By Kasper Delaney-Petersen
Once again it’s time for another story of my excursions on study trips within a study trip. This time, my partition of the international course in Denmark took to the road again and ended up in Brussels.
A bit of a forewarning here; while Brussels is a lovely city with generally super friendly people at every establishment, so much for lack of a better term, ‘wholly undesirable shite’ happened to me and it has given me a sour taste in my mouth. Therefore, any complaints I make shall come from a place of my own faults so please don’t let this article deter you from visiting Belgium, unless of course my hardships give you pleasure (in which case I wanna fight ye). Regardless, without further ado…
First things first, missing your flight is one of the worst nightmares of both the lazy and the tardy. You get to the airport with plenty of time to spare but there’s one person who has trouble checking in. I would feel much better within my own conscience than catching the flight without them. The only downside to this is that they had the money to pay for the next flight, I did not.
So back to the hostel, I was fully accepting the fact that I was going to fail my assignment. Whilst lying in a hard, cold bed, awaiting the next day to purchase a ticket back to Aarhus, I was incapable of even enjoying a day out in Copenhagen. However, a thought crossed my mind, one of the dumbest, yet most necessary decisions of my life took place. I spent €70 on a bus ticket to take me from Copenhagen to Brussels. It was a 17-hour journey and it was the first time in my life I wished I had one of my friends from back home by my side, not to comfort me in my misery, but to reassure me how much of a dope I am.
In retrospect, the bus journey was not the horrible experience I had anticipated. I got to visit most of the western half of Germany, including Hamburg (beautiful city by the looks of it by the way) and I got to spend an hour in Amsterdam, albeit just the central station. For the price of the ticket on such short notice, I guess I couldn’t complain.
Once I had arrived in Brussels, it was little over two and a half hours before I was in the hotel room. It was a nice hotel with all the amenities one could ask for, especially for the price and central location. If it wasn’t the bus journey that brought my figurative piss to a boil it was not going to be what happened next either (also in hindsight).
I was less than ten minutes inside the hotel and my glasses fell off my face in two pieces. Slap bang in the middle. No warning. I cursed like the Big Fella himself had come down from behind the pearly gates and told me that my vocabulary was to contain only expletives for the rest of my days. While the rest of the Brussels excursion was mostly spent wearing prescription sunglasses, my week was due to get a lot worse.
On Thursday, my penultimate day in the city of cheap waffles, we were drinking in a bar that I shall leave unnamed. Cool place I guess, seeing as it was at least €8 for a pint with an alcoholic content worth drinking. I spent only €8 there so I guess I was living it up in the low-spending department. Foresight is key in places like this, as the wifi code was “BEWAREOFPICKPOCKETS”. Evidently, I was not as my bag, including my laptop, was stolen. I was begrudgingly taking care of one of my classmate who couldn’t handle his drink (American). It was my own fault for leaving my bag in an easy-to-take area, yet I was incredibly angry. This was the second time in my life I wish I had a stereotypically dry Irish friend nearby to once again let me know how much I need to get the auld cloigeann in check.
Whilst I was distraught with the loss of pretty much everything I had with me, I struggled with what I should actually be thinking about at a time like this. It’s only after the hardships when one begins to understand how to deal with them.
When I was leaving the city I almost missed my flight (again) because my iPhone died on 50%. The bus driver didn’t speak English so he had to communicate in very simple French for my Higher-Level D skills. I couldn’t use my friend’s phone to show him the ticket if she was not on the bus. Luckily, I was saved by an incredibly helpful, multilingual Hungarian living in Brussels who was also on her way to visit Ireland. She allowed us to email her the ticket so now for a highly necessary shout out to Alexandra, you the real MVP.
My time in Brussels was short in length, but it really felt like it took too long for it to come to an end. The famous “pomme frites” are nothing but glorified chips and the world-famous beer is either grossly over exaggerated or well beyond too expensive. I realised that the city actually treated me quite well, having gained the realisation that what happened to me was due to my own stupidity or just bad luck. When your laptop is stolen, something that contained your work, your pictures, music, your memories, to paraphrase my mam; “what’s done is done”. There is very little reason to dwell on bad experiences such as these, life goes on. I got to see more countries and cities in a single day than many would in a year. I also got to look mad cool wearing sunglasses all the time and I discovered the fallacy of over digitalisation and the many benefits such as the polaroid and the humble bus ticket. I never thought I would enter a country with a comic book culture such as Belgium, so overall, I was in good spirits when I was buying a bunch of useless shite. The bus journey was also great when you begin your journey in a city with a hashtown in the middle of it because there’s no security checks for busses (wink, wink).
The benefits of hardships are unclear, and whether they should be clear is a debate that I don’t even want to think about. There’s no denying, (and this is going to sound incredibly entitled, my problems do not compare in the slightest to obvious and more immediate problems) that the loss of my laptop opened my eyes to the fallacies of the digital age. I had initially considered the loss of the data on my hard drive to be the destruction of my memories, and the writing I had been steadily doing for years was gone forever (save to the cloud kids, or write it down on paper I guess). This is not the case, and should never be. The greatest images are the idealistic memories of your mind, and as long as you keep them close they’ll never leave (unless you get amnesia I suppose but sure then photographs probably don’t mean much to ya). Another shout out to Bus Éireann here, your wifi is quite often crap but at least ye give paper tickets; a godsend.
There you have it folks, if you know me, you are already plenty aware not to listen to a word that comes out of my mouth. I would still recommend a visit to Brussels, and if you ever get the chance maybe pay a visit to some of the EU institutions such as the European Parliament and the Commission. The famous Mannekin Pis is a bit like the Mona Lisa in the sense that it is tiny, but it is still worth a glance. Cheap smokes over there too, always a bonus