When I thought I was bad with keeping up the blog posts, apparently, I got worse at it now... anyhow better late than never. This post will focus on my Belgium trip (I know its almost a month ago since I made that trip but better late than never :p)... and next two separate posts, I will add some stuff about my Christmas and NewYears eve experience here.
To refresh your memories, I went to Belgium to meet Megan who had been in Kenya for years and she was going to be in europe for a week so I thought I would grab the chance to meet her and do some sightseeing along the way. Unfortunately, Tara was supposed to come but at the last minute she was unable to come, I should visit her in Italy sometime later this year anyway :)
I can't exactly remember which date I went to Belgium but I know it was on a tuesday. I finally took advantage of RyanAir.com's insanely cheap fares... it cost me only about 40 dollars canadian for the roundtrip airfare to Charleroi, Belgium. The first night in Belgium was one of my most unpleasant experience I've ever had...
When I landed in Charleroi, it was about 45 minutes drive from Brussels, the capital city of Belgium where I was to meet a friend of Elisabet who actually lives in Brussels. The plane arrived like 8pm in the evening and there was a bus leaving for Brussels by 830pm... I figured I should be there well before 9:30pm which was good since that friend agreed to meet me at 930pm and that person told explicitly to get off on the LAST stop on the bus and the last stop would be the Central Station. The bus driver did not speak/read/write any english so I asked a lady sitting near me on the bus to tell him to let me know when the LAST stop was so I can get off... the bus driver made a "no problem" gesture... after few stops, that lady who helped me translate got off the bus... then little after 9:15pm, the bus got into Brussells. That was the beginning of my most craziest bus trip I've ever had in my life, the bus driver, some foreign french dude just started driving like a maniac, he was going like 70kmh on 30kmh limit streets (and let me add, the bus was one of the biggest bus I've ever seen, you know those bus with accordoin centre -- double the length of a normal coachline bus)... the bus was very nice and poshy but the driver didn't seem to care about the well-being of the bus or the passengers in the bus. He just cut everybody off zigging and zagging through the CITY streets, those streets were very narrow and the bus driver decided to use the sidewalk as a road whenever he felt like it. I think that bus trip was one of the most scariest roller coaster ride I've ever been on, the driver went through red lights few times without even stopping, drove towards the opposite side of a one way street because the router was more shorter. I don't think I've ever seen so many drivers swearing in a single night.
Anyway, once he finally stopped at a train station that seemed like a central station, I motioned to him if this was the place I should get off he said "no no... wait", I sat down patiently wondering what more I would experience on the bus... I looked back of the bus and noticed that there was stil a group of 20 people at the end of the bus so I figured it wasnt the last stop... after another 25 mintues of WILD driving, and WILD doesnt even justify the description of the experience but I'm not in the mood to check out a thesaurus... anyhow the bus finally stopped in front of a 5 star hotel... the 20 people in the back got off and paid the bus driver with a large sum of cash. "oh no" i thought, since I was the last person on the bus I assumed the driver must have misunderstood me... the driver approached me and asked me "where would you like to go" in some strange french gestures...
I went.. "huh?"...
Driver: *pointing his finger in different directions*
Brandon: *sigh* wrote down *Central Station* on a piece of paper
Driver: *eyes widened* *pissed off expression on face*
Apparently, the bus doesnt have Central Station on its route and it was already on OTHER side of the city, the driver was clearly agigtated and drove like a maniac again, zippping on streets that I thought was so narrow that even my car couldnt fit the width of the street (i drive a neon by the way) and the worse was to come, he made a sharp left turn and bumped up towards a frigging BIKE PATH and still went like 60kmh or something... while driving he motioned that he wanted some money for the out of the way route. I gave the classic "Pretending-I-am-deaf-and-did-not-understand-anything" expression because I only had 5euros in my wallet and I didn't want to know what would happen if he asked for 50 euros or something. Luckily, he wanted just 5 euros.... then he made another crazy turn towards on an opposite way of one-way street and just stopped there. Told me to get off, I was like "huh??" wheres the central station... he pointed a finger in a direction that just looked like Yonge Street in Torono, nothing indicative of a station... but I had enough of the life-threatening experience, I reluctantly smiled and got off the bus and there I was. Stranded in a strange country, strange city with languages that I do not speak (Dutch or French) and I had no idea what I should do.
