There is a tale in southwestern Nigeria of a certain Ajala who travelled from one place to another. Inspired by Ajala and wanting to be like a certain contemporary junketer, I continued my tour of the Netherlands. Christmas Day saw me at Rotterdam, covering more distance on foot than some persons would walk in a month. This is a tale of Christmas at Europe’s largest port city.
The day began with a Christmas service at a church near a metro station in Rotterdam. The brief “family service” had the Christmas aura, with the pastor’s sermon focused on admonishing us to truly “make room for God”. In an ever-busy world, with lots of attracting distractions, putting God in the spotlight is becoming rare among Christians. With Christmas celebrating the birth (not birthday!) of Jesus Christ, I think reminding Christians to be real Christians, not cherry-pickers, hypocrites or faithless religionists is vital.
After the service, Briggs and I spent an hour chatting with the pastor in an atmosphere of plates and cutleries, while we waited for Femi to join us from Delft. The day’s patrolling session began with Femi’s arrival at the Rotterdam Central Station. Once again, we depended on Google and mobile maps. The day was windy enough to push a lightweight person. Pushing through the chilly windy streets of Rotterdam, our camera shutters kept clicking as we captured images of the three unguided tourists; one banally dressed, another better dressed, and the third, dressed to meet the Queen.
I earlier mentioned that Rotterdam is the largest port city in Europe. It is also the third busiest port in the world, trumped only by Shanghai and Singapore. Thanks to our previous stroll with Fabian, we now knew that the name “Rotterdam” arose from the damming of a river called “Rotter”. The city expanded from that construction, and now handles the majority of all cargo that comes or leaves Europe by sea.
From the Central Station, we set out for the Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug), an iconic cable-stayed bridge in this city. Along the way, we were joined by Ozi, another student at TU Delft, and one of the brains behind KraksTV, a start up in Nigeria. By the time we reached the bridge, the clock was nearing 5pm local time and four stomachs had begun to grumble angrily. It was time for dinner.
From the bridge, we set out for Markthal Rotterdam, planning to eat at a certain Italian restaurant. The map showed a route that would keep us walking next to a jetty, about four metres from the cold river. For some reason, mimicking humanity’s potential distrust of AI bots, the other three Nigerians refused to walk that close to the edge, believing the map was wrong. It turned out that the map was very correct, this being HERE Maps, and not Apple’s initial map service.
After finding our way to the restaurant, the only activity around there was in the light bulbs outside the building. They were closed for Christmas Day, despite our trusted Google telling us that the restaurant was open. Google’s “Live” functionality even showed that the place was “not as busy as usual” and would be open until 10pm. It was around 6pm; the place was only open to Google’s bots, and some stomachs were getting impatient. Not wanting to break the bank in any fancy restaurant, we went on a search for the nearest KFC outlet. As if the enemies of our stomachs’ progress were working overtime, we arrived at a KFC outlet to realise it was also closed for Christmas. At this point, McDonalds came to our rescue.
We refuelled, and then proceeded to trace our steps back to the central station. The number of pictures taken along the way meant we made progress quite slowly. What shall it profit a tourist to rush in the midst of so much beauty? We finally arrived at the station, and found a train back to Delft. Arriving at Delft, we thought the day was over for us. We were partially correct.
As the others went towards the massive underground bicycle parking space, I was given directions to board a bus home. I followed the instructions religiously, got on the bus with the correct number, but somehow, after about fifteen minutes, things didn’t seem right. Since this was only the second time I would join the bus for this route, I kept my eyes on the information screen, waiting to see the expected bus stop on it. I counted six bus stops, then ten, then fifteen, still no sign of the bus stop where I was supposed to drop. After counting twenty-one stops, I called Femi to inform him that I was likely going to appear on television that night as a missing person. Then I came forward to inform the driver that I had not seen my bus stop. He confirmed my fears.
The driver informed me that I had entered the right bus number, but in the wrong direction, and I was now in the famous city called The Hague (Den Haag). The nice driver then showed me a bus heading in the opposite direction, and came close for me to change buses. As I entered the new bus and brought my card to pay the fare, the lady told me not to bother. It was then I realised that the other driver had radioed his colleague explaining my predicament and asking that I get a free pass home. That was how I returned to Delfgauw, wrapping up an interesting Christmas day.