Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Belgium 2015: A Brief Moment of Solitude

Well I suppose I've set a new record. How long has it been, what, 9 months? Since my last post. Oh well. I'd actually thought of giving up on this blog- it's been quite a hectic year. Anyway- now that I have the time, here goes. Rewind back to the Summer of 2015, sometime in July or August.

We had an upcoming trip to France in the works, and I took some extra time off from work for a longer trip with more free time to wander around by myself (not exactly- I ended up going with my sister). Where to go? The countries closest to France- Italy and Spain would have been too far. Sister wasn't interested in England, for some reason. Germany was- is- close, but well, we'd been there a year ago, though admittedly just for a few days in Munich. Studying the world map- the first time I'd done this in quite some time- we finally settled on Belgium and Holland. It would have made more sense (geographically) to go from Holland to Belgium, before finally ending up in Paris, but time-wise (flight arrival) it made more sense to start in Belgium.

We got to Brussels early in the morning, and took a train to the city. Our hotel was in the Central Business District (or it looked like one). Brussels was small, grey, grim, and rather wet. Quiet and lonely too, though perhaps because it was a weekend. Screw up time! We got to our hotel, and the lady at the reception desk told us that she had no record of our booking. Apparently I'd got our arrival date mixed up. One day early. Welp. Luckily enough I didn't screw up our check-in/check-out dates for the following two cities. She said it wasn't that big a deal- some people mix up their dates by months. Anyhow I got us another night, at a shocking rate of some 80~90 Euros- the same price I'd paid for two nights. Not that I had much of a choice. If I was alone I might have called bollocks and run out to find a more affordable place to stay at.

Not too much to say about Brussels. We wandered around the city for our first day. Big buildings, smaller buildings. French Belgian Fries and graffiti. Parks. Small and fairly nice to walk around- but I don't remember much- nothing much sticks. Except of course for the red light district a stone's throw from our hotel (and the CBD) which I stumbled upon while out alone late in the evening looking for a Turkish restaurant. Girls in lingerie lounging in glass-fronted stores, provocatively taunting passersby- horny cashless (foot)ball kicking kids included.

I didn't intend to spend much time in Brussels. Most travel writers can't seem to stand the place, and I felt the same. Past tense, because I can't really recall why I didn't think much of it. It was pleasant enough, but just wasn't very- exciting, or sentiment-evoking, I suppose. Anyhow. We took a local train to Bruges, a charming little town gutted by swan-populated canals. There was a small but interesting museum, the Historium on the main square, which showed a rather interesting animatronic and video-based historical/fictional (perhaps both) story taking place in medieval (catch-all phrase for when you're not exactly sure of the exact period) Bruges. Outside there was a little hut with demo units of the Oculus Rift, playing a virtual tour through xxth century Bruges. Quite fun, and a first as well.

No time for Brussels on our last day in Belgium either. Another day trip to a little town- Ghent. Most of our time was spent looking through cathedrals and a small castle filled with deathly exhibits- weaponry, preserved bodily bits and photologs of dead people. The view from the battlements was rather lovely. Better than Brussels, at any rate. Back to Brussels. The next day- Amsterdam.

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