In fact, I have plenty of funny moments to share. Do you remember I said you get lots of experiences and experience from Erasmus? I have experienced many moments, I have been in many new and sometimes strange situations, very often full of adrenaline. However, that’s what definitely belongs to Erasmus, doesn’t it? So I’m gonna tell you about some adventures.
Catching a plane
This is a crazy story, with a happy ending of course, how else. I was back home. I mean, since I had a break between the semesters, before the second semester started I came to the Czech Republic for one week to visit my friends, parents etc. This was in the period of a harshly freezing weather. One day morning I was going by train to Brno, where I was supposed to take a plane to Eindhoven. Sure you can’t come to the airport at the last moment but you should always be there sooner. Just in case. And I was supposed to be as well.
The journey by train to Brno was okay. Till one moment. Till we stopped in a village, like 30 km far from Brno. I was just listening to my mp3 player, staring out from the window, as usual. But all of a sudden, we are standing, waiting for something. Ten minutes….okay this is still fine. Twenty minutes…, 30 minutes….Well, this is not fine anymore at all. Starting to be nervous, the ticket inspector got to our compartment and said we were not continuing further by train because the railway track was cracked, so we had to take a bus that would take us all to the next train station where the rail track was okay again.
At that moment it was completely clear I wasn’t able to catch the plane. But what could I have done? I tried to contact all potential friends and relatives or anybody who could be eventually able to give me a lift to the airport. But the big problem was that I was stuck in some village, not even close to the main station in Brno. Okay, I’m gonna cut it short a little….When I made a peace with the fact that I was never going to get to Gent, all of a sudden, I happened to hear a girl on the train calling to Wizzair airlines about the delay. I started to follow this girl along with her friend, so we could panic together, heh. We kept asking the ticket controller or the station dispatcher about the length of delay but it was absolutely clear that we weren’t able to make it. We tried to use the last option and were about to hitch-hike even though there was only a highway close. At that moment, none of us knew why, a women with a car just appeared. The girls I was panicking with stopped the car with that women. I don’t know whether that women was an angel or something, but anyways, she was kind and she drove us to the airport…..yes we made it!
The journey from Queen’s Day
Do you know this famous feast in the Netherlands? Queens’ Day (also King’s Day, depending on the actual head of the kingdom) – all Dutch people “celebrating” the ex-queen’s birthday? It’s absolutely the most famous feast in the country. So how could I miss this if I was so close, right? Yes, I wanted to experience also this, so I took my orange Holland T-shirt, which I had actually bought when I was in the Netherlands for the first time, and set out for the Netherlands.
The way there was actually good because I went for free (21€ saved – awesome) but not to make it long, I’m going to drop the quite boring part about the journey by train. Well, there isn’t that much behind this story – plenty of people in orange, all those small and super narrow Amsterdam streets overcrowded, but okay it was new for me, it was okay. The point is that I was going to join a group of my friends in Amsterdam, but I was perhaps the only guy not staying over the night. Yes, probably the best of the Queens’ Day was about to happen, but anyway, I was going back to Gent the same day. And here it comes. I had to leave Amsterdam quite early because I needed to catch the last train to Antwerp and to Ghent as well. Or…I would have probably had to camp over the night somewhere at a station or something. I don’t know why but the journey back was unbelievably long. I couldn’t wait to be home, take shower and go to bed.
Everything had been going well till we stopped in Roosendaal. To be in the picture, there was like 15 minutes to change the train in Antwerp to get to Gent that night. And actually there was a “safety” – one more very last train, a super slow train, with which it would still have been possible to get to Gent, you know, if something…But the problem was that we were 30 minutes delayed because we had to wait for another train. It was obvious that there wasn’t enough time to change the last train. Well, I already saw myself in bed but now I was just starting to see myself at a train station, a bus stop or eventually a hostel. I don’t know if this could happen in my country, maybe, but I can’t imagine it. I’m gonna reveal the end of the story with you – I eventually got home that night.
The journey continued like this – After we started up again, a ticket controller was going through the train asking around the travelers who was going to Gent. When we arrived in Antwerp, where we were initially supposed to change for the last train to Gent, as a surprise there was still a train waiting for us. Thank God! The remaining group of stressed out people said. Yes, but unfortunatelly this wasn’t the happy ending of the story, yet. The last train waiting, or equipped specially for us was going only to Sint-Niklaas, which was, in fact, still like 40 km far from Gent. So we went to Sint-Niklaas but had no idea what would be going on afterwards. So what happened when a bunch of like 20 people remained stuck at the station? We were told taxis would be ordered for us. And it did happen! I had to wait for a taxi for another hour because they didn’t have enough taxis for so many people, that’s what they said, but what is the most important – I got home in the end!
