Damnit. I got onto the train in Bruges to go to Leuven and realized that I left my bluetooth keyboard back at the hostel! Oh no. So after waiting for 30 minutes for this train (since I missed the last one by 1 minute), I had to unboard and haul back to the hostel to retreive it. My plan was to write to you from the train, but now I figured that I will just chill out at a Belgian bar and drink my “La Guillotine” while I recount the story of yesterday.
I got started a bit late yesterday, but it was fine – there isn’t that much to see in Bruges. In the lobby I met up with the Russian girl, Anastasia, and the Tasmanian/Thai girl named Grace. We were joined by a couple of Canadian guys who were studying abroad in Dublin and were here, like many others, on Europe’s 1 week “fall break”.
Mmm. This is quite a good beer that I am drinking. I’ve actually had to shy away from some of the 12% beers here, since they have been hurting my stomach a bit.
There was another girl, from Los Angeles, but I don’t remember her name at this exact moment. Anyway, we decided to climb the large tower in the center of town – the Belfort. We wandered in the general direction of town center (not too hard to get lost in Bruges, guys) and found ourselves staring up at a giant church tower that was originally built in the 13th century. Of course we joked about how if a building in America is older than WWII then we put a plaque on it
After waiting in line for twenty minutes or so, we ascended the spiral staircase of 366 steps. There were several spots to get out and take a break, and each time we resumed the climb the staircase grew smaller and smaller, until it was basically only wide enough for one person. At the top, we saw the bells (which went off at 44 minutes past in a cacaphony of dischordous (sp?) notes). I took quite a few pictures (which are still on the camera – yes, I will upload them soon) from the top and got some selfies taken as well. Unfortunately, it was rainy and foggy, so we couldn’t see too much from the top, but I love views from altitude (nothing except the UT Tower and Mt. Grouse in Vancouver beats Munich) , so I didn’t mind.
After we came down, we wandered around town to the restaurant Aquaria (sp?), where we dined on fine croquets (which I have never had before) and Tripel Carmeliet.
After this, we walked around town in a sort of brownian walk (although I sort of took us in the same direction as the walking tour the day before had). Eventually we headed to t’Poatersgat, a bar that my older brother recommended. I think we showed up a little too early, because we couldn’t figure out how to get in! After some time we headed back to the hostel, after having lost Grace and the American gal and being about to lose Anastasia as well.
We reached the hostel, had a few drinks, chatted a bit, and finally found ourselves talking to a French guy who had walked over 800 km from his hometown to Bruges, and who intended to walk another 1,000 km to Italy! He was a muscician, a free spirit, intending to pay for his journey by busking and doing odd jobs. Haha. He said he had seen a documentary about it and decided that doing a walking journey was what he wanted to do.
After some strange beers I could barely stomach, we headed to a place called “Ribs n’ Beer”. Haha. I had been talking about it all day, after having seen that it was rated number 4! out of all the restaurants in Bruges. We walked 1.2 km in empty streets (yes, empty at 8pm – there are 0 nighclubs in Bruges) and drizzle until we arrived to find out that we actually needed a reservation. Oops.
We sat outside in the drizzle anyway – I didn’t mind, after all it doesn’t really rain all that much in Austin anyway, and rain to me means huge droplets pounding the Earth in an absolute torrential downpour.
Anyway, we ordered our all-you-can-eat ribs (18 euros, 1 full rack to start, 1/2 racks afterwards) and, of course, beer. I ordered the spicy ones.
Holy crap guys, this was BY FAR the best meal I’ve had on this trip, perhaps even in a couple months (no offense, Mom). The sauce was perfect, a little sweet, but also hot and very barbequey. Man, thinking about it makes me want to go back for lunch :). The ribs were slow-cooked, and were basically unattached to the bones completely, they were so tender.
Mmmm. I gobbled up my rack really fast and was totally satisfied and satiated. We were eventually moved upstairs, briefly conversed with a 3 person British family, and finished our drinks while watching Anderlechs play soccer on TV. We paid for the travelling bard’s meal and headed back to the hostel.
Upon arriving, we talked with Nastia (short name for Anastasia), and drank some beers. We spent like an hour using the word-magnets to come up with a poem (a very dirty poem, which someone eventually rearranged into a phallic shape) in order to win free beer. We won, yay, and recieved 25 cl of Jupiler (about 1 euros 50) haha.
I talked with people for a bit, including a Russian couple who were human rights reporters, until eventually calling it a night at around midnight when they shutdown the common area.
I had a pleasant sleep (dreaming strange things – I’ve come to realize that the contents of someone’s dreams tells you more about them as a person and their thought processes than anything about the world), and awoke around 10am. Checked out. Walked to the train station, and you know the rest.
It’s interesting, I’ve come to be tired already on this trip. I mean, I was already tired in Munich after a couple days, but that was because I was not sleeping enough and drinking too much. I’m tired in a different way now. Kind of an emotional way. When you travel like this, you meet some really cool people from totally diferent backgrounds and with different (or similar) perspectives. You make some friends for a day, or for a week, but you are saying goodbye to people every day. Nothing is permanent, I know this, but it does suck having to leave these people every day. And yes, wherever you go next you will meet more people, but I dislike this commoditizing attitude. It’s worse when you latch on to someone or someplace because, as Desi said, the show must go on. You are here only for hours, a fraction of a year, a blink in a lifetime – and your life: your friends, family, job, and home are a whole world away. You wish you could bring others into your world, but you forget how difficult it was to even leave in the first place, and you don’t think about how the others must feel. It’s a strange life: the life of a traveller. Many of the people I’ve met have different attitudes about it than me. Many of them grew up in lots of different places (such as Grace), and never really grew any sort of attachment to one particular location – never really felt they truly had a “home”. As they say, home is where you hang your hat. This is so different from my life, where my parents placed a huge emphasis on stability. When we moved into the house back in 1998, they promised me we would never change school districts until I graduated, and they kept that promise. I’ve lived in Austin my whole life. It’s interesting how you can let a place become a part of you. The particular winding of the roads, the smells of the seasons, the twisted oaks, the eclectic foods all come to be a part of who and what you are. It’s so hard to imagine what my life would be like without those things.
It’s also interesting to meet these people from around the world. When you live somewhere for a while, and especially when you are very busy, the entire scope of your thoughts shrinks down to your immediate surroundings. You see the people walking around you and you know they all are living their own lives, all the time you have been around and longer, they’ve been doing a similar thing – enduring suffering and boredom, engaging in conflict, striving for an achievement. And there are so, so many of them. You see this in your immediate surroundings, and you can easily connect with it – of course, you and them live similar lives.
But when you go somewhere far away, somewhere you have only really imagined and never really known, and you see the people there, the absolute immensity of the world and humankind stares you in the face. For example, when I met Desi & her family, and they mentioned 9/11, I realized this. I thought: Wow, I’ve only known these people for a couple days, they live so far away in a strange country, and all the 13 years of life since that day they’ve been going about their business, as unaware of me as I was of them. It’s strange. Imagining all that time of their lives is almost as difficult as imagining the time from before your birth. Since I’m sort of young, I’ve really only been conciously aware of the passing of time for maybe 16 or 17 years. 1960 seems like a really long time ago. 1200 AD is almost too long to really comprehend for me….
Sorry, I’ve had a few 12% beers :), I’ll stop my odd, pointless, philosophical rant now.
I think I might chill in Bruges a bit longer – maybe go drink a couple more beers and go eat some ribs again. Thanks for reading!