Dream trip Day 97 Scottish fry up, train to Glasgow, Drygate Brewery

Even though my hostel was literally across the street from the city’s main train depot, or is it train station? At what point does it become a depot?

At any rate, I had all afternoon as it was a 1 hour train ride so I had to kill some time due to the late afternoon check in.

I had talked with one of my friends about a beer that we felt should have been easy to obtain in Scotland: McEwan’s Scotch Ale. Turns out it is made by an English brewery.

Using a beer finder app, I located a bar that a user reported had McEwan’s beer, plus they served breakfast. I’d need both things before heading to Glasgow.

I packed up my bags and headed into the overcast day. A few turns and I was at the Black Rose Tavern.

This was the pub I should’ve gone to most nights, it was real Scottish pub/music venue!

They had an all day Scottish breakfast consisting of eggs, hashbrown toast, haggis, black and white pudding, fried tomato and mushrooms. It was sooo much food!

This was one of my favorite meals on my trip. It was the 1st of many UK style fry ups that I’d have in Scotland, Ireland and England.

This was my first encounter with pudding, aka blood sausage. It came in black and white options. I presumed the black was the one made with blood, while the white was just a regular breakfast sausage. Both are delicious especially when dragged through the runny yolk of a fried egg.

Again, haggis isn’t bad and I enjoyed having it again. A nice Scottish meal sendoff from Edinburgh!

I did get a McEwan’s but not their scotch ale, it was a draft lager. My group of friends back home discovered this beer and hounded the bar where we visited to carry it. That was years ago, the brewery stopped exporting it for some reason.

Making my way back to the train station was easy, the hard part was finding the right place to buy tickets, then finding the correct track.

Lucky for me, Scotland has an intern program so there were people all over the station desperate for someone to ask them a question.

Not only was I pointed to the right booth for tickets, I had enough time to get the next train to Glasgow.

I was quite fortunate with my trains, but soon enough, I’d stumble like we all do.

Only an hour trip which flew by as fast as the countryside. A lovely country, made me wish I went up to the Highlands to see more.

I’d selected a YMCA style hostel near the tracks, but I only elected to stay 1 night so I could check out the place and that part of the city.

It was about a half hour’s walk through the bustling downtown. I arrived with still time before my check in time so I elected to wash clothes until they would let me into my room.

After washing I was able to check in. My room was empty when I got into my bunk for a nap, then was completely full when I awoke.

I noticed that there seemed to be 1 person who never left their room. They would arrange their bed with a sheet door so they wouldn’t be disturbed.

Some would be on their phones chatting, skypeing or just playing games their entire stay, from what I saw. At least I would have some stories other than hey remember that time we talked when I was in Scotland? Yeah that was cool….

I got dressed and mapped out a route to the nearest brewery, Drygate Brewery.

My route took me through an industrial part of town with not many houses, but I soon faintly heard music.

I saw a pub across the road I was walking and they were blasting Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35. You know that song: Everybody must get stoned.

Well this was a karaoke version lead by a man with the most stereotypical Scottish brouge I’ve heard to this point.

He was also adding in lyrics in between Dylan’s so it went:

They’ll stone ya when yer walking down the street (tha bastards!)

They’ll stone you when you’re tryin’ to keep your seat (cunts!)

They’ll stone you when you’re walkin’ on the floor (wankers!)

This is what I heard all down the street, big grin on my face. What a welcome to the city!

After turning away from the loud pub, I was on a main thoroughfare with lots of shops, pubs and restaurants.

Another right hand turn and while I thought I was heading the wrong way, the empty lots and warehouses gave way to the brewery.

It was a 2 story building with several picnic benches on an outside patio.

I made my way through the large indoor bar. In the back was the store where you can buy beer to go.

This would never work in Texas. The current law, unchanged since Prohibition, requires a 3rd party distributor. You can brew beer but you cannot just sell it directly to a person.

Sparse crowd out tonight, a week night and early at that. I’d soon learn they closed early too.

I picked up my pint and opted to sit outside, there was another group of guys out there as well as a table of girls, maybe it was a mixed group.

The sun went down just like the beer in my pint glass.