I guess this is for me the craziest experience of Erasmus ever 😀 And as icing on the cake, it happened the very last day of my stay in Belgium. As I said, for the last day of my amazing Erasmus, there was a plan. And how else the end of Erasmus could be ended than by making the last trip. So this last Sunday, along with my friend and at the same time ex-housemate from the first Erasmus semester, I went to Dinant and on the way back we also wanted to pass by Namur. And this actually happened.
After a short excursion to Dinant we set out for the way back to Gent but also stopped by in Namur. To get the point of the story I must tell, since this was the very last day and also the last trip, we also filled up the last free row in our Go Pass ticket. Maybe it’s also useful to tell what the Go Pass was. If you travel by train a lot, you can save some money by buying so called GoPass. It’s actually a train ticket for any 10 rides, which costs 50€ and you can go wherever you want. It means that one journey then costs 5€ and that is something very cheap for Belgium. So, we used the last possible ride for the way back with a stop in Namur. But now we are getting to that funny thing!
We explored Namur, its historic center, the Citadel and so on, and in the evening we finally decided to go back to Gent because I needed to pack up, clean up the room and do all that unpleasant stuff. You know what I mean…when you don’t want to go home but have to and…yeah, this situation. So…we’re going back to the train station till I want to check and take out the GoPass. Yes, I’m checking but the GoPass isn’t in my pocket anymore! I always shove everything in my pocket (you know I’m a man 😛 ) but that was actually the first time I had lost something (tissues don’t count). It was just a ticket you would say, indeed. But it was our only ticket to get home! Yes, we could have bought another one, even though it was really expensive for a classical ticket, but we’d have had to have still some money left. My last 5€ along with 10€ of my friend wasn’t enough for the ride, not even for one of us. Soo…what does it mean? It means that it was 7 pm and we were stuck in Namur, 100 km far from Gent, without a ticket, without money and basically a few hours before coming back home. I mean before coming back home to the Czech Republic.
So the first step we took to solve the confounded situation was to try to look for the lost GoPass along the way we had been going all the day. But in fact it was just, you know…looking for a needle in a bottle of hay. Sure we didn’t find it but we had to get back anyway. Well, I’m going to the point. Because you can’t earn 40€ within a couple of hours, the last chance to be able to get to Gent was to try hitch-hiking. There is one thing needed to be said – I had never done it before. Maybe because there was no reason to do it and maybe because it is…well it’s perhaps considered to be dangerous in my home country. Or at least people think so. But there was no option, so we found a piece of paper and wrote Gent on one side and Brussels on the other side and started walking a little bit further from the center of Namur.
We stood at some exit point going out of the city, holding the piece of paper. I was very nervous, mad, or how to describe it, and afraid of not getting back in the end. And here is what happened. It took some time though, but to my surprise, some cars started to stop and then, finally, one driver took us with him several kilometers, somewhere beyond the city. It was help anyhow, because now we were standing at a better place, right at the highway entrance. There was a better chance that somebody would stop and go the right direction. And so it was. We didn’t wait for so long and a very kind woman pulled over and we started to crow. Till we found out she was going only to Brussels….But still, we were a little bit closer to Gent again.
There was another catch, however. She just threw us out of the car before Brussels, but like 15 km far from the actual city, somewhere on the highway. Fortunately, it didn’t take so long and a next car stopped and it seemed we could finally be saved. Well, it turned out that we weren’t yet. The guy in the car was just going a different direction so we just moved over a few kilometers. At this point, those moments were just the worst as it started getting dark and we were stuck in the land of nobody, not even in Brussels and still far from Gent….
I started to think about one more option – get somehow to the center of Brussels and gather the rest of our Euros for a train to Gent. The only problem was, we were far far away from the city center so we had to solve a dilemma whether to keep hitch-hiking on that side, or to try it on the way to the center. We decided to go on stopping cars and hope some human being would save us. We waited more than a half an hour and then we finally convinced two nice women to take us at least to a petrol station behind Brussels. When we get there I was confident that we would get home. I calmed down and believed already. And eventually we did get back home! This spot was a good place for hitch-hiking – at the petrol station, near the highway going through Gent. So we got a lift up to the house where I lived.
Now it’s just a funny story, I always laugh when I remember of these moments from Belgium and I always will. But I will tell you guys…the helpless feeling…..you know, you don’t have money but you are 100 km far from your home and you need to get back, then you get a promising lift just to get a small bit closer, and then you are standing again with a tag and hope that some of the passing drivers will stop and take you up….Do not wish to experience it! Or maybe you should…..:-)