journey in hell

Today was the train trip from Bruges to Amsterdam. First half to Antwerp was ok, only we had to move from 1st class to standard, where it wasn’t air-conditioned. Antwerp was a nightmare, the platform was crowded with people (all young, hippyish, holidayish) and they made a rush for the carriage doors before we could make our rush the carriage doors. We had to fight our way on board, literally the last ones in, when every seat was taken, every aisle was full of people standing, and the open spaces at the end of the carriages were choc-a-bloc. We had to push people out of the way with our big suitcases – and most everyone else had cases and bags too.

So we travelled standing, squashed on every side. People trying to pass had to climb over bags. I vowed there and then to travel first class next time. We got out of that train hot and sweaty and reliieved to breathe fresh air again.

So now we’re in the Amsterdam, close to the railway station – we’ll need to do a quick take off by train to the airport day after tomorrow. Close to the railway station is also the red light district. Many many little glowing red lights in all the side streets, and the young ladies of the night are just starting to take up their position in the windows.

I’m typing this at an internet cafe that’s also a hash cafe. Just like old times, when I visited Amsterdam at the end of the 70s. There was the hash and dope menu, all laid out on the counter, different costs for about 50 varieties.

Though 50 varieties doesn’t begin to compare with the way Belgians drink beer. Last night we went to the same brasserie, called ‘Cambrinus’, where we had out first dinner in Bruges – and chose another few beers from a selection of over 400 possibilities. The beer menu weighed a ton, divided into separate categories like Special Beers, Abbey beers, trappiste beers, fruit beers, lambic beers.

Here’s the menu, an inch thick between wooden covers, about 40 pages for beer and one page for food –

I mostly experimented with abbey and trappiste varieties – my favourites – but had a lambic beer too last night. Totally different, sort of sharp and refreshing. Maybe one day I’ll go back to Bruges and work my way through the other three hundred and eighty odd.

Cheers, R

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