I sauntered back to the bar where I was informed this would be my last beer, but I could buy 2 if I liked.

Opting to taste a couple beers, I selected my final pint and sat down inside.

A girl came in and ask me for a lighter which I lent her. I’d gotten into the habit when traveling of carrying a lighter as it is a good way to meet people, start a conversation.

“You from Glasgow?” I ventured.

“Have to run, thanks for the light, cheers!” Came the reply.

I returned to my beer. Sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t.

The walk back was a bit concerning due to the low light. They really needed to upgrade or install more lights, as several times I had to walk down a dark street.

No loud karaoke from the pub I’d passed before, just a group of people out front.

Once again I’m faced with McDonald’s as a late night option as there was 1 across the street from my hostel. Nah it isn’t real food.

I’d read this book and stopped eating fast food a few years ago. This trip was my ultimate test. Could I resist a taste of home?  A taste of something familar, or ould I venture out and try some local restaurants, a taste local flavors?

Tonight I won the battle and still don’t know what McD’s tastes like overseas.

A good travel day, tomorrow I explore Glasgow!

 

Beer: Ax Man

Song:  Belle & Sebastian   Stars of Track and Field

Dream trip Day 94 Tattoo festival, walking tour, the Hanging Bat

Another gloomy, overcast day in Scotland. Perfect for a walking tour!

Yet again, I was unable to charge my phone overnight in my room so I had to take a leisurely breakfast while it charged.

Today I just had some coffee, figuring that the Piemaker was just down the street, so  I should go there. Better quality food and a bit more affordable.

I got into a small talk with a local gal who also needed to charge her phone so we shared a table and outlet.

She was a nice Scottish lass, very talkative and friendly. Fringe Fest was her time in the city when she went out every night to catch a performance.

We talked awhile, me drinking coffee, her screwdrivers. She gave me a few hot spots to check out in the city, namely Princes Street Gardens and university area for free views.

I was given a list of shows not to be missed for the next couple days. She was less enthused when I suggested we check them out together.

“Oi, my boyfriend would not go for that. Neither would my girlfriend, ha!” She replied. “But you are cute, keep asking girls around here, you’ll be fine!” came the reply as she snatched up her phone.  Swing and a miss.

I’d located a walking tour that met in the city square not too far away. I should have time to get a pie and make it by meeting time.

For some reason, I see stairs as a personal challenge by architecture to me. It’s as if they are taunting me, trying to tell me there are too many steps up and I shouldn’t bother trying to ascend them.

Wrong again stairs, I win.

I was in luck again as the Piemaker had haggis rolls today so I was finally able to try haggis, a dish I’d heard of for years.

It wasn’t bad! It wasn’t good either. I wouldn’t turn it down if someone offered haggis to me, but I wouldn’t seek it out.

Haggis= all sheep organs chopped up with oats , onion and spices, then boiled in sheep’s stomach. Sounds great, eh!?

I also had a traditional English meat pie which was great. Reminded me of Salisbury steak wrapped up in a roll.

Now fortified, I made my way to a statue to start my walking tour. Always look for a free walking tour in any city you visit. They are always great and led by real people who live there.

My guy was a stout man, wearing a beard and kilt. He looked like he would’ve walked around with a sword too but it wasn’t socially acceptable anymore. Instead he carried a walking stick that was as tall as him.

A true renaissance man.

He had a booming voice and a tendency for using the joining statement, “nonetheless…” to unite his stories about the history of Edinburgh.

We paused for a while at a statue of David Hume, where people touch a toe for good luck which polished it compared to the dull green hue the rest of the statue had turned due to years of exposure to the elements.

Passing under an arch we were in a 4 story building’s courtyard. We then got a lesson in social standing in old Edinburgh. If you were working poor, you stayed on the bottom floor, due to the practice of people tossing their waste into the street, you got to smell that all day and night.

The very poor stayed in the attic, no heat, very little insulation from the elements.

The wealthy stayed in the middle floors, above the stench of the street.

Robbery, theft was fairly common in these days so builders would create an oddly placed stair that you only noticed going down, thus if you were trying to make a quick escape or just leaving, you may miss it and break a leg.

