The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself

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…


7 thoughts on “The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself

  1. I love Brussels! The food and beer are fantastic, the Musée des Beaux-Arts has an entire wing devoted to my favorite artist (Réné Magritte), and the Grand Place is one of the most beautiful squares in all of Europe! Don’t miss out on getting a waffle from a little cart – go with the Liège style ones over the Bruxelles.

  2. McBouncy says:

    I was singing along to this post. McLovely took me to see Mamma Mia on saturday night.
    I loved it. I sang along to every song. He gave up nudging me and telling me to be quiet after the third song – it took him that long to realise there is no point trying to stop me sing
    All the coffin dodgers around us didnt seem to notice my singing. Maybe their hearing aids couldnt cope.

    The history book on the shelf, is always repeating itself,

  3. Croquecamille – Excellent! I now feel a lot more enthusiastic about Brussels. Especially the waffles :)
    MonkeyMrs – yep, planning on seeing Bruges. Haven’t actually managed to sample any real Belgian chocolate yet, either, so that’s definitely on the agenda!
    McBouncy – Ahhh, I’m jealous! Unfortunately my budget doesn’t stretch to actually allowing me to *do* anything beyond looking at things. :) And I can’t believe McLovely even bothered trying to get you to stop singing…!

  4. Maureen says:

    I recently spent a portion of my daughter’s gr.9 year (re)learning about Napoleon (and the French Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution, and the settlement of North America, and……..) and I too,did not, through all of that, know that Waterloo was in Belgium. You’ve taught me something new today! Enjoy your travels through the Belgian countryside and the battle re-enactment.

    PS-don’t forget the bug repellent! There could be some offspring of the mosquitos that feasted Napoleon lo those many years ago. ;)

  5. Maureen – always good to realise that I have imparted knowledge! Looking forward to seeing the mosquitoes getting caught in the crossfire. ;)

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