Monday, September 16, 2013 @ 04:48 pm from Belgium
I wanted to see a different city today and Gent was on my list before I left the States. It's a 30 minute train ride from Bruges and the trains run very regularly. I went to the train station today to pick up my tickets to Amsterdam and buy a round trip to Gent.
The lady at the ticket counter couldn't figure out what to do with my confirmation code which was pretty frustrating. To make it even more frustrating, I couldn't pull up the email with the information since there was no wifi available at the train station. I said screw it and figured I'd get it all taken care of later.
I jumped on a train to Gent and watched the countryside pass by through the window. When I got to Gent I jumped on a tram that took me to the city center. Gent is a lot bigger than Bruges and has more of a "real city" feel. The old city center area was nice but I felt like half the place was under construction. A lot of the statues and buildings were surrounded by scaffolding and tarps so they could do whatever maintenance they needed to.
I walked around for a few hours and took some photos. There was some free wifi outside a McDonalds so I took a screenshot of my Amsterdam train ticket email and figured I'd try my luck getting the ticket printed at the Gent train station.
Rather than hang out in Gent all day aimlessly wandering around, I jumped on the tram back to the train station and successfully printed my ticket to Amsterdam. There was a train leaving back to Bruges a few minutes later so I got on it.
Back at the hostel I did some research into hotels in Paris. The hostel is getting pretty packed earlier than normal. A lot of English people just checked in and they're all hanging out drinking. After this blog post I'll probably get some dinner going and then have a drink at the hostel bar.
The first stage of my trip to Amsterdam leaves at 9:18 tomorrow morning so I won't stay up too late tonight.
St Nicholas Church in Gent
Sunday, September 15, 2013 @ 04:48 pm from Belgium
The weather today was beautiful. I got up early, ate and then set out to explore as much of the city I could without the interference of rain.
I walked by canals, through parks, through markets that took up several streets, and by the windmills again. I covered a ton of ground today and got some great photos along the way. A few hours after I ate lunch I was getting hungry again so I stopped in a chocolate shop and got what was essentially a chocolate rice krispy treat and ate it by one of the canals.
The windmills looked great today with blue skies in the background. I got a few photos that I'll probably upload to indePrinted when I get a chance.
The town was packed today too. I'm not sure if it was due to the weather or the fact that it's a Sunday or a combination of both. There were massive groups of people on tours that blocked entire streets.
After walking around town for about 5 hours I came back to the hostel to do some planning for the rest of my trip. I was looking at the map and train routes and prices and figured I should probably get a more defined route ready for the next month of my trip so I make sure I'm in Paris by the 21st of October. It looks like after Amsterdam I'll head to Berlin, from Berlin to Prague, Prague to Vienna, Vienna to Verona, Verona to Vernazza (the Cinque Terre) and that's as far as I've got so far. Ultimately I'll end up in Naples so I can see Pompeii. From Naples I'll get a train to Rome and then from Rome there's an overnighter to Paris that will get me in on the 20th.
The unrelenting rain finally returned. I've done my fair share of walking for today so I'll just eat dinner and hang out at the hostel the rest of the night. Tomorrow I'm planning on visiting Ghent for the day since I've seen just about every nook and cranny here in Bruges.
Saturday, September 14, 2013 @ 06:29 pm from Belgium
Last night I hung out in the hostel and had a couple of beers. They have a happy hour from 9-10 each night where one of the draft beers is only 1 euro. After two beers the rain had stopped and it turned into a really nice night. Instead of going to bed I decided to head out and see Bruges at night and take some photos. It was gorgeous at night! The rain must have scared a lot of people off so I was able to take photos from some of the prime spots without any interruptions.
This morning I woke up to rain again. Apparently this is nothing out of the ordinary since Bruges is known for its rainy climate. Even so, when the weather sites are calling for 90-99% chances of rain, you know you're going to get wet.
There are four windmills on the northeast side of town that I wanted to see. After eating breakfast I put on my rain coat and headed out into the drizzle. It took about 15 minutes to walk over there but I finally got to them and got some photos. Between the 3rd and 4th windmill it started downpouring. I sought shelter under some trees and waited for the worst of it to end.