We did pass by the castle where we were informed that cannons were placed there for looks only, they never fired them back when the castle was in use. Queen Elizabeth I felt that a castle should have cannons so they added some.

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As we circled the castle there was a large line of people waiting to get into the stadium. It was the country’s tattoo festival.

Not that kind of tattoo, bagpipes. Groups of bagpipers from all over competed to be the best group in the land.

They take the term tattoo to refer to last call at pubs who took to playing a regiment’s corps of drum as a way to get soldiers back to their barracks at a reasonable hour.

In Dutch they would say doe den tap toe  (turn off the taps).  Try saying that pharse in english quickly, sorta sounds like tattoo.

We soon made our way to a cemetery where I learned that JK Rowling wrote about Harry Potter while living here. See would usually write in a coffee shop after strolling through this cemetary.

Many of the headstones were smooth due to age and erosion, but a couple had new headstones as Rowling borrowed some of the names from these headstones for characters in the book.

While she wrote these books in a particular coffee shop, one grew tired of being asked if they were the  coffee shop where Rowling wrote they put up a sign, “Rowling didn’t drink coffee and write here.” She actually did pop in for coffee there, saw the sign and promptly signed it, “And I never will,” and left.

Our tour ended in hangman’s square where we heard about the lady who was hanged but survived. Reading the letter of the law it only stated ‘hung by the neck,’ nothing about til death so she was a free lady and opened a pub overlooking that very square where she almost died. Soon after the law was changed, “hung by the neck until death.”

I’d done a spot of research about the craft beer scene in the city and other than BrewDog, there was a small microbrewery named, The Hanging Bat.

Very modern pub, pretty sure food was served on just thick, round cuts of wood, not plates.

Still they had some good beers here. I even recognized a couple guys who worked at BrewDog having pints.

It was around end of work day time so the pub filled in with nicely dressed people. I still didn’t miss work, not yet.

Exiting the now full pub, I was in search of reasonably priced food. The Bat did have food, but it seemed like small bites, appetizers.

Ah here we go, a potato shop. Looks to be a brick oven of foiled, baked potatoes. There must have been 30 toppings from haggis, chicken salad, to standard cheese, butter, chives.

I got a potato with an ungodly amount of cheese, he just threw a literal handful of cheese on it. He may have been working with the Scottish dairy industry.

It was good and I was able to chat up the owner who told me some cool facts about the city, country. He really loved Scotland. He said Glasgow and the highlands to the north were worth a trip.

Soon enough, I’d take him up on his offer by going west, to Glasgow.

On my walk home, I again was struck by how cold it was, especially as the sun went down. 50’s in August is quite unusual for a Texas boy and I couldn’t image a winter if that was the avg temp in the heat of summer.

I caught a couple performers on the walk back, and man, they really could vamp, promising an amazing trick, coming up soon, just need a few more people…

It was literally like sitting through a 10 min ad on YouTube for 20 seconds of content. I caught a fire breather show this night.

I was at my pub and tonight was their weekly pub crawl so it was very crowded. I was soon joined by some English kids at my table who were waiting to go on the crawl.

These types of things go on all the time and while they are usually great way to meet people, it was mainly an occassion to get black out drunk. Not my scene.

The organizers of the trip were setting up, one had a bottle and as each person was checked in, he poured a shot into their mouths. He had a spigot so it was a slow pour.

He soon came around to our table and got the English kids before asking me why I wasn’t going and I said it wasn’t my thing. He said I should at least have a shot, open wide!

I’m not sure what it was,  maybe grape vodka, but I recall it was purple liquid.

Soon the place was empty and I sat charging my phone, watching fubol.

This bar had big windows with shutters that were open this cool night. A guy yelled hey at me and motioned for me to join him outside.

We talked a bit, I had taken to carrying a lighter so I lit his cig. Soon he said we should go next door for 1 more pint, on him.

No sooner than he set foot into the door, the bartender said “Oi, out, out, out mate. We can’t keep doing this,” as he strode over ready to physically remove the guy who just turned and left mumbling under his breath.

I’m not sure what he did but he was banned from that pub. The bartender apologized, I said I had just met him and didn’t know his story.

I had a pint as they were calling for last drinks. The bartender recommended I come back in a couple nights, they had live, traditional music.

