The time i got stranded in Brussels
- Have you ever ended up in a country that you had no plans on even visiting?
- Have you ever been stranded in a city you never thought would ever visit?
- Have you ever fallen asleep outside of a train station in Europe?
Well I have and chances are it can happen to you any time anyplace anywhere in Europe.
Wednesday 15th June 2011, it was time to say goodbye to London and go onto Nantes for Hellfest 2011. It was really sad to leave London as i had achieved so much sight seeing in only one day. But my time in Europe was limited to 17 days, so on i went to Nantes.
I boarded the 2PM bus at Victoria Coach station. It was a Eurolines service going to Germany. It would stop off at Lille, Brussels and various cities in Germany.
My original itinerary was to get off at Lille and get the bus to Nantes so i would get to the Hellfest ground early Thursday morning.
The coach took 2.5 hours to get to the Eurotunnel station. After French/Schengen passport control the coach was loaded into the Eurotunel for the 35 minute journey to Calais. After driving out of the tunnel the bus went around to Lille bus station. The bus Driver was from Czech Republic and spoke no English at all. He did not say out loud "THIS IS LILLE PLEASE GET OFF:"
This was my first time on a coach in Europe. I know how to take buses and to get off but sometimes you have no idea where you bus is traveling. Its not like every bus station has a sign out the front saying: London, Luxembourg City or Monaco.
The bus took off from Lille in the late evening as i noticed all the road signs were saying "Brussels" and then i realized this bus is heading to Belgium but it didn't get to my head until i saw all the Flanders patriotism billboard and the bus crossed the French Belgium border. In a loud voice i yelled out
OH CRAP I'M IN BELGIUM!!!!!!!
Then i started to panic as my plans to get to Nantes tomorrow were all in ruins. I had just enter country #8 "Kingdom of Belgium" I just couldn't believe that i was in 3 nations on Wednesday and because there are no border control in the Schengen zone anyone can end up in another country by mistake.
I started talking to a British chap and two Bulgarian lasses about my recently mistake. The man was furious that our bus driver is Czech and couldn't tell me to get off in Lille. The Bulgarian ladies told me that they speak french in Belgium and its a similar city to Paris.
Why couldn't i have taken the Eurostar to Paris? Because its too bloody expensive! its like 69GBP one way and you have to book it months in advanced.
I got off the coach station and asked the nice Congolese man at the ticket office if there was any buses to Paris. They were all booked out. I just couldn't believe that a traveler like myself could get stranded in a city in Europe without any coaches going to Paris in the evening.
The nice Bulgarian ladies brought me a ticket to ride the Brussels Metro. They told me to get off at Gare De Bruxelles. Its the Central station where i could get a train to paris tomorrow morning.
It was 11 PM at night in Brussels and i am stuck here until the early hours of Thursday morning. There is no point in me sight seeing as everything is closed and there is no point of wasting money on a hostel for some shut eye.
So i perched myelf on the staircase right next to the bank and just sat there. My ipod battery was low and so was my Camera (because of all my stupid video recording) and my mobile.
At 1 AM in the morning i was ordered outside of Gare De Bruxelles by security. There would be no repeat of the 17 hour awake layover at JFK. Out on the cold street of Brussels i slept. I'm a homeless man in Brussels for tonight and across the road is a 5 star hotel with rich people sleeping in their cool beds.
I had to urinate discreetly like a dog as i didn't want to relieve myself in public.
I only had 40 euros. There was no vending machine taking notes and i was desperate for a kick of caffeine. But like i always do on buses from the city my eyes started closing and i was going to sleep.
I was aware of my surrounding and i knew i was in a safe place.
But then suddenly i felt a pat on my chest from a stranger. I woke up grabbed my tent and bashed him with it. The stranger was startled that he had awoken a sleeping giant. The local man said to me "Oh i''m sorry i was just looking for a cigarette, ill go sleep over there"
I was lucky that i hide all my valuable under my clothing otherwise i would have lost something.
5 minutes later a security guard leaves the 5 star hotel and starts walking towards me. I don't know how i am going to explain my situation. I simply say to the security guard
"I'm stranded in Brussels because i didn't get off the bus in Lille"
The security guard said to me "Keep your belongings on you, that man was trying to pickpocket you"
I know all about the issues of pickpockets in the whole of Europe. That's why i am lucky to have a vest with multiple pockets
At 3 AM i saw two american ladies talking to each other. I introduced myself as Martin. One woman was middle aged the other lady a young 4 foot tall who studies archaeology.
I was really impressed with the young lady footwear. She was wearing a pair of Vibram Five fingers. Its really like a pair of gloves for your feet so your toes can move freely.
I told the pair that i was stranded in Brussles but hoped that i would be able to get a Train to Luxembourg and onto Nantes in time for Hellfest. I was very worried that i wasn't going to make it to hellfest But i didn't travel thousands of KM *not* to see Scorpions.
A lone Dutchman started hanging around us. He started becoming romantic to the Middle aged woman. The 4 of us spend some time using a Dutch phrase book to communicate with him.
At 4.30am the ticket office opened. I asked for a ticket to Luxembourg. The nice lady asked me "The country or the city" I told her the country of Luxembourg. It was only 35 Euros a ticket and well worth the 3 hour train ride
I said goodbye to my new found American friends as i hope one day i will bump into them.
On the train ride to Luxembourg i started falling asleep again. But i knew that i was planning on visiting Luxembourg. Before i went oversea my plan was 9 countries but after the detour to Hellfest via Belgium & Luxembourg my country tally was 11.
The funny thing was when traveling in Belgium i was on the look out of Luxembourg flag to tell i had left Belgium.
I got to Luxembourg 9AM in the morning 4 nations in 24 hours now that was my P.B untill 2013