Belgium, Luxembourg and I'm out of here
Once Upon a Saga:
Would have, should have, could have. Waffles, Tin Tin, trains, castles, family and a bus full of spirited young choir singers from Finland!!
Bounjour!! If you want to survive around here then you better start speaking French! Naaah...it's not so bad. Most speak English but French would surely help.
I arrived late into Brussels and starting walking around looking for internet and perhaps a place to stay for the night. I've been unlucky regarding couchsurfing for Belgium and Luxenbourg for no apparent reason. But I just didn't receive any replies to my requests.
Somehow I ended up in what seemed to be the Arabic part of Brussels? I received some recognition for carrying the Red Cross badge as a man on a parking lot looked at it and then at me and smiled and wished me safe travels. But what is this...I find an Internet cafe and the connection is crap!? In Belgium? Surely not? I finally manage to get online. Still no replies on couchsurfing. Well, better locate a hotel room then.
The next morning I leave my duffel bag at a nearby station. I am starting to feel like Obelix carrying that thing around. Then I venture into town and find the tourist office. They helped me locate a Red Cross office and further more the Manneken Pis.
Then I am off to the Red Cross which turned out to be the EU office. Damn, my mistake. I was supposed to go to the regular office. But I only discover my mistake after leaving the office again. However meeting and speaking to Virginie, Red Cross communications officer,might have been the highlight of the day. I gave her a small porcelain figure of a milk maid from the Nederlands. That's Nederlands to Belgium. I am getting better at this :)
I missed the human connection in Belgium. So the city of Brussels did not touch me very much. It seemed like walking in a huge open air office. Looking at the little Manneken Pis was nice though...more so looking at the asian tourist :) The European Commision was on my route too. But it did not impress me. I had a Belgian waffle though...before I got on the train to Luxembourg. Now that was good!!
Sorry Belgium. That was your 24 hrs. But rest assured...I will be back on a motorcycle some day in order to see the countryside. Besides, I need to find Tin Tin and a decent piece of chocolate :)
You had me at hello! It was late and dark and still raining as it also was the entire time in Begium...and Holland...and Germany...
But I found free internet at the train station. I was hungry and lucked out on couchsurfing. But much worse...no where to sleep. All hostels were fully booked. All hotels were fully booked too. I was struggling for a few hours in order to find something not 25 km away and in Germany. And then by chance I find out that my cousin is in Luxembourg. What are the odds...she lives in Finland.
I am able to find a bed at her hostel and on the way there I locate a great Italian restaurant. How quickly things can change :)
Walking through the narrow crooked roads I feel the towering steep hills and tall buildings above me. I walk into a valley and see the old charming buildings surrounded by a passing river. Something that looks like an old fort or castles towers in the dark above me. I immediately liked Luxembourg and went to bed...
And then in the morning a bus full of a Finnish choir??? Great stuff!
(more to follow...I've got to catch a train now).
Right, okay, where was I...oh yeah...the Finnish choir; life is a funny business and you never know what lies around the corner. I met up with my cousin who I had not seen for years. It was really good to see her again and she invited me to join them...all 50 of them...in their bus the next day. The plan was to go to the international school and do a small concert and then head out to a nearby castle for some sightseeing.
The concert went really well. I was impressed. Under the leadership of Ismo the your choir performed brilliantly. And the even younger students at the international school loved it! Aurora, as the choir is called, is an energetic group of young faces from the age of 14 and up.
We got to the castle and had a walk in and around it to see how they did things back in the day. Way back in the day actually...because it started with a small fort in 300 AD...but it didn't look very impressive until around 1100 AD.
And then Aurora cooked for me. Pasta with tuna and pineapple?? Not traditional Finnish food but easy to make on the road and it did the trick. On our way back in the bus Ismo asked me to tell a little about my trip to every country in the world. I was handed a microphone and did a small talk which received applause (thank you very much)...but even better; soon after 2 of the girls went for the microphone and dedicated a song to me which the rest of the bus joined in on. WOW! You never know what life will give you.
Perhaps the best thing about Aurora was that nobody even thought to ask why I would do such a thing as spend several years on traveling to every country in the world. I guess that when you are young enough then you don't see the point in asking because the answer is straight forward ;)
Back in Luxembourg city my sister had arrived. She works in Strasbourg and made the trip up to say hello. What a trooper! So with my sister and my cousin in Luxembourg it was all starting to look like a family reunion. Odd but really nice. And my sister brought me food :)
I had a good talk with the local Red Cross branch and gave away the small Manneken Pis, I picked up in Belgium, to Marc Crochet which I am really happy about because he seamed like a really good guy. In return he gave me a small Red Cross Emergency Response Unit car. A new tradition? Perhaps. This will be my gift from Luxembourg to France.
So, I am on a train again. I am very pleased that you are following this trip as it develops. I guarantee that it will turn into a real adventure and that you will not get disappointed. I love new cultures, people, food, music and all that goes with traveling. But these small countries that I am currently traveling are so close to home that I would rather be on my way and return another day. Sailing to North America is on my mind. South America and Africa are on my mind. The Middle East, Asia and much more. I want adventure!! Not waffles and cute statues. Not that I am ungrateful...I really appreciate the opportunity I have been given here and I am making the best of it.
(our cousin in the middle and my sister to the far right)
Though I am smiling in most photos I have been somewhat frustrated lately about some of the practicalities on this journey. A huge issue has been internet, blogging and writing stories for the Red Cross. With this iPad I am using 5 hours for 2 hours work. And just last night I lost all my work somewhere in cyberspace and then it was all hopeless. I am fixing some of the bugs and adapting as well as possible but the last few days have been unnecessarily hard. The rain is starting to lift and my girlfriend is heading towards Edinburgh to meet me next week. Good stuff.
The train connections and Interrail has worked quite well so far. Now I would just like to improve this blog a little so that you can comment and furthermore so you can see some more pictures and video.
I won't be blogging every day. But it seems like I will for the time being as I pretty much do 1 country per day right now.
Hang around ;)
Torbjørn, Once Upon a Saga