Day 6 and 7: Brussels and Cologne

I left Ireland in the afternoon on Saturday to start my train journey to the Dublin airport for a flight to Brussels. During the 2-3 hour ride to Dublin I had intense urges to sleep…but I wouldn’t let myself. When traveling alone on a train, falling asleep is a recipe to get your bags stolen. So I would rest my eyes in 3 second increments. It got to the point where I had to blast iPod music in my ears to try to keep me awake. At one point I actually did fall asleep — for maybe 30 seconds — until a voice shouted in my head, "Ben!!" and I suddenly woke up and grabbed my cargo pocket to make sure my passport was still there. Yes, I’m taking my security seriously.

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I got to Dublin airport with plenty of time to spare and decided to patronize a pizza place and then McDonald’s. As I sat down with my truly disgusting but utterly dependable McChicken (that’s the beauty of McDonald’s — you know what you’re getting) I saw a tourist pose with the Ronald McDonald figure/bench at the end of the restaurant. Ah, Americanism at its finest.

Next I approached the RyanAir ticket counter. My chief goal when checking in was to avoid having to check any bags. Before leaving for Europe I had heard these no-frills airlines were strick about this, but London to Dublin was no problem. When I approached the counter, I essentially hid my large backpack and told the lady I had a laptop bag and a duffel bag. She accepted without any scrutiny. My secondary goal at that moment was ensuring that RyanAir seemed legitimate — after all, a few days ago a RyanAir pilot landed the plane at the wrong airport. I looked around to get a sense of the ticketing counter. There was a French guy cursing the agent for fucking up the line. I thought to myself, "If this French guy flies RyanAir, so can I."

Waiting for my flight I encountered what appears to be The Big Challenge for Ben on this trip: finding water fountains to re-fill my bottle. Europeans don’t seem to have the plethora of fountains I’m used to in the states. Being a massive water drinker — I was tested for diabetes a few months ago because of this — I’m always either a) drinking water or b) searching for a water re-filler.

The flight to Brussels was uneventful….oh, except for the fact that I flew into Brussels SOUTH, not Brussels national airport. Yay! Now I get to take a 45 minute 10 euro bus to the central Brussels where my motel is located! At 1 AM I finally met my Mom, who’s joining me for a week in Belgium/Germany, at the hotel. When I arrived people were out and about screaming. Now I know why: the US tied Italy in the World Cup.

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The next day we explored Brussels on our feet and with a bus tour. Wonderful weather — super sunny but with a nice breeze. It seems the nice weather is following me east. Brussels is an interesting and cosmopolitan city with much more there than mere chocolate! (Though we did buy some chocolate too…even though my loyalty remains to the Swiss.) Given globalization, I suspect more and more cities will begin to look  like Brussels.

Trained to Cologne in the afternoon during which I spent time studying and remembering world history, namely WW1, Cold War, etc. More on Germany later!

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