On a business trip here not long ago, I had a chance to experience the quintessential Dutch activity: smoking pot. No, just kidding: bicycling.
The wonderful network of bike paths/roads here are much more than mere afterthoughts along the side of the road. In the 1970s a socialist-minded government decided to put in as many bike roads as possible, making the Netherlands easy to get around on bike and safe to pedal.
Rotterdam is paved with red-top asphalt bike roads, complete with white dividing lines down the middle and traffic lights for bikes. Drivers are tolerant of bikes, because they too ride bikes when they’re not in cars.
I pedaled across the “Swan,” as Rotterdammers call the architecturally splendid Erasmus Bridge, to the cruise terminal and the famous landmark hotel, New York, which is set on a narrow peninsula where cruise passengers set off for New York, typically on Holland America Line ships. Being at New York was a good reminder that the Big Apple was once a Dutch possession.
I stopped to ask directions from four bikers and ended up spending the rest of the day with them. We rode around a beautiful lake and through a park, then made our way into the city center to for a taste of Rotterdam: a beer al fresco at Dudok Rotterdam, a famous landmark; licorice at a candy shop down the street; and Dutch cigars just across the street.
We then found the famous Frites met mayonaisse.
I was also persuaded to take the Dutch specialty, raw herring. You hold this eight-inch, gutted and beheaded fish by the tail and lower it into your mouth. Sushi anyone?