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June 01, 2001
Fully booked trains!
Breakfast in London, lunch in Paris and dinner in Milan - that was
the empty promise of a smooth-talking Gino I once knew. He claimed
that his friend would take us around Europe in his family jet. Bah!
Well, with a bit of bad luck and stupidity from my part, I got close
enough to fulfilling this dream on my second day in Europe. Salami
bagette in Paris, quiche and eclair in Brussels, grilled sausage,
potatoes and sauerkraut in Köln! It really was not as glamourous
as it sounds. Most of my day was spent either on the train or in
the train station.
[from journal - it may be a bit sloppy]
I'm reminded today of the hassles of backpacking. The 8:55AM train
to Köln was booked and so were the next 5 trains. A group of
four American girls were in the same situation so I sat and slept
next to them during the three-hour wait for the train to Brussels.
Once arrived, I decided to take advantage of the 1 1/2 hour wait
for the connecting train to visit the Grand-Place. The guy working
at the tourist information booth showed me how to take the next
train to Gare central (it's the quickest way of getting to the centre
and it was also free since I had a train pass). Once out, I approached
an older lady who happened to be originally from Australia. She
showed me to the Grand-Place. I walked around once, took a couple
of pictures, tried to learn the history of the area at the tourist
centre but they were only interested in selling me a brochure, and
met three seniors from England who thought that Toronto was the
cleanest city they had ever seen. I walked through narrow cobblestoned
Rue des Bouchers, a cool street lined with restaurants and terrasses,
where waiters stand at the door inviting you in.
Satisfied and highly confident, I went to the wrong train station
(there are three in Brussels) and missed my 14:25 train to Köln.
It was a long two-hour wait with no backpackers in sight to mingle
with. Ah, all the lost precious time!
On the train I talked to English school teacher Patricia who has
lived in Belgium for 30 years (hey Mark, she studied in Birmingham
in the mid-60's). Then this German student sat next to me. His name
was Jörg. He told me where to go out at night. I finally arrive
to Köln (5 hours late) after a long day of travelling.