It was back to raining as I left the pub, at least I only had to go a couple doors down.

Another fine day in Edinburgh! Tomorrow was Arthur’s Seat.

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Beer: The Kernel Brewery  Table Beer

Song: Jesus and Mary Chain  Head On

Dream trip Day 84 C.K. Brower, Olympic handball, walking tour

Finally woke up to a bright, bright sun shiny day!

I have steadfastly avoided buying cereal where I live for the fact that I will more than likely eat half a box at a sitting.

I always tell myself I am just trying to use up all the milk, but then I wind up without milk, still a bit of cereal left, add a little more milk… Repeat process.

My friends have a kid so their cupboard had cereal and milk. So much milk; boxes and boxes of delicious cow juice I found in their laundry room.

Unrefrigerated milk, too, which still puzzles me yet I bore no ill effects even after going through a box.

Crunch crunch crunch

Doing some research into the Krakow beer scene, I found an old pub that seemed worth a visit.

Bonus as it was also near where the walking tour of the city heads out. Two birds, one stone!

I elected to walk a path along the Vistula River that lead to downtown. Much more scenic along the river vs. the car, tram heavy street.

The brewery was on the west side so I found the tree covered walkway and enjoyed a shaded walk until I found it.

C.K Brower wasn’t quite as old as I thought, est. 1996, but it sure looked and felt old as I entered and descended the stairs to the pub below.

At the end of the stairs are long, communal wooden tables on either side of a walkway that lead towards a bar, kitchen area in the back.

Several tables had beer towers sitting on them, a popular option at this place. Essentially mini taps for large groups that were quite a spectacle as well as a relief for wait staff.

I selected an empty table close to the bar. Nearly all of the others were occupied.

I was the lone, solo guy at a table as they didn’t have seats at the bar, this is my least favorite seating option.

Per the menu, the beers are made on site, the original way as they are unfiltered and unpasteurized using local grains.

To my surprise and pleasure this place had large TV’s that were showing a sport I’d never heard of before yet it was an Olympic worthy event: handball.

No surprise that team Poland’s game was on today and I watched perhaps a quarter or period of men throwing a ball to each other and eventually into nets.

While there was a goalie, stopping such a small ball hurled at great speed was very difficult and didn’t happen too often.

I saw many plates of food brought out and pass me by. Lots of sausages, fries and schnitzel are served here.

After my first pint, I selected their dark beer plus borscht, a dish I’d heard about but had never been tempted to get until now.

Here they served borscht the Polish way so it was white broth with egg and a full sausage. It was pretty good, peppery, I’ll have to try the red version that I had seen and think of whenever someone mentioned borscht.

After finishing my pint, I headed out towards the northeastern part of city centre.

I paused along the route in a park as there was a cool fountain to gaze at and I still had time to burn before the tour began.

To my surprise an army of nuns in grey robes, 10 in number,  with a bishop or some other high ranking man in red appeared around the bend and strode by, shoulder to shoulder, taking up most of the walkable space.

Jesus says, share the road!

Polish is one of the most Catholic countries in the world. There were a lot more cathedrals here than I recall seeing in other places on my trip.

I could see two just from my friend’s balcony.

Seeing nuns or priests on the street is not an unusual sight in Poland. I saw a group walking whenever I was out in the city.

Our tour met up on the north part of downtown. As always look for someone lofting up a red umbrella, ella ella ella.

This tour was led by a native of both the country as well as Krakow, which was actually a bit unusual. Most tours were led by people who moved from a rural setting into the bigger city, usually to attend university.

By giving tours they could afford tuition while using their study discipline.

All the tour guides were history majors, most also had a degree in psychology so the joke goes, “I will teach you the history of this place and if you have a crisis about what you’re learning, I’m ready to listen and help you through any breakdowns you experience!”

I joined a small group of people and soon we were in front of a pedestal that had a copper miniature map of the city complete with raised pieces for the taller buildings.

He showed us where we were and where we would be going using this miniature map of Krakow.

Soon we were in city centre and sure enough, we passed by a Hard Rock Cafe. Another pin for my bro.

We stopped in front of a towering cathedral and the guide talked and stammered a bit, as if he were stalling, waiting.

