29 July 2010
I was very excited to be setting out to see Europe alone, essentially this trip was going to be my first stint of solo travel since leaving New Zealand. Unfortunately it did not start well. My train was due to leave at 6.20am and I was through the terminal gates by 6am; but then security decided to search my main backpack. Oh I was so annoyed, I knew it was going to be a nightmare as I had spent over an hour properly packing my bag the previous day. Yes, I go to the other side of the world and I still can’t seem to get away from having way too much shit.
Anyway, after waiting for the inspector to finish searching the bag of someone else he asked me if I had any sharp objects in my luggage. I said yes (pocket knives) and showed him the pocket where they were located; it was the last pocket he looked in, the *&^%$^&*.
So after he had completely emptied my backpack, swabbed it for drugs and properly inspected all my underwear he opened the pocket with my pocket knife and put it aside. One of my pocket knives was fine but they confiscated the Opinel my dad Andy gave me roughly fourteen years ago.
Not only had I lost my knife but I’d missed my train and had to wait around in the station for a further two hours until the next one. So the smart folk in English politics have decided that any folding blade which can be locked open (safety blade) regardless of size or intended use is now illegal to carry in England without a legitimate reason. This last part, ‘legitimate reason’ would often allow you to be carrying such a knife if you were stopped by police (and you were going camping for instance) but the pompous assholes at Kings Cross would have none of it. Also under English law if a police officer is confiscating an item of your property you are entitled to a receipt, but again not in Kings Cross St Pancreas; if asked they will only provide you with a document that you will need to sign (if you want to travel) stating you give them permission to take your property.
Frustrating, very very frustrating; why must law be so illogical? Regardless it wasn’t going to dampen my travelling spirit; I couldn’t wait for my first Belgium beer in Brussels!
I arrived in Belgium two hours later than I had planned and then I had difficulty with the metro system. It was initially very confusing as I could not find a map showing all stations, only lists of stations which were on lines directly connecting to the main station I was in. However the only station I knew did not directly connect, so I didn’t know which line to take. In my frustration I ended up just hopping on trains hoping to find a better map in a better station. Eventually with the volunteered help of a few nice Belgium’s I found my way to the hostel, but it was now too late to take a day trip to Bruges as I had hoped. [In spite of this first experience the main cities in Belgium all have a fantastic map and tourist information document for young people, the document can be found in hostels and information centres around central ‘old town’]
Instead of Bruges I explored the central ‘old town’ area of Brussels. I walked around the Grand Place and other central areas; I found a cool beer store and the famous Delirium Bar (Pink Elephant) where they stock over 2004 different types of beer. For dinner that evening I spent €12 on a four course meal which included a Belgian tap beer! Some of the value I found in Brussels was incredible. My meal included a bread and butter starter, I chose a dish of garlic buttered Scampi for my entre followed by the famous pot of Belgian mussels, dessert was an almond cake and ice cream. Later that night in Delirium bar I met a small group of Ausi’s who were travelling for a few months in Europe, they were planning on cycling to Berlin to save money; how intrepid. We drank at Delirium, then had an Absinthe shot at the Absinthe bar next door, before checking out the Tequila bar. Both these specialty bars stock a ridiculous variety of their particular spirit. I was happy to have so easily met drinking buddies on my first night in Brussels.
[Delirium Bar really deserves a proper mention. They hold the Guinness World Record for the most beers stocked by a bar (2004). The bar consists of three levels, the ground floor specialise in tap beers and offer 27 different beers which vary monthly, the basement level specialise in bottled beers and have the famous menu consisting of 2004 different beers and finally the top floor has a smaller range of specialty tap and bottled beers. Every night I spent in Brussels I was at Delirium at some point, and no night would I have consumed less than four different varieties of beer. This place shouldn’t be called Delirium, it should be called Heaven.]