I found a subway station, I looked at the map (it was 1030pm by now, I knew i was very late but I was hoping that the "friend" would still wait for me) I didn't find any Central STation on the subway map but I saw "Midi Station" and it seemed to be the main station of Brussels and the bus did stop by there... I was assuming that the Midi Station was the stop I was supposed to get off at. So I snuck in the subway without paying anything cuz I had NO cash on me and ATM machines was almost impossible to find in Brussels especially so late at night. I got to Midi Station and it was HUGE, that "friend" was not there... I walked and walked searching for him... I decided to ask a stranger to send him a sms because my mobile phone didnt work in Belgium.
Basically the whole night was a screw up... in the end, I ended up paying 15euros for internet, then about 1am I went to almost 10 different hotels before finding one and paid 50 euros to stay in a fleabag hostel, I didn't have any other options all of the other hostels were full and I wasnt going to sleep on the street because Brussels didnt seem like a friendly place at night (at least where I was in at the moment)
I never met that "friend" for the rest of the week... so I dont know if that "Friend" is a "friend" to me now... but ah oh well...
now, pushing all of the unfortunate events aside, I finally met Megan on the following morning in CENTRAL station, apparently its a small station and not as easibly recognizable on the subway map. Megan was one hour late because she got on the wrong train, I almost thought I was having flashbacks of the previous night but then I finally saw her... everything went smoothly after that :D...
It was fun meeting megan, and fun to use nothing but ASL with a native ASL user... although I must admit, after several days, I was getting somewhat anxietic with using ASL... feels like I had to think about which selection of signs I should use at the specific moment... oh well...
Megan and I went sightseeing Brussels, I think we almost saw everything in just 24 hours or so including the pissing boy, EU headquarters, many churches, castles, courthouse (it was humongous) . In the end, I did not really like Brussels, so far i think Stockholm is the most nice city I've seen (so far...). Even though Brussels had so much old buildings, most of them were ugly and not well maintained but then Megan and I went to Brugge (a town west of Belgium) and stayed few nights with Kat, Megan's friend from Gallaudet. I thought Brugge was much more nicer... I'm assuming its because that it wasnt tampered with during the world wars by the germans.
I ate beglian waffles, belgian fries with mayo (by the way I learned that fries came from Belgium not France :), so it should not be french fries, it should be Belgian Fries)... I saw Jesus' blood... there is a catherdal in Brugge that claims to hold a vial of Jesus' Blood. I thought it was silly but... I'll let them think that its the blood of christ. That catherdal has a specifc time everyday or something like that where tourists can come in and watch a short presentation and touch the vial of the jesus blood... some of them kissed the vial and the priest didnt seem´to appreciate the kissing on the vial since Kat said that people are supposed to just touch it with their hands. hehe oh well...
Overall, I thought Belgium was interesting, but not the most pretty or fun country to visit. My recommendation would be to visit there when you have a reason to do like I did to see Megan.
On the way back to Stockholm, I took a 45 min train to the airport, then 2 hour flight to sweden, then 1 hour bus trip to stockholm centralen then 15 minutes subway then walked 10 minutes before finally arriving to Elisabet/Jenny's birthday party :) at just before 1am in the morning. Yeah I knew I would be late for the party... Elisabet looked so happy to see me again :p after just few minutes, everybody left the party... and of course know what I was going to do now?... help with the clean up of the party heh... then finally got home in bed just before 5am.
It was a strange, exhausting but fun week for me. I hope to be able to meet some more friends somewhere in europe later this year (this means you guys! heh...)
Yup here is some pictures of me in Beligum... I don't think I'll type something about Xmas and New YEars until later this week if I ever get around to it :)..
Happy new 2006 :)
This is the "Grand Palace", basically the Centre of the Brussels, those plastic balls are set up as a part of christmas decoration.
Here is Megan and I in the reflection on one of the silver balls in Grand Palace
Belgian waffle with Chocolate and Bananas... tasted good!
Me in Brugge :)
This is what Brugge looks like, a nice quaint old town with buildings dating back to 12th century.
Megan and Kat (stayed at her place for few nights) and the behind of them is one of the "must-take" photos in Brugge (according to Kat)
A Drunken moose sculpture made out of 100% Belgian chocolate... very creative eh? :)