Goblinette has lived in Belgium for a while. More than two years actually. That is just enough time to get used to some place and become more than just a tourist there. We decided to visit some of our favourite places and our friends living there. Sadly, there is a long list of people we couldn’t visit since our days only had 24 hours and do to recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, we lost a lot of time being checked by the Belgian army.
Belgium after the bombing
Belgians are tough people. I am sure things will go to normal sooner or later, but now flying to Charleroi airport is a pain in the ass. We booked well in advance, before the terrorist attacks and were waiting until last minute to make final arrangements. I (Goblinette) had certain health problems and was not sure if I will be allowed to travel anywhere. Friends were sure we chickened out and will not visit so soon.
This time we decided to rent a car. There are decent train connections in Belgium and different shuttle buses to Brussels and other bigger cities. But we were going to do a lot of sightseeing in very different parts of the country and after counting all train tickets and lost time, we decided on spending a few extra euros on a car.
We were advised to avoid Brussels because we would lose too much time there, do to extra security measures. We have seen it before. Many, many times. And we loved it.
Rant about chaos on Charleroi airport
On the airport, there was Belgian Military everywhere. After going out to pick up the paperwork for the rented car, you couldn’t get back to the shops area. No problem for us, but the family with small hungry children didn’t look happy. They shared overpriced fries and started their holiday with a lot of crying.
After waiting close to an hour for papers for our car, we were bored enough to listen to the guy at the next stand. He was warning his customers to return to the airport 3 hours early due to extra security check-ups and the usual chaos.
Luckily, we listened and were early. We returned the car in 10 min and spent next 2 hours waiting and fighting for the sits in the bus to the terminal. It was fun experience to see how people turn into savages after a few hours of waiting for cancelled buses. Nobody cares about small children, elderly or very pregnant women. We would be happy to walk those few kilometres to the terminal- but it was not allowed.
After I think four checks of our documents from military, police and regular airport security, we were finally at the gate. There we could spend our last twenty minutes before boarding in peace and quiet.
We haven’t received email confirmation for the returned car yet. It is only 25 days late which is something to be expected …. according to the internet reviews.
I understand their main concern right now is security, but a little more energy could be spent on crowd control and organization.
Ghent is beautiful
We stayed with a friend in Ghent, in Flanders region. She was nice enough to take us in although it was not the best time for her. We were wondering, how those typical tall and slim Belgian houses look like on the inside. They are adorable. We are used to huge houses with big staircases. Belgians somehow manage with tiny staircases that go many floors up. I guess they have to move out of the house if they gain too much weight.
It is unclear, which is the most beautiful city in Belgium. Some say Bruges, some say Ghent. We prefer Ghent. It has a younger, more modern vibe. We visited the usual tourist traps during the day and spent some time with friends and local beers in the pub that evening. A local poet read us his last work and we got an impromptu translation. We liked it a lot.
International vibe in Ghent
Belgium is very diverse country. Locals speak Flemish but most are happy to speak English to visitors. We wanted to have waffles for dinner but were explained it is not really something you would eat there in the evening. Turkish pizza was also great. The area we were staying at offered big choice of international cuisine, since there is a large Turkish migrant community there. On our last visit, we were told that locals like living with them and that they assimilated nicely. Since the numbers of other nationalities went up in the last few years and the number of available jobs stayed the same, some locals are showing concern about their or their children’s future and way of life. Other are still happy and welcoming.
We still have to try Waterzooi soup and Ghent’s famous ironed donuts. I tried cuberdons (local sweet) on my last visit. They are much too sweet for us. Ordering food in Hema restaurant was also fun. Goblinette decided to order something with five words in the name and had to show the picture of the flyer to the cook to get the right one. Still don’t know what it was but it was delicious.
More about our weekend in Belgium in part.2. Check back in 2 days.
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