I left Bruxelles last afternoon and it was supposed to be the easiest route so far, up to Utrecht, to my new hosts, Mihaela and Lucian. Passing through Antwerpen, it is a distance of less than 200 km from Belgium’s Capital to just south of Amsterdam.
My previous host, Diana, packed 2 bottles of beer along with the sandwiches, something that I advise all hosts to take example from, hehe.
I spent part of the Easter Sunday (in the Orthodox calendar) in the center of Bruxelles. Diana drove me around the European District and then we parted when I stopped in St. Katelijne Square, a known place where Romanians gather, especially on such important occasions such as this holiday.
The Romanian community there is a very colorful bunch, as they should be, I guess. I met all kinds of us. Most work either for the Commission and the Council or in constructions. I also met some that are in a similar situation with mine: no money, no food. They weren’t traveling though. They like it there. And I guess we all find ways.
For the most of the second part of the day I was in the square, where Romanians organized a small festival to celebrate Jesus and what-not. That’s where I met Anca, Iulia and Ionel. It was Ionel’s birthday and I guess I was invited, since I was there with nothing else to do. We ate Romanian mici, sarmale and grilled lamb and drank some white Transilvanian wine and Belgian beer. It was mixed. And free. For all people traveling around the world with no cash. Happy birthday, Ionel.
We listened to a Romanian taraf and then watched a Belgian folk dance group preform some of our traditional routines from Moldavia and Someș region.
It was already pretty late in the afternoon, almost past my 4 p.m. rule I never followed, when I started walking to the Antwerpen exit of Bruxelles. I caught a trolley ride on the way, and the mechanic drove me for free again. Note to visitors in Bruxelles: do not wait for 53rd bus in Bockstael station, next to Laeken and Kardinaal Plantsoen. It’s not coming. Ever. I wasted more than one hour there, until I finally decided to start walking again, but luckily I was back on schedule (I don’t know which schedule in particular) when I met Oana (from Romania) and her boyfriend Barry (from Dublin). They tried to drive me to the end of the city and failed miserably, because they couldn’t find a gas-station to drop me off at. So before we knew it, we were on the ring of Antwerpend. They left me there and headed back to Bruxelles. If I make it to the UK and Ireland, I’ll be visiting Barry in Dublin. So one more contact on the list. Other than that, up until now I got potential places in Milano, Vienna, Paris, I think somewhere in Germany and across the UK. And one back in Bruxelles, when I head south again.
And my luck ran out after arriving in Antwerpen. I couldn’t get any rides from the highway and I was almost gonna take a break next to it (it was almost 20:00), when I had my very first encounter with the police. The nice officers kindly kicked me off the highway, threatening me with a 500 euro fine. They would’ve been in for a big surprise. Apparently some “law” says I can’t hitchhike on the highway.
A few hundred meters into Antwerpen and I already heard the popular tunes of Romanian manele. I walked into an Albanian bar where Romanians “took over”. This is where I met 3 guys that were obviously in constructions and obviously… from or from close-by my home town in Romania. Marius, Ferry and the third guy treated me with an orange juice and bought me a bottle of water for the road and I was off to the Central Station. My head started aching from the beers and the heat (surprisingly I had all good weather until late in the night in a mostly rainy country) so I decided to spent 16 euro, out of the 50 donated by Diana back in Bruxelles, on a train ticket some dozens of kilometers into Rotterdam and change to Utrecht to meet my hosts.
I figured I wouldn’t use money, however I was thinking of some ways to make some cash on the way and put them into the trip. These that I’ll try along the cities and donations I guess can be considered trip money, so it goes along with my plan. I wouldn’t use them except if I can’t get rides or it’s late in the night with nowhere to go.
I met Kamila (from Poland) and Koen (from The Netherlands) in the train station and I almost got my next free meal, but thankfully everything was closed, because people have been stuffing my face with food since I left (not that I encourage them to stop – I’ll take everything, thank you). I haven’t even got around the lunch package Diana prepared and one of the beers is resting in my new host’s fridge.
Celebrating Orthodox Easter with the Romanian community in Bruxelles.
People have been sending me photos with their Eastern celebrations back in Romania. This is what I’ve been missing back home, however this is what was waiting for me in Utrecht.
This is from Adela, from my home town.
Don’t forget to visit this street, in Antwerpen, Belgium.
And this would be a young Romanian’s blogger plea for my coming back; he is leading a campaign demanding my return.
Not just yet, buddy-boy. Not just yet.
Today I’ll be visiting Utrecht. My hosts gave me a phone to track me for when they come back from work and I got all day to see the city. I’ll be going into my reserve money I still have to make a calculated investment into some good pot. It’s legal here, so I can flash it around as much as I like.
Oh. Smoking can kill you and marijuana is worse, ok, kids? And a note to future travelers: I’m pretty convinced by now that bad people don’t make bad faces at you. Most likely they make nice faces. So heads up.