February 20th 2008
My fourth day in Europe and today, I was headed to the city of Brugge. A two hour train journey from Brussels-Nord. During this journey, I finally solved the problem of my mobile. The connection was to be set to Line 2 whereas I had it on Line 1. A simple solution to a problem that had caused a lot of misery for me.
Brugge was one city I had no map for and no body accompanying me as well, I was pretty much on my own. I went about walking around the place without having any idea as to what was situated where. But it turned out that I did in fact hit the main old streets of Brugge, saw the main church.
City of Brugge
Church at Brugge
The old town is incredibly medieval in its outlook and if not for the cars, one would easily think that they have traveled back in time. The shopping streets are incredibly beautiful and the old town square is typically European.
I had my lunch at an Italian restaurant and made my way through some of the narrow lanes of the city. Came across a man dressed as a pirate who took me in to his shop, snapped up my picture, printed it out and sold it to me for 6 Euros. A total rip-off for sure but he and I had a nice time talking about football. He ended up showing many posters and postcards which he collected as his hobby. Turned out he too was a Manchester United fan!!
Went to another store selling models of sail ships and bought one of them. Also bought a figure of a crusader knight regarding which the shopkeeper told me that during the crusades, the holy blood was brought from Jerusalem to the church in Brugge and stored in there. In fact, the blood is present even today and can be seen by the visitors. I decided to give it a skip. t was time to head back to the Brugge train station to catch the train back to Brussels-Nord.
February 21st 2008
I had half a day in Brussels and used it to pack a few things and just reflect on the past few days. Went out for lunch and roamed around a bit in streets near Grand Place.
By then, it was time to catch the train to Arlon. My train journeys so far in Europe had been pleasant but this one wasn’t. The train from Brussels-Nord to Luxembourg (Arlon being a stop just before Luxembourg) is a painfully slow journey with many stops in the middle. Not to mention I was starting to catch a bit of fever. It was a relief when the display in the train read Nous arrivons a Arlon (‘You have arrived in Arlon’). Climbing down and then, back up the platform stairs was quite a chore with my luggage and the bit of ill health. But, the face that greeted me in the train station made me forget all my troubles.
K was already there waiting for me in spite of having told me that she’s always late whenever she has to meet someone. Just goes to show how pathetically slow the train was. The walk to her place with the entire luggage was tiring since Arlon is a bit of a plateau region with ups and downs and just as it had to be, her place was at a higher level. We finally reached her place after a 15 minute walk and at her apartment building, I saw what had to be the smallest elevator I had ever come across. Two people can just squeeze into that. Entered her house and met her daughter M and the pet cat ‘Lara’. Gave them the gifts I had got from India and M was really happy with what she got. We had red wine and hot soup for dinner and retired for the night.
February 22nd 2008
K had to leave for work and here I was… stuck with fever. M too had fever. So, it was M, Lara and me at home. We ended up spending the day watching animation movies and spent time with her coloring books. Kids are always so much fun to be with. There’s never a dull moment (especially with a cat around as well). By evening, I was feeling much better and when K returned from work, I decide to check out the sights and sounds of Arlon. A very small town but very pretty nonetheless. Most people living in Arlon work in Luxembourg. So, Arlon is quite prosperous having a lot of high profile stores. A lovely 19th century church dominates the town skyline. The railway station is itself a classic looking building.
A day spent mostly indoors but definitely a good time had. Fever had almost subsided and I was looking forward to the next day.
February 23rd 2008
It was time to explore a whole new city. This time, it would be Luxembourg. Caught the train around 09:00 hours CET and reached Luxembourg after a 20 minute journey. The railway station ‘Gare Centrale’ had a tourist information centre. Picked up the city map and headed out of the train station. One of the first things that hit you about this city is how sparsely populated it is. European cities are usually less populated but this one seems to stand out.
Luxembourg is a country with the highest GDP in the world and it shows. Flashy cars, fashionable people, swanky stores are very much the norm here. On the straight road (Avenue de la Liberte) opposite the train station, one can see the Place des Martyrs, a memorial park for victims of the Nazi regime during WW2. Then, a model store caught my eye. I am talking models of cars, aircraft, ships, bikes, etc here. The store is heaven for a person like me and I ended up purchasing a limited edition scale model of the Aston Martin DB5… a 42 Euro purchase that adorns the centre of the shelf in my room now. From there, I walked towards the centre of the city.
Luxembourg is a plateau and the city has a number of huge bridges connecting the highland areas. On the lower areas, there are mostly parks and residences. The centre of the city is where you experience the old town feel of Luxembourg. The market place has a lot of temporary stores selling anything from vegetables, fruits, food, paintings, artifacts, etc. It is called Place Guillaume II.
Old Town of Luxembourg
Nearby is the Palais Grand Ducal which is one of the government buildings. You can see a guard stationed outside the place. The guard stands in attention for most of the time and once in a while marches till the end of the building, takes a right about turn and marches back to the original spot. An honorary job it may be but I would not want to do this to earn my bread. The guard was the centre of a lot of jokes directed at him by a bunch of giggling girls. I am sure he was wishing that he could shoot them.
The Cathedral to the Blessed Virgin dominates the Luxembourg skyline with its huge towers. By this time I found something that looked interesting on the map. The place was called Three Towers. I decided to check out the place and walked quite a bit to reach it and what I saw was not what I expected at all. It was just three small tower shaped buildings by the side of the road and seemed very non-special. Maybe it has a story behind it but, visually it isn’t a spectacle.
Lunch time and my taste buds were pleading for some Indian food by now. I decided to check out the centre of the city hoping to find one. Soon, I saw a restaurant named The Maharaja. I was thrilled but when I reached the place, I saw it was closed. Disappointed but still with the determination of eating Indian food, I continued my search. I got lucky and found another place and was treated to a huge Indian meal that I could not finish.
Time to get exploring again and my next area of interest was Grund. This is one of the areas at a lower level of the city and there are elevators and steps to reach the place. Nobody told me about the elevators. So, here I was climbing down to Grund. The place is very beautiful with lovely houses and a few small canals flowing amidst them. The reflection of the houses in the canal water is just picture perfect. After a lot of walking around, I decided to get back up on to the higher grounds. The climb was steep indeed and I with a bit of a strained left leg had some discomfort. Anyways, made it back up and was on my way to the train station when I saw a huge bunch of people parading the streets with banners. I enquired with one of them as to what it was about. It turned out there were protesting against animal testing in laboratories. Hope they succeeded in curbing it.
Reached Gare Centrale, purchased a TGV ticket to Paris scheduled for the morning of 25th and was on the next train back to Arlon. K wasn’t at home and I watched a cartoon show along with M. K came back with some new DVDs for M and a chocolate pack for me. It was time for some talk, dinner and then a good night’s sleep to sooth the aching feet.