This post inaugurates the Living in Belgium category. Pop open the champagne, pour a glass and make a toast. Ok, now that it’s officially there, lets start, shall we?
While I’m living here for a few months, and studying for some exams for my degree, I decided to take Flemish lessons (or Belgian Dutch, yes it’s different). This requires me to go to Aalst, and since I’m carless and can’t bike to save my life, I have to take the bus. This would be no problem in Madrid, you walk about 5 minutes and you most likely will encounter a bus-stop, or a metro-stop, and you know the bus (or metro) will show up in 5 to 10 minutes. However, bus stops here are few and far in between. I have to walk 10 minutes at a quite fast pace to get to the bus stop. Then you wait for your bus.
Buses here are very regular. So regular they are always on schedule. And you better check that schedule, unless you want to wait for 20 minutes until the next bus that you need passes by the stop. Yes, you read well, buses only pass every 20 minutes, on school days. So you have this nifty booklet, with the lines you’re interested on, and it tells you when the bus stops at your stop, and when it arrives at the stop you want to get to. Which is nice, and allows you to plan your trip to get there on time. You usually can choose from being there too early, and being there too late.
Then, we have the lines. This is so much fun. The line I take stops always at the train station, and then continues to the other end of the line. When it goes from End 1 to Train Station to End 2, the bus stops at one platform at the train station. However, on the way back, from End 2 to Train Station to End 1, the bus stops at a differen platform. It sounds like two different lines would work better, doesn’t it? In fact, they were two lines, until they merged them, and made this mess. How did we find this? We took the bus in the wrong direction once already. Luckily, it was a saturday and I was with Jan, so we could ask how the hell to get home.
And finally, buses change lines when they arrive at one end and scare the shit out of you. Yes, they change lines, without telling you! There I was, after my first day of class (more of that on another post), reading on my book on the way home, and we arrive at the end of the line, but weirdly enough, the bus stops at a different corner. I am perplexed, I ask to get down (I had to open the door by pushing a button), and check that my bus is no longer a #X, it’s a #Y! Where did my bus go?! At least I was home, or well, a 10 minute walk away from home.
Walking home is also quite an experience. My walk is a nice stroll on a paved semi-rural road (Hi, Sheepies! Hello Mr. Rooster!) that has no sidewalks. So I have to walk on the road. I was taught, as a pedestrian, if the road has no sidewalks, you walk on the left, so you can see the cars that come up to you and try to avoid them. Apparently, the rule must be different here, because every single pedestrian I’ve seen on that road walked on the right. Yesterday, on the way to the bus stop, I was nearly run over by a nice camionette that decided to drive 70km/h on such twisty badly paved road. Today it was quieter, but tomorrow, oh tomorrow, tomorrow I get to walk that road at dawn! I have bought a couple blinky lights to hang from my purse in the faint hope the cars will see me and not run over me.
Next in the series, I don’t know yet!