Our journey till Paris had pretty much satisfied my inner child and the palpable excitement had gradually reduced to be replaced by thoughts of home. The novelty of being in Europe in summer had died by the time we reached Belgium and yet I must say, if you are ever in two minds about visiting this country- DON’T BE! I was skeptical about Belgium when I made my itinerary and boy was I wrong! Beer is not really an attraction and visiting a country for waffles is a bit far-fetched, right? But I did include Brugge and Ghent (thanks to a cousin who totally convinced me that I would be leggit missing out) and the trip was worth every penny we spent.
We reached around noon and I was absolutely drained from the train journey. It’s not what you think, the train journeys are smooth and offer no reason for someone to complain. Exhaustion is the last thing on anyone’s mind, especially someone who has witnessed a Virar fast Bombay local train. But we had packed for a whole country and mounting-dismounting was becoming a huge hassle with every passing country. Not to mention that the stations don’t always come with escalators and dragging the luggage across platforms and staircases was no longer a joke (yes, we laughed our asses off the first two times) Regardless, we did it since we weren’t exactly rich in choice.
So my day in Brugge started around noon and I had decided to take it slow. The city is ridiculously dreamlike and walking around the streets is nothing short of being in wonderland. The whole city is like a film set or just a façade that is constructed briefly and peeling away the walls of the houses will bring forth a reality that we have grown accustomed to, a sight that is much more believable than what exists. The houses have roofs and facades that one sees in pictures and paintings, not even Paris can match up to the surreal state of affairs that Brugge imprints on the mind. I walked around partially mesmerised and partially confused. How can a city like this exist in tandem with a place like Dharavi? Or Nalasopara. Or even Andheri, Vile Parle, Bandra. Its bewildering to see a city so blithely unaware of what realism looks like outside its periphery and world view. But Brugge is a place that even a layman with an average vocabulary would refer to as “quaint”. The word was probably carved keeping in mind the narrow streets, the occasional waffle or french-fry pit stops and the breweries that craft beer fanatics would sell their kidneys for. It’s a small town that can be covered by foot if you have 2 days. I spent my entire day biking around and the joy of seeing a foreign city on a bike is something very different from strolling around. While you may miss the occasional sights that provide amusement, the whole essence of biking around lies in zipping past the locals, ensuring you don’t hit pedestrians and yet cramming every possible sight into your brain as you go along. The shops, the people eating waffles, the children in the park, et al.
I spent my day in Brugge eating waffles, french fries and sampling beer (probably the first time I actually enjoyed beer) The day goes by quickly and while there aren’t a whole lot of things to do in the small town, the day just happily glides away while you are busy taking in the fairytale-esque lanes and the architecture that tends to draw attention instantly. Every street is Instagrammable. Our next day was in Ghent and for that we had to take another train which was a one hour journey. I had booked IBIS in Ghent and being bang in the middle of the city, it was a great choice. I simply decided to eat a few more waffles, walk around the city and drink their famous beer Dutchess de Bourgogne. Our trip was coming to an end and Amsterdam was the last stop. Now Amsterdam was a place that could totally be missed, I feel. Though we had a great time, this was a place that isn’t very different from Belgium as it has exactly the same kind of canals and views that don’t really stand apart from what we saw in Belgium. The canals are beautiful in Belgium and sitting down canal-side with a coffee or a beer can be an entire afternoon of your time. Exactly the same kind of activity is what one indulges in when in Amsterdam and I personally found nothing of significance. We could not visit the Van Gogh museum and I gave the famous Rijksmuseum library a miss because I was so drained from looking and taking in sights. All Vidhi and I wanted was to sit. And we did exactly that. We sat, sampled, savoured and devoured. The trip ended with Amsterdam and the last city was possibly the least impressive. The Red Light area wasn't as scandalising as I had expected and the canals didn't spike my interest. The weather was relatively gloomy and with drugs being legalised, the place almost reeks of marijuana and lost hope. Maybe not literally but the city seems slow, sluggish and less alive than any other. A state of trance. Heightened senses and slow movements. Not really something one can revel in and enjoy beyond a few hours or a day at max.
We didn’t do much at all all day and this was the only city where I didn’t regret missing out a few things and cancelling from the itinerary. I was tired. And I was ready to go home 😊