Today we made yet another long drive in Peirre Luigi's autobus-- this time from Ruddesheim, Germany to Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The band departed from the hotel at a rather early hour and therefore everyone was tired and eager to sleep on the bus. This trip afforded us plenty of time: at least 6 hours (consisting of castles and at least one hour of people not knowing when to be quiet). In retrospect, 6 hours is a very brief amount of time considering that we drove to an entirely different country (the 4th in a week!).
We arrived in Rotterdam around 2 in the afternoon (14:00)-just before our sound check at 3 for our gig at 4.The venue is an off-festival stage of the Northsea festival, located right on the banks of the Rhine (Rotterdam is a huge port city, more to come of that later). Unfortunately, just as we started playing, it started raining-- this is not uncommon for Rotterdam, apparently it rains over half of the days. Although the audience became soaked, the band was kept dry under a great band shell/tent/tarp. The band took full advantage of the radio truck that was there to record us. We produced a pretty great live recording! The response was good from the people who actually stuck around through all of the rain. Let me tell you, we played a burning set (higher, faster, louder).
The rest of the day provided the band with free time to explore the city. I ended up at this great Indonesian restaurant named Bazaar-- some great ethnic food, although I'm not really sure what I ate--some type of meat, I'm sure.
Some general observations about Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in general:
1. The language, Dutch seems endlessly complicated. It is also strange because: my honest first reaction to the language is that a Dutch person speaking sounds like an American making up foreign words (the pronunciation sounds like American English-- plus a lot of throat-clearing). You shouldn't worry about speaking Dutch, everyone speaks English from a very young age-- and I mean great English. People switch between Dutch and English effortlessly.
2. Watch out for the bikes. There are thousands of bikes chained up everywhere-- easily 500 withing one block. It seems to be the primary mode of transportation around the city. Biking makes so much sense! The infrastructure is amazing-- there are bike lanes on every road (which include stop lights, line, etc.). The roads are crazy: filled with bikes, a sprinkling of cars, and a metro that runs right on the street (walk at your own risk). Crossing the street feels oddly like playing a game of Frogger-- avoiding crowds of pedestrians, bikers, and motor vehicles. This city is VERY densely populated- there are tons of people everywhere-- Remarkably, there isn't chaos (people don't J walk) and the city is clean (thanks to many street-cleaning crews).
3. Rotterdam is a huge port city: there are bridges, channels, boats, and water everywhere. I saw a fair amount of houseboats.
4. There are "no smoking" signs everywhere. Inside my hotel room, I counted at least 6 obnoxiously large signs. The country of the Netherlands just banned smoking inside all public locations. This policy went into effect less than 2 weeks ago, so the people are now trying to enforce that policy. It seems to be working-- don't get me wrong though, people smoke everywhere else. There are cigarette butts everywhere (disgusting)-- like I said, good thing for the street-cleaners.
5. There are hardly any police officers...anywhere-- I only saw two my entire stay in the country (both on bikes). Apparently it works for them;there is hardly any crime (some petty crime) and I felt very very safe.
6. Dutch people are very tall! Hildegunn tells me that they are the tallest in the world.
7. The architecture is very cool/modern
8. I have a new favorite snack: Stroopewafel! This is hands-down the best snack item I have ever tasted-- and I would be that at least 10 of my band mates would agree. What is it you ask? Let me tell you: A stroopewafel is shaped like a flat disc that is about 5 inches across. This type of cookie resembles a sandwich, the inside is a caramel substance while the outside is similar to an ice cream cone. I will definitely be hitting up Whole Foods and searching for those when I return home.