So we arrived into Charleroi airport to a bit of a scene. Because we were flying a discount airline, the flight's arrival was late at night, which made transportation into the city a little more challenging.
University was also getting back in session, so many people were flying back home from travels.
Essentially what we arrived in when we stepped outside the terminal, was a cloud of smoke (so many smokers) filled with people not so eager to help tourists.
Mike asks, “To Brussels?” as he points at a sign.
Thankfully, not everyone was like that.
We only spent one late night in Brussels, a very historic city, but it also has a bit of a dirty feel. The next day we were catching an early train to Antwerp to meet Eline, a Belgian I had met a few years earlier on a trip in South America.
We spent the day walking around Antwerp, another very historic city, learning about the history from our tour guide Eline, and sampling some local cuisine. The French fries in Belgium are amazing. The sweets in Belgium are also amazing. This part of the world really respects and makes high quality junk food, and I in turn, very much respect that.
Eline took us to the market, a patio for a Duvel (a Belgian beer), a museum, and a historic library.
Eline told us a story from the first world war, about how when the Germans were invading Antwerp the civilians were stuck between a river and the invading soldiers. What they did to escape was lineup boats as a make shift bridge so the people could get across the river without being pursued, very quick and high pressure thinking.
After more walking around we got to a library. Contrary to what pop culture would have you believe, the library was really cool. They had plenty of books that were very old, including an original copy of a planetary science release by Nicolas Copernicus that I got very excited about.
We bid a fond farewell to Eline at the train station, thanking her for making the train ride to see us, and we headed back to our hostel for the night.
It was around this point that the hustle and flow of the trip was starting to catch up to Lindy and I. We had far more intensive days than this one, but it seems after two weeks of running around and we were starting to feel it. Thankfully, a rest stop was in sight.
We were warmly greeted with chocolate and a 2-4 of Hertog Jan. We would be getting very familiar with the Jan over the next few days. It was a good drinkin' beer is about all I can say.
That first night we made a dent in some akkevit (Norwegian for water of life), which is an amber coloured liquor similar to gin, in that it is a vodka type alcohol that is spiced to give it a unique taste. In akkevit’s case, it is spiced with caraway which gives it a black licorice type flavour. I thought it was OK, though Lindy was a big fan of it.
It’s worth a special mention for the meal at Melvin’s parents. Holy moly, was it ever amazing.
The setting was a beautiful outdoor living area with heating lamps, hosted by Melvin’s parents, Martien and Karin. The calm/anxious Freya and energetic Joy providing some company as well (two dogs). There was a cooking surface on a big table, surrounded by different veggies, butters, sauces, steak, pork, salmon, shrimp, eggs…. All self-serve, prepared to your liking on the hot stone directly in front of you.
If you remember the Poo-poo platter from Alfredo, Weinstein, and Ho’s, it was like that except vastly superior. For Lindy and I, this meal was definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far.
We certainly experienced some gezellig in the Netherlands with the great hospitality and warmth of our hosts. We’ll be sure to visit again sometime in the future.
The week ahead of us would bring us to Deutschland, Luxembourg, Austria, and Liechtenstein.
I’ll get a crash course with driving standard on the Autobahn and cobblestoned, steep and narrow Luxembourg streets... Lindy might bail me out a few times. Also, intro to German beer and castles!