At the time of writing I am in the third hostel of my stay. The first in Brussels was sufficient and the people friendly enough. One of the roommates was an old man named Jose, who was originally from Buenos Aires but now resides in Bethnal Green. He is, or was, an artist of sorts from what I could understand. We discussed the UK, the UK’s approach to teaching beaux-arts, and Brexit. He has his concerns. He is concerned as his future residency plans are now uncertain. Jose was on the bed beneath mine. As a child I liked the idea of a bunk bed, but once you reach an age with any sense you realise that they are awful and simply not for adults. It is painful to get in and out and you have the residual fear you might inexplicably fall out and smash your brains everywhere. I imagine there would be an additional charge.
I visited Ghent on Saturday as a day trip. The plan had been originally to go to Luxembourg and then visit Ghent another day and perhaps stay, but when checking the train times to Luxembourg there seemed to be, instead of the one direct train I had previously found from research, no direct trains and multiple changes and a bus. So Ghent it was instead, I’ll visit Luxembourg towards the end. Ghent is a pretty city and the canal boat tour was worth doing. For somewhere so old Ghent has a surprising but welcome youthful vibrancy about it. The only downside to Ghent in the few hours I spent there was the bagpipe player in the centre of the city. Bagpipes should be discouraged as an instrument and make a horrific noise. I don’t want to hear them outside of Scotland. The evening was spent back in Brussels, watching the Champions League final in a bar. One girl who was wearing a Real Madrid shirt spent the game jumping up and down, swearing in Spanish, and cried tears of felicidad at the end. Her passion won a lot of friends in that bar.
The second hostel was in Bruges and it put me in a bad mood. In all likelihood it was probably the effort of packing up all of my stuff to realise I couldn’t fit it all in, which I had done previously. I eventually succeeded. I still have a cold I got shortly before leaving the UK and from Friday and Saturday had also managed to get sunburnt. I now have sun cream. The effects of a long walk to the hostel from the station with one bag rubbing against my sunburnt neck and the other being wheeled along banging on all the cobbles came together to leave me quite vexed and begrudging Bruges. The hostel was in retrospect not entirely awful, but it wasn’t as good as the first.
The problems of Bruges come from its greatest strength. The place is visually beautiful. It is everything you think it’ll be from the pictures. It is so picturesque though, that there are too many people and the pavements are too narrow, and it’s so pretty that people stop suddenly all to point at something or take a picture, without considering that you’re about to walk into the back of them. Despite having started my day in a foul mood the city won me over. It really is a stunning place to look at.
My stay in Belgium is coming to a close. The third hostel is in Antwerp and possibly the best hostel yet. I have not found Antwerp to be all that spectacular but this has at least meant I have had time to write this post and do my first batch of laundry. It is to Amsterdam tomorrow to take more pictures of water.