Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Sea! The Sea! My kingdom for the Sea! (or Seeing the Sea in Middelkerke)

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?
Time to board another train, possibly the last of this journey.  Will it take me out of Belgium? Not quite yet.
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 ;-)
What do you think ? ;-) ;-) ;-)  
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 concrete jungle lining the Belgian coast is something I definitely had not expected. Especially after last year's trip through Brittany, which was picturesque and tastefully comfortable.  But this concrete ....
The Kustroute (Coast Route) for Fietsers (bicycles)
Even though I have the wind in my back, the wind is so strong that it throws up so much sand I will still rub sand off my scalp hours later.  Time to buy shades if I expect to survive cycling against the wind with my eye-sight intact.
The past is never far away. Belgian? German? Does it matter what nationality the young men that died here were?
When I get to Middelkerke, I realize it is a monster-tourist-high-rise atrocity just like Ostend.  Fortunately my strange hotel is 3 blocks from the beach in a quiet part of town.  I have a bicycle; if I want the beach I can be there in 3 minutes ;-)

No comments:

Post a Comment