Wow. We have some catching up to do around here. London and Berlin have both come and gone, so there are pictures and stories to tell. Let’s start back at the beginning – getting to London, two Fridays ago. We took the train from Bielefeld -> Köln – > Brussels -> London.
Brussels was an exciting stop for a few reasons. For one, it was our first time in Belgium. Also, there was an intense protest going on in the Brussels train station. People marched around with noisemakers and firecrackers, wearing either red or green outfits. This was an unnerving first glance at Brussels, since we could smell firecracker smoke and were trying not get knocked over as we navigated the crowded train station. (After getting home, we found out that this is what we saw. Good thing we didn’t have to travel through the city at all.) Below, a quieter section of the demonstration, and the Christmas tree in the train station:
We walked around the block to escape the train station, and I decided to grab something to eat from a hot dog stand. It was less about being hungry and more that I wanted to be able to tell people that Belgian Steve Buscemi sold me a hot dog. We determined through gestures and shrugs that I did not actually want a hot dog, but rather a boudin. It looked just like a German bratwurst, but actually had a softer texture and a different taste. It was my first time trying to communicate in a country where I know none of the language, and Belgian Steve Buscemi was relatively patient with my mumbling and pointing. I know that “avec mustard” was in there somewhere.
Then, back to the train station with enough time to push through the crowds and find our train. Or so we thought. Border control can be relatively relaxed between different countries in Europe, so when our Deutsche Bahn ticket did not mention anything about security or passport control, we thought nothing of it. When we realized, with 15 minutes to spare, that we actually had to pull out our little blue books and do all of that business, it had to happen fast. I chowed down the boudin, leaving me with mustardy crumbs all over my face and jacket. I’m sure this charmed the Eurostar agent and made her very think highly of Americans. We got a ticket, had our passports stamped to exit Brussels, went through security, filled out customs forms and got our passports stamped to enter England (even though we weren’t there yet). No one cared that we are living in Germany and it only made it more confusing for them when we tried to present our residency cards. Still waiting to see when these I.D. cards (at about 110€ each) will need to be used for something.
We made it to the train with some time to spare. I was terrified about going through the Chunnel, which is the length of the train tracks that goes underwater to connect southern France to England. I thought we would have to learn some specific safety procedures in the case of a mechanical failure or sea beast encounter. Instead, it just got dark for about twenty minutes, and my ears popped a little.
Here are some shots from the train, pre-Chunnel. Not sure which ones are Germany, Belgium or France, but it was a beautiful day in each place.
Coming soon: more about how our German ATM cards don’t speak English, shepherd’s pie and having a drink with Elvis.