Boring old Brussels...not!

Trip Start Jan 17, 2006
Trip End Dec 01, 2006

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Well since I had been living in Bruges for so long (two months) and having travelled to Gent and Antwerp, I thought I had a good handle on Belgium. Well, how wrong I was. There must be something innately snobbish about the French language where it inflicts you with this fear of helping people or speaking to someone in any language, but French. Brussels is supposedly the biligual capital of Belgium, although I never heard anyone speak in Flemish or German and no one would even contemplate speaking English to me. Now I know I am in another country where English is not the first language, but everywhere else, the service people can at least say numbers in English or German and understand words like 'when' or 'where'. Bastards...

Anyway...when I was packing up in Bruges, it dawned on me during my hangover that I hadn't organised a place to sleep in Brussels. So I went about solving the problem in the easiest way: I went to to have a look. Now the cheapest room I could find was 25EUR with no included breakfast and it wasn't even in the centre of the city, so I scrapped that. Next I moved on to my trusty websites and This proved successful after about one minute, which was pleasing and I then had a free bed for two nights; not that I used it...

When I arrived at Brussels, I called Rutt, my Estonian host for the two days. She asked me to meet her at Brussels Centraal. Now considering I was at Brussels Midi (south), which is on the same line, I thought this might not be too much of a problem. So I went to the dudes at the train ticket office and asked them if I could get a ticket (in English, then German, then I tried the Flemish I could muster). They threw their hands up in the air and turned to one another like I was not speaking any language, but merely gibberish. In the end I had to draw a picture and then they sold me a ticket and told me to go away. In my frustration I had neglected to ask WHICH train I had to take. For anyone who has been in these large metro systems, you will know they can be a little confusing when attempting them for the first time - especially without a map.

Eventually I made it to where Rutt was and we walked to her apartment, which was suprisingly close. A nice apartment in the middle of Brussels would be expensive normally, but since she works for the European Union Parliament, that wasn't part of her expenses. That night I just rested for a few hours then woke up and went out for a quiet beer with Rutt and her Polish friend Kasia. Kasia is doing her PhD in some sort of Biomedical engineering in Gent.

Near the Grote Markt (town square), there is this street with a few nightclubs on it and about 30 kebab shops. The street would have been about 50 metres long and it was lined with chairs and sprookers trying to get you to eat at their kebab shop. They would shove the menu into your hand and then grab your arm and try to pull you sideways to their seats. Three times I let them pull me in and three times they gave me shitty kebabs. Don't do it unless you are poor. Did I mention that Brussels is about twice the price as the rest of Belgium?

On my second day there, I was walking around the city and enjoying the scenery. I finally bought myself a guide book, so I can get a bit of a leg-up on new cities. I got the Lonely Planet: Europe on a shoestring. According to the book, I am now a 'shoestringer'. It is good to have, although it only pays good attention to a few countries. When coming out of the bookstore, I heard this pumping music, so I walked towards it. It was the gay parade in Brussels, so I set myself up with a good viewing position and watched for a while. It was no where near as good as the one in Perth: all that happened here was truck after truck with gay dudes on the back dancing to loud dance music. Where is the imagination people!? Anyway I found a truck that was playing some songs that I enjoyed and I had nothing better to do, so I followed that until the parade ended thirty minutes later. All that kerfuffle got me in the mood to party, so I went home hoping that the people had come home and we could all go hell-for-leather. When I got there, the house was empty, but I was up for a big night, so I forced myself to have a nap.

When I woke up, two more couch surfers had arrived, which took the amount of people in the house from the normal one, to five! So we all headed out after a while to this bar. In our posse we had:
One Australian (me)
One Estonian (Rutt, our host)
One Pole (Kasia)
One South Korean (Juhi, Jasons wife)
One American (Jason)

Jason was keen to try some Belgian beers, so we headed for a bar that seemed from the outside, like it had a wide selection. When we got in there is only had about three Belgian beers: the rest were the standard selection of Corona, Fosters, Carlsberg blah blah blah. After a while we changed pub and three went home - it was just me and Kasia against the world - crusaders in a bid to have a big night. So we did what seemed normal and local...we went to an IRISH bar. Fortunately, they had a decent crowd in there and a wide selection of beers, so we stayed a while. We then tried a more night-clubby place that turned out to be full of 16 year olds, so we promptly left. We went back to the Irish bar until it closed at 4am. When it closed, we went next door to a place that was owned by the same people and stayed until 6:30am. Upstairs at the club we witnessed an impromptu dance competition between these four black dudes. The DJ did the right thing and played that Run DMC track (Zac, you know the name of this it as a comment for the other people. Other people, check the comments and hopefully Zac has posted it by the time you read this). It was quite the spectacle and they managed to pick up two rotund white-trash chicks. We've all heard the song Baby got Back, but this was beyond a joke. So, now you know why I didn't use my bed for two nights (as was mentioned earlier). We got back when everyone else was waking up and had a nap then woke up again.

I had to get to Cologne and Jason and Juhi were going that way, so I hitchhiked with them. On our journey, we drove through FOUR COUNTRIES INCLUDING THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! I will explain that soon. Jason is a helicopter pilot who works for the US military in training exercises in Germany and if he fuels up his car on a US Army base, he gets the fuel at about one third the price. So we start in Belgium and drive through the bottom tip of the Netherlands. Two countries...While in the Netherlands we go around searching for this airforce base that Jason has heard about except that he doesn't know exactly where it is. We spend about an hour looking for it I reckon, going back and forth and getting lost in a series of one way streets. When we get there, I get my security pass for the base and then we go look for the fuel station. When we get there, it is closed as it is a public holiday in the Netherlands. This was mildly amusing, except I don't think Jason got the joke. So, that makes three countries, because army bases count as the territory of the country that owns them. We continued to Germany where he dropped me off in Cologne. Four countries. I was very happy that he did that for me and I managed to save about 20EUR. When I got out in Cologne I saw a bum getting bashed by police because he wouldn't cooperate. Good times. Next entry from Rijeka - my Cologne stay doesn't deserve a new entry.
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amullett on

It's true
It hurts me too becka, it hurts me too...

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