I’ve just been trying to plan some interesting activities for my remaining time in Belgium, as – oh, joy! – my new bank card finally arrived and I can now afford to treat myself to a few train tickets.
I have no real interest in going to Brussels, to be honest. I know little about it, and what I’ve learned from my research doesn’t really grab my attention. However – I am in Belgium, a return ticket to the European Capital only costs €6, and it would be a bit embarrassing to say I hadn’t even spent a few hours in Brussels during the course of a month. So, I’ve picked out a couple of things that look interesting, including the Main Square and a flea market (so that I can pick up a few more insects, because I haven’t got enough here)*. However, what really got me enthusiastic was discovering that the Waterloo Battlefield is only 20 minutes from Brussels.
I’m not great with geography. Until approximately 15 minutes ago I had no idea that Waterloo was in Belgium. I know bits and pieces about the battle, and about Napoleon, and – most importantly – all the words of the Abba song. But quite often I can accumulate lots of information about something without ever thinking to ask the most basic of questions: in this case, Where is Waterloo?. Still, I know now, and I’m going there this weekend, because -get this! – they’re doing a battle re-enactment! This sounds so much more fun than looking at EU headquarters and stock market buildings. I hope they play the Abba song while the battle’s taking place. I expect that they will. Abba was probably Napoleon’s favourite band.
I was also amused to note a piece of advice on the Brussels Wikitravel page. All the oral information in the train stations is only in French and Dutch. Do not hesitate to ask someone if you do not understand what has been said. It’s a bit late for that. How was I to know that the message I heard at Bruxelles-Midi on my way here from Paris was to inform me that my train had been changed to a different platform? Oh, this is a pretty language! was my only thought as I listened to the lilting but incomprehensible Dutch words. Train arrived, I got on.
Upon my arrival at Brussels Airport, at the end of the railway line, I looked at the man beside me in some confusion. Why are we at the airport? Why didn’t we stop at Diest? I asked him. Because, he explained politely, this is the train for the airport, and not the train for Diest.
I had to take three different trains to get to the place I’d originally wanted to be in, which was not fun in 30°C and with all my worldly possessions on my back. Still. If I was keeping a little notebook entitled “Lessons Learned”, then “always ask someone if you don’t understand what has been said” would now be in there along with “don’t carry a purse” and “never trust a parrot” – and when you’ve learned something the hard way, you don’t tend to repeat the mistake.
It’s very educational, this whole travelling thing.
*Right up until my mid-teens, I really did think a flea market was a place to purchase fleas. No, I don’t want your pity…