I'm expecting imminent disaster. Seriously. Things have been going too perfectly. I was worried about how I would get from England to Belgium, but my train ticket from London to Brussels was fairly cheap and allowed one free transfer to any Belgian station. Score.
Brussels was a good first stop. The market square was impressive, and on the day I arrived there was some kind of festival going on and the square was hopping with all sorts of people singing, dancing, drinking, eating and taking pictures. I tried my first Belgian waffle, which quickly resulted in a second. Both smothered in chocolate. Then I tried a Belgian beer, which also necessitated additional samples. And so I quickly learned that Belgians have life pretty well figured out. Enjoy the little things.
While Brussels was nice for a night, Bruges is a dream. The best beers in the world are less than 3 euro. There's free chocolate samples at dozens of shops (I swear Bruges must have the highest number of chocolate shops per capita in the world). The architecture is straight out of a Disney movie. The weather has been great.... If you never hear from me again, you'll know why.
I spent three days in Bruges. I walked along cobble stone streets and canals by day, and medicated my weary legs at the pubs by night. I think what I liked most about Bruges was that there was literally nothing to do but eat, drink, and walk around. It was a little touristy, but since I only added to the problem I couldn't complain. To get a good feel for what Bruges is like, check out In Bruges, not a bad movie.
It was tough to leave, but I was looking forward to Ghent. I have two friends living in Ghent, Mieke and Lien, who I met in New Zealand. They were very generous in showing me around the city and letting me crash at their place for the night. They took me out to dinner, walked me around the city at night, and introduced me to a Belgian late-night delicacy: french fries with gravy and mayonnaise. It might not sound appetizing but man, it beat the hell out of salt and ketchup.
After Belgium, I took a train up to the Netherlands where I spent two nights. I was fortunate enough that my friend Sabrina was able to put me up for a night, and afterwards I toured Amsterdam. But that, as they say, is a different story all together.
One thing about Belgium and the Netherlands is that the area is completely overrun with bicycles. It's out of control. Scads of frantic peddlers descend upon the streets like biblical locusts. They recklessly whip past pedestrians with inches to spare. Walking along sidewalks sometimes feels like driving on the intersate with a vespa.
Next up is Germany, just in time for Oktoberfest. First stop is Cologne, then I'll swing through the Rhine Valley on my way to Frankfurt before my two longest stops in Munich and Berlin. Very glad to hear from some of you guys. Check back in next week....