He glanced at his watch as he told a story about trumpets and how in the military they are used to communicate orders and instructions to the army.

Finally he revealed that he was waiting for the top of the hour when a trumper would appear atop St. Mary’s to play a few notes.

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The trumpeter appears in the left tower, top window. Read about the legend here.

Around this time some children sprang on the group banging on drums and tambourines.

“Do not give them money, they are professional beggars and thieves.” our guide instructed to the group.

One of the more messed up and sad realities is their parents knew people are more sympathetic to children so they teach them songs and make them go out and beg all day.

I saw a lot of these ‘homeless’ children playing instruments, crying if you didn’t give them money and generally looking as pitiful and helpless as they could.

Who knows how many were truely orphans or whose parents forced them to beg all day.

Across the square from St. Mary’s was the location where the public executions where held. Be sure to bring the kids, heads rolled here!

Hitler even spoke in this plaza when Nazis occupied the city, country.

We were told that after Germany invaded they invited all the scholars, PhD’s, higher educations teachers to the city for a conference. Once they arrived, the SS killed everyone in the room. You see, education is power.

We took a break inside an old university, Collegium Maius, that looked straight out of  Hogwarts from the Harry Potter books. See for yourself.

After a quick break where I got a nice cup of coffee, we went outside the plaza and into the Planty Gardens, the name for the green walkway around city centre.

Previoulsy the gardens were a moat for protection but had been drained in the 1800’s.

As our guide spoke an extremly elderly woman, hand extended, palm opened walked right into my chest. She kept repeating something in Polish so I didn’t understand so I kept saying “No, no.” Everyone seems to understand no in all languages.

She was insistant, even when our guide stopped and began to talk to her she refused to leave until someone put some zloty in her hand.

Our tour continued south passing by more castles, cathedrals and historic spots.

It ended at Wawel, the former royal residence of the Polish monarchy that is now a tourist spot as well as national place of pride.

Yet again it was revealed that there was a DaVinci currently onsite which we could see for a seperate, expensive fee considering that would be all that we’d see as it was housed in a small room.

Our tour ended with a brief history of the immense cathedral bell that took several people to ring thus only on very special occasions is it rung and could be heard citywide and further.

We were right by the dragon, basically my side of town. Well I knew where we were anyway.

I popped into a wok spot for dinner and a beer and was soon presented one of the spicies yet most delicious noodle meals I’d have on this trip. Not very Polish, but I do love noodles!

It was a good yet sad day as it was my last at my friend’s apartment. They were returning from their trip so I was back to the hostel life.

I was sort of looking forward to it as I hoped to stay around city centre, get a good view of the old city.

Plus I had a couple days to see my friends.

Beer: CK Brower Jasne

Song: Booker T and the MG’s  Something

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Dream trip Day 81 Stroll along the river, T.E.A. Time, Wawel Dragon

Woke up to the sound of pouring rain. The wind would whisper and I’d think of you…

Those are just Skid Row lyrics, but sort of true. It was still raining a bit and there was a lady I dreamed about far away, across the vast, lonely ocean.

Had a nice bowl of cereal with the last fruit pierogi for morning meal. What an awesome way to start the day!

I followed the street in front of the apartment, towards the river in hopes of finding a walking, biking path.

Of course there was one here, they do it right in the EU, making cities easily accessible for all, not just cars and trucks.

Lots of docked boats and the captain would bark all the info about his boat’s tour to anyone who passed by. I waved them off with a smile.

Unoccupied docks I came across usually contained some type of water fowl, ducks primarily but there were some other birds I’d never seen before.

I’d stay to watch one of these birds’ graceful takeoffs and landings.

Soon I heard a commotion and looked up to see a large group of people gathered.

To my surprise after I ascend the hill, I saw a huge metal dragon covered in small kids climbing all over it or parents would seat their kid to snap a quick pic.

A gasp escaped the crowd as the Wawel Dragon spewed fire from its mouth. Very cool statue to stumble on.

I continued on my walk past grand buildings, railway tracks and through amazingly long traffic.

To my surprise the traffic jam was due to 1 car waiting on another to pull out of a parking place. Likely 10-15 cars waiting, happy I was on foot and could pass them by.

