A short day

Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Maastricht campsite

Flag of Netherlands  ,
Thursday, August 31, 2006

The next morning I was surprised to find I wasn´t too sore, not stiff, nor aching, but weak. Very very weak. It took far too long and far too much concentration to deconstruct the tent, let alone cycle anywhere. I stopped after about 100m, at a roadside cafe, thinking some breakfast would give me energy. Especially breakfast from a Belgian greasy cafe- these don´t even bother with grills, having instead a rank of 5 deep-fat fryers bubbling and spitting behind the counter. Breakfast therefore consisted of chips (which were almost always rubbish in Belgium. It seems that after inventing them the Belgians have stopped trying)a deep-fried shish kebab and a coke. This ought to provide enough energy to power a small town. It got me half-way up the first hill, 500m further on, where a coffee shop proved too much to resist. My coffee arrived accompanied, to my surprise and delight, by Belgium´s true greatest contribution to world culture - a waffle. It was while indulging in this treat that I realised how drained I was. Unconsciously, I was using both hands to cut the waffle. A waffle, you may not know, has a soft, cakey consistency, and ought to be no match for a one-handed diner, even if they´re only armed with a teaspoon. The 20km to Maastricht were slow.

Again the border crossing was purely theoretical. So far I have presented my passport to 5 campsite owners and 0 immigration officials. Even Dover ferry port didn´t bother. I could have managed to carry drugs and sex-workers in my panniers all the way to... Holland. Ah, I understand.

Maastricht I have only heard of because of the treaty, so was pleased to discover that its a beautiful, historic city, with several shady squares where you can sit and soak up the ambiance. I bought a guide from the office de tourisme, and started, because I´m an incurable optimist with boundless faith in my own abilities, despite all evidence that such faith is misguided, the walking tour of the city. I was soon lost and abandonned the tour in favour of sitting in particularly picturesque square and trying the regional speciality- beef stew. Involving onion, flavoursome, fatty pieces of beef cooked until they´re falling apart, cloves, bay and other ingredients, it was rich, filling and delicious. It was a bit like a thick oxtail soup.

I camped just outside Maastricht, ready to head for Aachen, Germany, in the morning- my 5th country in two weeks!
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