Thursday, 9 April 2009

Belgium: weird and wonderful things. Part one of many.

- Sort your rubbish carefully. Binbags are changed at 1€ each, as a kind of council tax, to encourage recycling. Not that anyone tells you where you go to recycle.
- Travelling by train is fraught with danger, so bear the following in mind
a) carefully check you are going to where you think you are going to. Do not, for example, by a ticket to Mechelen when you want to go to Machelen since they are nowhere near each other.
b) on the other hand, do not panic if the train you are getting appears not to be stopping where you want to go. You may have been told to go via Maline, but if the train says Mechelen, that's fine - it's the same place, but no one will have warned you, despite your best attemps to explain you are foreign and do not understand Belgium.
c) do not expect any useful information from anyone selling you a ticket. They will not understand that you are trying to ask them about, say, a day travelcard, or which one the train that goes to Maline is. They also will not be able to tel you where to go to get this information. Your best best for this kind of thing is to randomly ask people at the station until you get something like the correct answer, then pray.
d) you can buy a ticket on a train for a 3€ supplement, but your have to frantically wave at the guard before getting on. Once you are on and they come to you, it is assumed you are trying to travel fraudulently, and you will be fined. If you can't see a guard you are meant to walk up and down the train till you find one. I kid you not.
e) for short journeys, there is something called a Key Card, in that wonderfully pseudo-English way. It's a bizarre system in that you fill in by hand where you have gone. For longer journeys, you can break the journey into stages of the appropriate length - just put them on different cards. This is allowed. Go figure, as the Americans would say...
- it is impossible to get a decent latte, and capuccino hardly has any milk in it
- tea tastes funny with UHT milk. The Belgians will tell you it is impossible to get a-ny other milk. This is not true - most of them, honestly, do not realise you can buy it in the dairy bit of the supermarket!!
- even if you speak perfect French, they will attempt to speak less than perfect English to you
- Good Friday is not a bank holiday :(
- there are good things about Belgium too!!

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