Dark clouds appeared so I took a seat to figure out a enclosed option. A brewery was a few minutes away.

Ack so T.E.A Time means: Traditional English Ales, alas no Polish options here. I started with their most cleverly named option, Misty Mountain Hop, inspired no doubt by the Zeppelin song of the same name.

It began to rain so another pint. It was here I confirmed what I suspected about glass sizes in the EU vs UK.

Seems a lot of places will serve beer in ‘pint’ glasses which is an imperial pint in the UK= 20oz.

More commonly I was poured a US pint= 16oz, sometimes less depending on alcohol % or frankly how cheap the bar was about saving a few pennies.

In a better world, bars should have to post the size of their pint size so you know precisely what you are paying for.  It’s that or we all agree how many ounces are in a ‘pint’ glass.

The beer here was good and I was happy to avoid the rain, catch a bit of footy and have a couple pints.

Faced with the forecast for more rain, I decided to get a few items to cook dinner in the apartment.

There was a Carrefour store, a shop I’d seen in other countries on my route to the apartment.

I shopped at a pretty well stocked convenience store that wasn’t much larger than the US places I’d been except they had fresh pastas, milk, and cheese, not the typical roller dogs, chips and jerky.

I selected some pasta, sauce, cheese and chips, plus a sixer of Polish beer.

Back to the apartment I waved at the night door guy who was there after 6pm I think. Basically when the sun went down, they had someone to let you in, not that they spoke too much English other than Hello.

I cooked up one of the gołąbki along with some pasta in boiling water.

It was very tasty and made for a great dinner.

Due to rain and my exploits the previous night, I retired early.

Beer: Misty Mountain Hop  T.E.A. Time Brewery

Song: Behemoth  As Above So Below

 

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View from the mound

Dream trip day 54 goodbye Bruges, Delerium Brewery, ribs

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 were returned, cleaned and reused.

They were already off the grid and made their own electricity, were 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 normally with all this rain, too. He said it wasn’t bad, less 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, 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 beers at the hostel bar while a couple people showered and got ready.

We then rolled out wandering the streets for awhile 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.


I watched a very drunk couple finish their beers only to knock the glasses off the table and then break on the ground. They laughed.

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

Dream trip day 53 rain, Westverlyn, Bruges Brewery 

I woke up to an empty room, the Spanish girls had already left.

Made it down for the free breakfast just in time to snag a bowl of cornflakes and coffee, a meal that was becoming my staple way to start the morning.

After my meal, I extended my stay at the hostel for one more night.

The receptionist smiled and said it happens all the time, most people stayed longer than they’d planned after walking around Bruges.

My new room was occupied by an older, bald man who greeted me enthusiastically.

He was from South Africa and was on holiday with his wife.

‘She’s in Germany with her parents and I’m driving around for a couple weeks. Works out great, she sees her family, I see Europe!’

He is in search of an old Abby today, maybe the coast too if he has time. He zips up his jacket and leaves.

I hit the showers and note they are locker room style, four nozzles in a room, but it’s only me showering.

You’ve got to adapt to your situation at hostels. Most everyone will try to shower in the morning or early evening so just go at a different time, no wait or shower buddy.

Due to the rain I make reservations for my next couple stops: Ghent and Barcelona while having a beer in the hostel.

Had to tour the Delirium Brewery in Ghent and actually found a hostel that provides a shuttle to the brewery.

Soon the rain stops and I’m able to get outside.

I grabbed my bottle of Westverlyn from the fridge and walk to the river nearby.

I locate a bench and pop my bottle of supposedly of the world’s best beer. Ok so maybe; one of hardest to procure beers for sure.

It was very good, like drinking sweet raisins is closest comparison flavor. This is a Belgium Quad, a beer style that I am not a huge fan of, as it is bit too sweet for me normally.

I realized that I didn’t have anyone to share with and it made me miss my friends.

Beer is a shared experience, one where you and friends get to talk about what you drank, flavors, similar beers, that sort of thing.

Today I shared the world’s best beer with ducks and swans. I lifted my bottle their way, but I don’t think they fully understood the magnitude of my toast.

