Last Saturday I caught the Intercity train to Antwerp, a mere hour away by train, but in some wonderful ways a world away.
Antwerp has an elegant and gracious city center, a wonderful array of small and interesting shops as well as stores selling Italian brands so expensive they need body guards wearing dark suits and sunglasses. There is tempting food, Belgian beer and, of course, Belgian chocolate wherever you turn. Quite different from rough and ready Rotterdam.
In the late afternoon, as I was heading back to the train station along the main pedestrian shopping street, I heard someone playing Great Balls of Fire on the piano. I assumed it was a boom box, but as I got closer to the source of the sound, look what I found!
I loved it! His name is Piano Paul and he makes people happy. It’s not really clear from this YouTube video, but that piano? It’s a bike.
Contrast this with Rotterdam where the main shopping street on a Saturday is terrorized by a barrel organ. Today, as I was walking through the city center on my way to the music library, I came across a new low in street music in Rotterdam. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera so I’ll have to explain what I saw. It was a man dressed as a cowboy, white hat, fringed leather vest, the works. He was playing the guitar and butchering some country & western song with a tuneless voice. Imagine that this man is wearing a Shetland pony-sized horse puppet around his waist so that you don’t see his legs as he walks, creating the illusion he’s actually riding the pony. It was a new low. The barrel organ simply makes me wish I could have it for target practice, but this guy was so truly awful, I was pleased when the Hare Krishna came along and drowned him out.