Any week that includes meeting an imaginary friend and staying in a castle has to rate as awesome. Even if it did also involve a trip to the doctor and a lot of time changing trains.
26/7 Monday After a sleep-in in the morning, we met Benny the Irish Polyglot, who would be our host for the next two days. As a traveller and blogger, Benny is one of those people we’ve known of for ages, so it was great to meet up with him and spend some time with him.
We had a nice lunch in a Mexican place near the station (which played reggaeton in the bathrooms), then headed back to his place to drop off our stuff before heading out for a bit of sightseeing. In the evening we headed out to a Couchsurfing meetup and got to speak Spanish with some of the other Couchsurfers.
27/7 Tuesday We slept in a little, but managed to make it to our meeting with Paul from Slow Travel Berlin only half an hour late (after also getting lost). Momo met us there and took us to the East Side Gallery, which is an awesome outdoor art gallery of murals painted on a stretch of the Berlin Wall. We also had a drink at a beach bar on the banks of the River Spree.
We failed to buy Craig a new backpack, and joined in part of the walking tour we’d had recommended. But there were about 50 people in the group, so we piked out and headed back to Benny’s for a rest before dinner. Dinner was great – we met Benny, Claudia and Momo for a last drink or two and a huge meal at White Trash Fast Food.
28/7 Wednesday The day started with a very successful trip to the Hauptbahnhof to catch our train to Cologne – absolutely no missed connections, it was awesome. In Cologne, we had lunch with my language partner Andreas, who I’ve chatted with for about eight hours a week for the last eight months. It was great to finally meet him in person!
From there the train took us to Ghent, where we were met at the station by our friend Tom, who we met while walking the Camino de Santiago in 2008. It doesn’t feel like two years since we last saw him! He took us back to his castle (yep, a genuine castle, owned by the Duke of Flanders) and we spent the evening getting to know the bars of Ghent.
29/7 Thursday I’ve had a pain in my side for the last few days, so I finally got over my dislike of doctors and headed to the medical centre. Nothing to worry about, apparently, I just need more vitamins. And to not lift heavy things.
Apart from that, we spent the day in Ghent marvelling at its architecture and trying out a few more bars. And, since Belgium is famous for its waffles and frites as well as for its beers, we partook of a bit of both of those as well.
30/7 Friday Friday was a work day. In the castle, though – how awesome is that?
31/7 Saturday Tom dropped us off at the station, and we had a rather unsuccessful trip to Utrecht. The first train arrived in Antwerp late, so we missed our connection to Rotterdam. We tried to make the most of it by having a coffee in an outdoor cafe, but it rained. And finally, we got off at the wrong Utrecht station and had to call Floor for advice. But we did make it, and it was totally worth it.
Floor and her partner Bregje took us into the city centre for a guided gastronomic tour – when I mentioned that I liked streetfood, they promptly bought one of almost every type of deep-fried Dutch delicacy, and we gorged ourselves on those, in between beers in interesting bars near the canals. Oh, and we also saw some architecture.
1/8 Sunday Today was incredibly Dutch. It started with a Dutch breakfast – everything is sprinkles! Yes, those sugar sprinkles you put on cakes, they have dozens of types of them and you have them on bread for breakfast. Next we went for a long cycle in the countryside, with a pancake house as our destination, and our return trip was mostly in the rain. (Cycling in the rain is very Dutch, apparently.) We finished up the day with dinner at home and a Dutch movie with English subtitles.