I thought about my Peticolas Brewery friends and wished they were there to enjoy it with me. After each tour, we had a bottle share and tried many new brews while talking and laughing.

The city was surrounded by water and a tree covered path so one could walk or bike around the city easily, no cars.

I followed the path until I came to one of the original entrances, rumored to have the heart of an invader inside.

I saw no hearts on display but it was an excellent building, too small for modern life as the car lanes narrowed to 1 each direction under an archway. Bike and walking lanes to one side too.

I’m now in search of a brewery of a beer I’d had at the hostel.

It took a couple tries to find the correct path, lots of construction in this little village.

Once I arrived it was too late for tours so I sat near the bar and eavesdropped on tourist conversations.

This is a cool spot: inside are old and new brewery equipment and a long, wooden bar while outside was a large open air patio, each table had an umbrella as it seems to always rain a bit.

As if on cue, it begins to sprinkle and the bartender makes the cry for last call. Might as well have one more.

I make my way back to the hostel via downtown, passed the beautiful square and cathedral.

Stopped to check out horse and carriages pass by. There’s something special about hearing the clomp clomp of hooves on cobblestone that makes Europe unique.

I pass by a fry place and decide it’s time for Belgium frites. Thick cut fries basically, covered in mayo or curry.

A plastic pitchfork accompanies the fries…so that’s how they eat them without hundreds of napkins!

Thing is the mayo overseas is a lot better, different than US. I suspect using real ingredients plays a large role cause I wouldn’t use US mayo on fries.

I make it back to the hostel just as it begins to rain again so I hole up out back and watch the rain from the covered patio.

Many small groups of people move from table to table, drinking wine, beer or eating as soon as the rain stops.

Most everyone smokes here which is ok since we are outside. Many bars still allow smoking inside which is always strange.

They also roll their own cigarettes pulling out a small pouch of tobacco and filters. I’ve seen people roll while walking; expert level.

Right next door to the hostel is a joint called ‘Ribs and Beer.’ All you can eat ribs sound tempting but it’s expensive and I cannot splurge on food that costs the same as a room for the night.

I go back to the Nepalese spot across the street for lamb biryani, a rice dish. It’s not crowded so I pick a corner seat facing a TV with CNN on.

Tonight is a live speech by Obama and the Dallas police chief regarding the police shootings there few days ago.

Watching news or TV is a rare event for me and I wished it was a positive reason for viewing, but it wasn’t tonight.

I did swell up with pride, both men delivered excellent speeches, but I knew it didn’t do anything. Not even outlawing guns would stop killings, people can always get a gun, knife, whatever it takes.

I felt like crying for many reasons but held it in. Other countries don’t have this many shootings, why can’t the US change, is it more education, less religion? Hopeless musings.

Back at the hostel I sat outside and chatted with some people from France.

I brought up Lyon and they agreed it is a beautiful city, but they and everyone else, loved Paris the most.

It was an early night, I thought about home.

Beer: Brugse Zot

Song: K’s Choice Not an Addict

Dream trip day 52 laundry day, train to Bruges 

It started off rough as the art gallery across the street was closed for a private event, fortunately my hostel did serve coffee but alas no croissant.

Hard life if coffee is your biggest concern of the day.

I can only imagine what people are thinking when they see me: flip flops, raincoat zipped to the top, which I had to do as I wasn’t wearing a shirt.

This is your reality if you have to wash everything when it’s laundry day, you sort of resemble a creeper/flasher.


After an uneventful wash spent surfing Reddit, I was back to the hostel to shower as it was fairly warm, especially wearing a raincoat.

I check out to explore lunch options and again run into a predominantly Muslim area, but it seems more liberal, there are more Belgium shops, such as full butcher shop, modern clothing stores for ladies and a cinema.

Figure I may as well check out the schwarma spot the Brits kept mentioning.

Wow they had some of the best roasted chicken that came with curry gravy and a salad. Cheap too as that plate was 5€.

I’d scoped out trains and there was one every hour to Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent, even Amsterdam was very close.

It didn’t take too long to walk to the metro station, passing by churches, even street performers who turned out to actually be peddlers for a new soft drink. At least they gave out free samples of this beverage after their routine.

