Traveling in Belgium
June 21, 2006, 8:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized



Well, I decided several weekends ago that it was high time I started traveling besides within the confines of Brussels. Well, more recently I’ve begun to feel the same about Belgium, but that’s a side note.

The photo that I’m trying to include is of me on the train to Liege. They have this thing here called the B Rail which snakes all over Belgium covering all sorts of different areas. So I signed up for this student designed Go Pass that allows you to take ten rides from point to point. Not a bad deal for 45 Euro, and the whole process isn’t that complicated. I just have to write the departure and arrival locations, day, date, and have some form of photo ID. In a later post, I’ll have to include a picture of the engineers, they’re awesome. Conveniently, they speak several languages and are usually very cordial. When we went up to Knokke, a beach town on the north side of the country, the engineer stopped like three times to give us advice where to go. His advice was well appreciated but it sure led us on a goose chase. Anyway these trains are fairly nice and the further you go the nicer the train. Some are double decker, while others are single levels. All trains have a first class and second class, but I couldn’t tell you the difference if I wanted to other than a slightly more posh setup.

My first trip was to Bastogne, site of the historical battle of the Bulge where the 101st airborne were left keeping the line in the dead of winter. My Dad, Jordan, and I are big fans of Band of Brothers the book and the series, so I thought it would be great to go down there to pay homage of sorts and just to get out of Brussels.

Leaving early, I was set with water, a notebook, pen, go pass, and no clue of what to expect. For all indications, the internet told me I would have to take two legs to get there. So I boarded the train in Gare Central in Brussels and off I went. I was enjoying the peaceful serenade of the train tracks and wheels until one stop later we got to Gare de Midi when a group of Turkish Teens got on. They were playing Turkish music on a boombox and where running up and down the aisles. At first I was sort of mad, but I kind of realized that I would have done something stupid like that when I was there age. As if that was so long ago!

I arrived at the Gare/Stop where I was supposed to switch to the next leg of my trip. I hopped out, and went to the board where they have a print out of all the train arrivals for the week. I finally found Bastogne attributed to a bus. I ran into the station and found an attendant that barely spoke english. I explained to him where I wanted to go while he just stared at me. After a moment, he jumped up and handed me a book and started circling numbers. He was speaking French, but frankly that piece of information is useless because it was useless to me in the time. He could have been speaking Gaelic and I would have nodded like the confused tourist that I continue to be when someone speaks to me in another language.

After his circling, he handed me the book and started jabbing the air as he pointed in the direction of a bus that seemed revving to go. At this moment, my years of education kicked in, and I knew that he was trying to tell me something. See that’s why I pay all that money or well my parents help me pay all that money to that fine institution called BYU so that in moments like these my brain won’t fail me. So I ran after the bus hopped on and waved my Go Pass like it contained some insight of what I was trying to do. Fortunately, as I’m sure that many of those in the transportation business in Europe are used to, the driver just thumbed me to the back and I sat down.

Arriving at Bastogne was something of a non-event, not that I expected trombones or bass drums, but it was the equivalent of a renovated barn with some buildings and a pasture around it. I imagined that not too much had changed since the 101st had been here. I went into the Bus Depot and found two other Americans from Boston trying to figure out what they’re doing as well. Now my parents always taught me preparation, luckily I had a friend in Jordan that taught me to wing it. Some days I wake up and function the way my parents would like me to and then the rest of time I wing it as my esteemed compadre has taught me.

Anyway, I like to talk and why should my blog be any different. If you get bored, just skip to the end and know that I got home safely. Anyway, the two Red Sox fans and I went searching for a map and trying to do so without attempting French with the lady that seemed to run the store. The Bus Depot was nothing more than a stop, and this lady apparently ran a little Gift Shop/Restaurant. Well, after looking through some pamphlets and finding nothing except suggestions to visit other parts of Europe, I approached the lady and tried to speak in semi-french and spanish to ask for a map. She smiled and stared at me blankly and so I did what most people do in that situation and repeated myself slower and louder. She just grinned even more. So then I drew a square with my finger on the table and then said Bastogne. She took a minute and then produced what looked like a disposable table mat that doubled as a map of Bastogne. I asked her if it was free, something that we Americans or just plain cheapskates know how to ask in any country/language that we are in or using. She said yes, and handed to me and I was off to prove that I could manage in a foriegn country and city by myself. I say this, because the last time I tried to Orientate myself with a map in completely unfamiliar territory was when I was fourteen during an orientation competition. Somehow I found the only part of the National Forest that included a housing development, horse farm, and a highway.

So I walked up the train to Bastogne and found that it had changed since Seargent Guarniere and Lieutenant Winters has tramped these grounds. Everything was commercialized and expensive, the few things I could afford were Gaufre and Frit, which I partook of both that day. Anyway, I went to see some of the different Museums and found one that said it was the original. Nothing impressive by any means, it was someones house with a bunch of knick knacks that they’d collected.

I headed up further to another museum and saw a ton of Harley Davidson riders. They’re jackets said something about the Liege Chapter of the Hell’s Angels. Looked like a bunch of Europeans just trying to look hard. If they read this however, they looked hardcore and were extremely intimidating.

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Hi David!

Comment by Mckenzie




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