Although it wasn’t in our initial itinerary, we decided to take a daylong detour to the quaint town of Brugge, a real-life fairytale town. There was not a car to be seen on the cobblestone streets, and it seemed like we had travelled back in time (minus the throngs of tourists crowding us from every direction). We found the best hot chocolate in a small wooden shop close to the main square. We also ventured out to a quiet convent where we entered a church and witnessed a mass led by the nuns who lived there.
It was a perfect day with perfect weather. However, with our luck, fate could not possibly allow us to have an equally perfect evening. When we missed the first train by two minutes, we thought little of it. After all, we were tired and sore, and the next one would come in 40 minutes. Little did we know that our decision to wait would later turn into an evening of both disaster and unexpected friendship.
It all began after we had boarded the train. A muffled voice spoke on the overhead, “Everyone leave the train. There has been an accident and the train will be delayed.” A mass of people swore in Dutch and got off the train, rushing here and there like ants from an anthill. People seemed clueless as to where to go until a man shouted, “PLATFORM TWO” and the crowds began to pound down the stairs. We got lost in the throbbing mass of people rushing toward platform two. People reacted as if this train were the last train to redemption, shoving and pushing their way onto the train. By the time the train left, we were encased from side to side with warm sweaty bodies. Every time I thought our train car was full, three more people would find an inch of space and get on board.
The train left, packed to the brim with people and without proper ventilation. What should have been a forty-minute ride turned into a seven hour disaster. Due to the overflowing amount of people and the rising inferno within each car, people began to get sick and pass out. This led to our train stopping in the middle of nowhere. We were forced to get off and on the train three times before the train abandoned half of us on the side of the tracks to face our fate. ‘Buses’ were coming, but by hour five, hope was beginning to drain from my spirit. By hour six, the police and the ambulances arrived and began passing out foil blankets and water bottles like we were war refugees. The national news arrived and interviewed our new friend Marie, a student in Brussels. In total, our misadventure took seven hours, when finally a couple of kind strangers drove Rachel, Marie, Emily and me to the train station, where we finally could board a train to Brussels.
After an eventful night, we decided to practice some self-care and sleep in 'til eleven. We woke up and went in search of waffles (which were amazing) and then took a walking tour around the city. We saw the houses of Victor Hugo and Karl Marx, among many other incredible sights, and made a friend named Matt who was also studying abroad in Spain for the semester.
We later met up with him at a restaurant called Delirium, which holds the Guinness world record for most beers in a bar (almost three thousand!) and also made some Danish friends. We stayed up joking, laughing and swapping stories until the clock (aka Emily’s watch) struck one and we realized we had to be up early the next morning. In that moment I wished we could stay in Belgium forever, but I knew more adventures lay ahead in Luxembourg, France and Italy. We sadly said good-bye and spent the night saving up energy for our visit to Luxembourg.