Woke up in time for end of breakfast. Today, rice crispies and hot coffee.
My train trip was still a few hours away since you can’t check into a hostel before 3.
I still had 1 beer in my bag and figured may as well knock it out before leaving.
I watched some guys play air hockey next to me, one tried to buy a beer but it was still too early to sell.
I waited until they were served before getting my chilled beer from the fridge.
It was a nice chocolate stout, a bit heavy to start the day but I didn’t know when else I’d have a chance to chill it.
After my beer I walked the half hour back to rail station.
The hostel I selected was solely based on the fact they had a shuttle to Delirium Brewery. I would just make it in time for the last tour of the day.
Ghent was very lovely, old and gothic. I probably could have taken the tram but figured I’d walk following the tracks to my area, it wasn’t raining.
Located a schwarma place for lunch, I had over an hour before check in and tour.
Got settled into the hostel and got on the list for the brewery tour with 30 minutes to spare!
As soon as I closed my door I remembered I’d locked my key card inside. Dammit!
I paid for the tour and told reception about retrieving my card.
I met a pretty girl who was also going on brew tour. She was from Alberta, Canada and had just been on the craziest itinerary I’ve heard. One to 2 nights in a different city for the past 3 weeks via train from Paris to Amsterdam and most places in between.
We all piled into a van and I was lucky to get an end seat while the Canadian took shotgun.
It was a 20ish minute drive to the brewery, some talked, others fell asleep. Such is the life of a traveler, sleep when you can.
We were greeted just inside a side door by a thin man wearing a lab coat.
‘Here for the tour? Good, well we have a bit of time, why don’t we begin with a beer yes? Is this agreeable?’ He said with a grin.
We all said yes enthusiastically so he lead us upstairs into a large room full of brewery memorabilia, then into a small room that contained only a wooden bar.
He poured beers for us all and lead us into a meeting hall with several long wooden tables.
We would watch a film, then the tour would start. He had issues with the projector so he just began with the history of the brewery.
Room after room he unraveled the brewing process as well as the history of the brewery and the family that owns it.
The coolest part was walking through the warehouse where there were rows and rows, tens of feet high of kegs and bottles, both sold in the EU and were returned, cleaned and reused.
They were already off the grid and made their own electricity, nearly finished a water recycling program and had an entire department staffed only with mentally challenged people. Very forward, long-term thinking was going on here.
The tour finished back in the meeting hall where we were given 30 minutes to have as many beers as we could drink.
I met a few other Belgian students and a Frenchmen who was touring Belgium via bike. That’s insane with all this rain, too. He said it wasn’t bad, fewer cars.
The students were very interested that I was from US and Texas.
The usual discussion points began with Trump and the election. It was 100% Sanders support, he was the most European candidate. Everyone was baffled that Trump was front-runner.
‘I don’t understand guns. Why does everyone in a city need guns? I can’t comprehend why police would need guns.’ One of the Belgian students said to me. Cities have a special well-trained team with weapons, sort of like our SWAT teams. Beat police don’t carry.
I’ve grown up around guns, shot one at an early age but was really around guns in Kansas. I understood why people needed them for hunting but I lived in a rural area then.
In cities it was protection from robbers and rapist. Guns made people feel safe.
It was fascinating talking to someone who felt so safe he didn’t feel even police needed weapons. And that’s what makes Europe superior to the US, most people aren’t as violent, better educated, more in touch with others to the point they don’t see harm as an option.
We talked more or well I did, unraveling US and Texas values to bewildered Europeans.
They wanted to hang out more so we put plans into motion on the ride back.
Had a couple of beers at the hostel bar while a couple of people showered and got ready.
We then rolled out wandering the streets for a while before agreeing we were all more hungry than thirsty.
I’m still a bit shocked about learning all you can eat pork ribs are hugely popular dining option in Belgium but that’s where we went.
We all also agreed on sharing a huge bottle of red wine with our ribs, it was the Belgium way.
Ribs, salad and baked potato were all refillable as many times as you wanted for around 12$ and they were all very good.
I had a slab and a half of ribs, the bones were tossed into a metal bucket in the middle of the table. I felt very medieval, primal at the sight of overflowing bucket of bones.
We rolled out to a Belgium bar home to jenever, a precursor to gin that can be flavoured with any fruit. The bar we arrived at was behind another bar where we started off with a beer.
Jenever is a very Belgium beverage served in shots filled up to the very top so you had to lean in and sip before you could pick up the glass.
Shots were about 3€ and I was cautioned to wait awhile between shots. I selected blackberry and it did indeed taste of blackberries but not was sweet as the fruit.
I stepped outside as it was a very small, hot bar.
A guy next to me stopped talking and grabbed the guy and said something in Dutch, then in English very sternly, ‘Is that your best?’ While indicating towards the broken glasses on the ground. ‘Is that your best effort?’
The drunk guy slouched, defeated, and bent over picking up big pieces and throwing them into a nearby trashcan for a few moments before a guy came over and swept up the bits.
If only there were more people who asked each other if that was their best, how better things would be.
I go back inside but everyone had left. I was very tired so I decided to just go back to sleep.
Oh yeah my card! Yup midnight and while I had a room, I didn’t have a key to get into it.
There was a late night number to call on the door so I punched in the numbers but no answer. Wait a moment, dial again, finally a female answers and I say, English, then the name of the hostels.
What? Yes this is hostel.
I’m at the door, I’m locked out. I say: Click, she hung up.
Soon a door opened and a pretty blonde emerges rubbing her eyes.
She motions me to the reception desk, I explain what I did and my name.
‘Sigh, well I have to take your deposit for this. You should have got key in afternoon. It’s ok, let’s have good sleep.’ Then she hands me a new key card.
I climb into my bunk and am fast asleep.
Beer: Gruune Meuk
Song: Last Shadow Puppets Sweet Dreams, TN