Time to leave this city. I've found postcard easily, but had huge problems finding a Post office for the stamps, found a way to circumvent monasterial communication problems; that's enough; this city has used up its credit.
Breakfast in the monastery was actually quite good. Fresh buns with a choice of cheeses and cold-cuts. No olives though, and the ration of one admittedly strong and tasty cup of coffee resulted in the smallest caffeine-wake-up dose of this trip so far, in particular since the room not only does not have a water kettle, but also no glasses or cups to make my instant coffee using hot tap water ;-( Now I remember why during last year's bike trip I carried a water kettle and a porcelain mug in my saddle bags ;-) To the right: some museum-quality assembly hall of the monastery.
To be fair: a BONUS POINT for Hotel Elzenveld: The curtains are pretty much light-tight and there is absolutely no noise coming from the inner courtyard (and I didn't even close the shutters!), so I slept like a baby log, also a first on this journey ;-)
I head to the train station to buy my ticket.
About when I reach Stadspark, I encounter a number of people dressed in black coats with black hats and with side locks. I am too far removed from such things to have any clue as to whether that is related to my next discovery. As I head closer to the train station, I then encounter a large number of precious stones stores; after all Antwerp is the centre of the world's diamond trade.
|Another guy yearning for a train?|
Of course, Antwerp is not done bugging me yet. I proceed to the Belgian version of a Reisecentrum to buy a ticket for me and the bike to Ostend. The price is much cheaper than I expected and upon closer inspection it looks like I only got a bicycle ticket. I line up again to ask "une personne ET un velo a Ostend", point at the ticket "C'est tout?". He nods. Strange.
|Close-up of the tile work on one of the gates to the ZOO|
|Yesterday they had only pulled up the vans; Tomorrow there will be a full size Ferris wheel here ;-)|
I return to the train station half an hour before the scheduled train departure.
A conductor directs me along the train to put my bike into a tiny compartment. I take the opportunity to ask him whether my tickets are sufficient. Of course not! I only have a ticket for a bicycle but not for me. Great service, Idiot at the ticket counter. The conductor sells me a ticket for myself for 8 Euros. Again I am sceptical. 8 Euros for an almost 2 hour train ride seems too cheap. But he clarifies "It is the summer. From anywhere to anywhere you can ride for 8 Euros". Super deal, even if Belgium is a tiny country ;-)
|RELAX . It's just a railway station ;-)|
The advantage of a dead-end railway station is that the trains leaving from there are usually sitting on the platform already half an hour before the scheduled departure.
|The ceiling. Of a railway station !!!!!|
Consequently, I am in my seat, working on a translation, already 20 minutes prior to the scheduled departure. The whistle blows right on time and I'm on my way to places of which I only know the names and maybe a few shots out of movies: Gent, Bruges, Ostend.
Why they call this train an InterCity is beyond me; so far it has stopped at every stop that I could see. Oh no, we just passed a stop ;-0
Every click of the rails gets me closer to the ocean. The landscape does not offer more than cows, corn, and poplar trees, so \I manage to get quite a bit of work done. We pass Gent and Bruges. I have no idea what to expect of Ostend, but after I get the bike out of the train with the help of the conductor I am already jubilant because I can smell and feel the sea air!
|My train in Ostend (or Oostende)|
|Oostende Railway Station|
|Of course, even Oostende has a cathderal|
And then it's time to take off my shoes. No, I'm not visiting a mosque. Not getting a Thai foot massage either. I'm not sleeping on the pavement either. So why?
|My sandals come off instantly (No, neither have I been wearing socks lately nor other shoes ;-)|
It's windy as hell. There is red flags up everywhere. But when I dip my toes into the North Sea, it feels divine !
|Since it's not sunny, there is almost no one here. Nutters !!!|
|The haze is water but mostly sand thrown up by the wind|
|Just don't look back !!!|
|A very surreal view.|
|I am speechless! I miss Saint Malo !!!!!|
|The Kustroute (Coast Route) for Fietsers (bicycles)|
|The past is never far away. Belgian? German? Does it matter what nationality the young men that died here were?|