Finally the rain let up enough for me to feel confident in heading out again. I took some photos of the last windmill which was the only one that didn't have some sort of fencing around it. From the hill the windmill sat on you could see some nice views of the city. It's too bad it was so rainy since all the moisture made it hard to see all the towers in the distance.
After that I wandered around and came across some canals with some really nice views. I grabbed some photos there and then went to the Grote Markt to eat lunch. Right after I finished my sandwich the skies opened up again. Rather than deal with the constant wetness I came back to the hostel to avoid the rain.
I used my time at the hostel to book my travel to Amsterdam for the 17th. I wanted to stay in Belgium another few days but both Gent and Leuven didn't have any reputable hostels with availability for the weekend. Amsterdam also didn't have any availability for Saturday night in the decent hostels so I've booked Tuesday - Friday night there. Depending on how I feel after 4 nights in Amsterdam I might try to find another hostel with availability for Saturday night or I'll just head out somewhere else.
Once I booked my travel and hostel it was still raining outside so I downloaded In Bruges and watched that while I'm... In Bruges. It was cool seeing some of the sights I've already been to in the film. Aside from it being filmed here, it's a good movie too.
I bought a "beer card" for the hostel for 10.50 euros. It lets you drink 5 different beers which evens out to being a little cheaper than buying all of the beers individually. I'll have a couple of the beers tonight and then see how the weather is. If it's nice I'll probably go out for another walk. Looking up at the sky I can see some blue peeking through. It looks like the rain might finally be over for a while. Tomorrow is calling for no rain which would be a nice change.
Photo from Sint Annarei and Blekersstraat
Friday, September 13, 2013 @ 06:29 pm from Belgium
The ticket I bought for Bruges yesterday didn't have a specific time and the trains run about every 30 minutes, so I wasn't in any kind of rush this morning to get ready. One issue that had been plaguing me during my stay in Brussels was my key card for my room at the hostel kept getting deactivated. I was on the 4th floor so every time it happened I'd have to walk all the way back down to the lobby and then back up to get it fixed.
I was planning on getting the 12:21 train so I left the hostel around 10:30 and hung out in the Grote Markt and had lunch there. The skies started clouding up and it felt like rain was coming any second so I went to the train station a little early.
I looked at the schedule and rather than wait around for an hour and a half I decided to get on the 12:00 train. It ended up being delayed by about 10 minutes but once I got on the ride was fine. It rained a bit but the countryside was nice.
When I got to Bruges, it wasn't really raining hard but it was just enough that I needed to put on my rain coat. When I left the train station I headed toward the Grote Markt in Bruges. The town is beautiful! Even in the gloomy weather the town has a certain kind of charm to it. I took some photos and then went to seek out the hostel so I didn't have to lug my big bag around with me.
After checking in I went to a big supermarket to get some stuff for dinner. I ended up getting a green pepper, an onion and some oranges. I didn't realize you needed to weigh, bag and print prices for all the produce you buy. When I walked up to the cash register they had to call an employee to run back and scan everything for me. It was pretty embarrassing since I don't speak any Dutch. It's close enough to German that I can understand some stuff but there's no way I can try to put together a worthwhile sentence.
Anyway, after that got figured out I came back to answer some emails and do a little bit of work that I wasn't able to do on the last hostel's extremely slow internet. After that I set out to find some frites to eat as a snack. I had some that were pretty good, although the ones in Brussels were better. These frites were a little thinner cut. They were still super crispy and delicious, but I liked the super crispy thick cut frites that I had in Brussels.
Back at the hostel I made some vegetable curry for dinner and now I'm working on this blog post. Every night between 9-10 the hostel has a happy hour where their already cheap beers are discounted even more. I'll probably hang out here at the hostel tonight and have a beer or two tonight.
The weather tomorrow is supposed to be nicer so I'll try to do all of my exploring of the city then. There's a 7km walk around the old city walls that I want to try too. There are 4 old windmills set up along the old canals that are supposed to be nice photo spots as well.