September 06, 2004


We arrived in Brussels yesterday afternoon. We?re staying at a B&B in the southeast corner of the city. The internet cafe (only ?1 per hour, much cheaper than Amsterdam) is around the corner. Unfortunately the keyboard is not the standard American qwerty-type, so Gary and I are both struggling a little with typing.

We had a wonderful time in Amsterdam, although we didn?t hear about eating Indonesian food until today. I guess we?ll have to go back some time.

Day 4 was our last full day in Amsterdam. We went to the Rijksmuseum, which I read had the best collection of Dutch art anywhere. I think must have been mostly closed, as they only had a few galleries open the day we were there. We decided to be super touristy and take a canal boat tour, which was a great way to spend an hour looking around town without abusing our feet. The guide talked about the canal houses (and the furniture hooks) and a bit about the history and geography of the city. And our B&B host, Vlad, told us that the reason the houses are so narrow is because originally they had to pay for them (taxes or rent, it wasn?t clear) based on the width of the property, so everyone built their houses deep and narrow.

We decided on another Dutch restaurant for dinner, and ended the evening at a comedy show called Boom Chicago. They are a group of Americans living in Amsterdam; the show was part improv and part prepared material (primarily making fun of Americans and the Dutch).

On Day 5 (yesterday) we took the train from Amsterdam to Brussels, which was uneventful but still pretty interesting. We saw lots of windmills, fields of flowers, and bicyclists. We have Eurail passes, so all of the shorter train trips (this one was only 3 hours) are free for us. Last night we wandered around the neighborhood, and then to the center of town. There was a large beer festival going on, but it was almost over, so we decided just to watch and not taste anything. Dinner was a big expensive waste on one of the touristy streets (I can?t remember the name right now). We?ll know better next time. We ended the evening at the cinema (Shrek 2, but it was in English, so not as exciting as we thought it might be).

This morning we are doing some laundry at the B&B while we check our email. Then we?re off to Bruges for the day. Most, if not all, of the museums in Brussels are closed on Mondays, so we?ll see a few tomorrow. We still haven?t decided how to get from here to Bern, but it?s looking like it will be a direct all day train trip, instead of going through Paris. The second option is tempting, but we were so hot and tired carrying our packs yesterday that the thought of doing it again through Paris is somewhat unappealing. Yes, we can leave our bags at the station, but we still need to get from the arrrival station to the departure station. And it?s surprisingly warm and humid here.

The laundry should be about done. Time to be a tourist again!

Posted by Jen at September 6, 2004 01:06 AM

I'm sorry you didn't seem to do any bicycling in Holland, or did you? There are hardly any mountains there, and the distances between Haarlem, Rotterdam, Leyden, Amsterdam, etc. are very small. To the south there are towns like Gouda with sheds full of enormous shelved holding cheese. In the towns I remember one could rent a bicycle by the day some place always near the train station. But I wouldn't try that in Rome.

Changing trains in Paris with backpacks must be awful, needs a taxi (not cheap), and I'm glad you didn't try. When you go to Paris, stay a while, like a year.

I saw Bern only for a day once, and it was beautiful. The train ride down to Bern from Burssels sounds nice; I like the trains in Europe, and the sausage and bread and wine one buys along the way. The longer the ride, the better. Does everyone on the train speak English now? We used to enjoy trying our French, German, Italian and Spanish, because it was needed, but in recent years everyone speaks enough English to shut us up, a great pity. I haven't been on a third class train (do they stil have terza classe?) since like 1950, so the sausage must be pretty dry by now. The only thing I remember about Bern was the long arcade of shops. in Schweiz they make fun of the Bernese, as we do of (say) the Aggies. They are reputedly dull and slow. Bern joke: Three Bernese are walking along a country road. The first one says, "That's a nice oak tree." After a while the second one says, "That was no oak, that was a chestnut." Some time passes. Then, the third one says, "If you two guys don't stop arguing, I'm gonna leave."

Love from RAR

Posted by: Ralph A. Raimi at September 6, 2004 08:12 AM