists – hundreds and hundreds of them! – as well as motorcycles, trucks, buses, and trams! We realised that the cyclists have their own lane – and they don’t stop for pedestrians; you may have to leap smartly out of the way! Reggie and I were spellbound by the cyclists… they all look like they are born on their bikes! They glide along effortlessly, hardly pedalling, no huffing and puffing, no red faces, just looking relaxed and elegant. Rotterdamers must be very fit people.
Crossing the tracks of the trams was particularly disconcerting. I’ve never seen that before, and it felt quite wrong to walk across the tracks themselves. They run in the middle of the road, which they seem to share with cars! It’s so strange. Most of the time, the cars and buses actually stop at pedestrian crossings, when someone is waiting to cross. That doesn’t happen in South Africa. Reggie and I kept waving ‘thank you!’ to the motorists and cyclists when they allowed us to cross safely, but I didn’t see any of the locals doing that.