I wander into the station just as drops of rain begin to fall.

A guy stops me and asks me if I need help. He has a badge around his neck indicating he is a student apprentice with the rail.

He pointed to an open booth and told me I could just catch the next train, leaving in 15 minutes, then pointed to stairs leading to my track! I was all set.

I passed by more military guys with weapons on the platform. I must say, you do not feel safer surrounded by guns. If anything the threat is more real.

I slide into a seat in a very nice compartment and watch the city pass by as it rains.

Belgium countryside is very nice and yes, I did see windmills off in the distance.

An hour later I’m in Bruges.

Yes indeed I’ve seen the movie and the city is as pretty as you see in the film.

Narrow, cobble stone streets, with very old buildings but with large gardens interspersed.

The city is surrounded by a river, as are all other great cities.

There isn’t much of a metro system, buses mostly are what I see on a half hour walk to my my hostel.

I dump my items onto my bed and search for activities. I’m the only person in the room but not for long.

Several failed attempts at the door card reader and 3 young girls walk into the room.

They are from Spain on holiday and I’d guess they are just out of high school, maybe 19 years old or less. I feel a bit odd and a lot older. It’s ok, I’m just sleeping here.

We chat a few moments about Spain, but then their phones take over and they all laugh and look at a pic, probably a snapchat.

I locate the route to downtown and walk that way.

There is a main square with a beautiful cathedral as the main attraction.

Food and drink joints line the side of city center with a large statue in the middle.

Horses line up awaiting riders as the city is small enough to see entirely via the original mode of transportation.

I’m hunting for the narrowest street in town that leads to a small pub that makes a beer you can only get there: de Garre.

The alley is the size of a door with a small sign but little else indicating it’s a path.

The narrow walkway opens up with trees and courtyard. Seems people live on top of the shops that are on ground level and this is their balcony view.

Through a wooden door leads to Bar de Garre and its tiny. Perhaps 5 tables, no seats at the bar, wood stairs to the left.

Bartender tells me the next 2 floors look exactly the same and points to an empty table in a corner. I order a dark Belgium beer and sit down.

Beer is delivered in a goblet with a bowl filled with pieces of house made cheese, a toothpick is the only accoutrement. I feel fancy.

After half a beer a local joins me, asking in German if seat is taken. I nod, extend an open palm and reply, ‘Bitte.’ He has a German paper under his arm is how I knew what to say. He spreads out his paper, ‘Danke,’ and that’s the last time we spoke.

I finally get a beir de Garre and its good, light color but a heavy 10% ABV, as was the first beer I had. You don’t taste the alcohol though, it’s just good.

The restrooms are up narrow stairs and I encounter my first euro trough, just like peeing on a wall, a stream of water trickles down rinsing the wall.

It’s getting late and looks like rain again so I head to the hostel. I don’t quite make it before rain starts so I’m a bit wet as I enter.

When I checked in, they had a beer deal on 5 drafts they mark off on a card. This way you could try beer styles from around the country as well as a local option.

I get one and wait out the rain. Still raining, so check off another.

There is a Nepalese place across the street so I pick up momo dumplings, and bring them back to the hostel as its full house in the restaurant.

The dumplings are very good, spicy. Lamb meat ground with veggies and spices.

Once again I’m trapped due to rain so I check off beers on my card.

I sit outside so I can watch it rain and there is a player working on this beautiful Spanish girl. It’s so funny that the guys next to me make some comments so I did, too.

Dude was going hard, telling her where in Belgium to go, but don’t go to Antwerp, he lives there and he had to get out it wasn’t too safe.

After they leave I chat with some French guys about Lyon and soccer. Always futbol, the best way to get to know someone in the EU.

One very casually pulls out a small sack of tobacco and begins to roll a smoke, then another breaks up bits of hash into it before he rolls.

I’m still shocked at how casual things like this are over here as hostels will kick you out for drugs, but I suspect grass isn’t considered a drug, anymore than beer, alcohol.

Rain lightly falls and we all watch for a long time in silence.

I bid them farewell and head to the room, a fine day in Bruges.

Beer: Gluck pils

Song: Stand High Patrol Automatic Attack