Moving in to the last part of my three-week travelling journey, I headed to Brussels from Berlin to spend only one short day before flying to London. At least.. that was how it was supposed to be. A week previous, devastating terrorist attacks had occurred in Brussels, at the main train station and at the airport. Though I had heard about them and I was slightly reluctant to go to Brussels, my flight was still set to depart, and it was going to cost me a lot of money to change it. Thus, I decided to just go and had an idea to spend my day in a nearby town rather than in the city of Brussels. When I arrived, I caught the train from Brussels to the nearby town of Leuven. This quaint town featured a slightly different style of architecture than I had seen before, but my favourite was the many markets there! The streets were filled with food vendors and fresh produce. I got a basket full of strawberries, which were super delicious. My day mainly consisted of wandering around Leuven, taking in the markets and the sunshine, and window shopping at the many expensive stores that I would never be able to actually shop at.
The real struggle came later on. I was supposed to be flying to London early in the morning, so I decided I would just hangout at the airport during the night. I headed back to the train station to figure out how to get to the airport. I got pretty confused and had to ask a bunch of people for help; those who helped me the most was a couple that directed me to a bus which would take me to the airport. However, everyone I talked to kept telling me the airport was closed, but I protested that I had a flight leaving from there so it must be up and running. It wasn’t until I was on the bus, talking to the bus driver and a nice lady, where I started to really think about the possibility that my flight had been cancelled. This didn’t make any sense to me, since a few days earlier I had received my itinerary from the flight company, but I decided to check online anyway. Sure enough, at the bottom in fine print, it said the flight was cancelled and I needed to contact them immediately. Unfortunately for me, their customer service centre was closed, so I had no way of knowing if they had re-booked my flight or not.
Then it hit me: I was essentially stranded in Brussels with nowhere to stay for the night and no way of getting to London, where I was supposed to be arriving the next morning. Thankfully, the bus driver and the lady I had met suggested I head to a train station which sometimes has overnight trains to London. They gave me directions, and after changing to another bus, I finally got to the train station, only to discover that there were no trains departing to London that night. It was time for me to consider my options: I could book a train leaving early in the morning, take a train to another town and fly out of a different airport, or book a hostel for the night and try to contact the flight company in the morning–all options which would cost me a lot of money that I wasn’t really able to spend. Luckily, another option arose: the possibility of overnight busses (which up until now I hadn’t realized run from Brussels to London). Thankfully I found one that was departing that night in a couple of hours from a different train station. I tried to book it online, but my credit card wasn’t working, so I decided to take cash out and head to the station and hope they would allow me on board.
It was at this time that I met someone who offered to come with me to make sure I was alright. We went to the station together and waited nervously for the bus to arrive. When it finally did arrive, I explained my situation to the bus driver, but he informed me that he is unable to accept cash and there was no way for me to get on that bus. Devastated, I looked at my newfound friend, who told me to come with them to where they lived so we could sort things out. (Note: by this time it was after midnight and the possibility of staying at a hostel for the night was highly unlikely.) We went to their place, where I was able to find another bus departing at 5:30 am. My friend offered me to stay at their place and sleep for a few hours, and then they would walk me back to the station to catch the bus in the morning. True to their word, I slept for a few hours and then we walked back to the station. My friend waited with me until the bus arrived and it was confirmed that I would be on it. I am eternally grateful for this newfound friendship; without this chance meeting and my faith in this stranger, I would not have been able to find a way to London as quickly, cheaply, and safely as I did. Thank you!!!
So in conclusion, my time in Belgium was definitely not fun, and I was relieved when I finally boarded the bus that would take me to London. However, I hope I can return to Belgium one day, and perhaps meet more kind strangers that impact my life!
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[…] brief experience in Belgium happened about halfway through my three-week solo trip, and to date it is one of the craziest […]