Dateline: 13.19 02 Sep 1996
Location: Bruxelles-Amsterdam, IC 2485

Of the last three days, I have spent a little under half in trains, and during that time I have crossed the continent. Once this last hop of a pathetic 3 hours is over, I will have gone from Ljubljana to Amsterdam, poles and some 26 hours nonstop apart. The bulk of that was, fortunately, covered overnight in the Milano-Bruxelles express of a whopping 15 hours. The couchette was by far the most spartan one I've run into yet, but I still slept decently, and the train even arrived at a very nice 10:48 instead of the usual 5:30.

And I ran into a veritable character: the (very) Aaawstraylian Ari, mate, who fit the stereotype of the Aussie macho astonishingly well. Certainly, he was an amiable fellow who crunched away at his 'lollies' all the time and wouldn't stop offering you some, and he did possess a bit of an eye for architecture (read that as "he knew a nice building when he saw it") but that's about it. OK, maybe this is just a personal gripe, but I think that if going someplace, you really should take the time to look up some little details like what language they speak or what currency they use. But no: instead of geography, Ari concentrated on anything with two legs and a skirt. Fine, nothing wrong with that either, but the loud non-stop commentary on the attributes of all females walking by ("Ooh, nice tits. Oi'll give her a 6!") did get a bit tiresome. Neither did my attempts to explain that Brussels is probably the most cosmopolitan city in the world and that just everybody, certainly including the aforementioned well-coiffed and nice-titted eurocrat with a 12-stars badge, understands English quite well have any effect. After all, he couldn't understand their jabber, so how could they understand his?

"Vous vous trouvez dans le IC 2485", announced the ethereal voice half an hour into the trip. Metaphysical: are they trying to say that the IC 2485 is the vehicle that will propel you to enlightenment and true discovery of yourself? On another level, I was reminded of Zork's classic intro: "You find yourself in a maze of twisty passages, all alike." (I know, Zork really says "You are in...". Close enough.) Essentially true for rail travel as well, no?

In a record for shortness of touristic stay, Bruxelles was covered in under 2,5 hours. Originally I was going to use an equivalent amount of time for finding a nice netcafé and/or restaurant and eating a leisurely lunch, but I happened to mention Mannekin Pis to Ari, who then insisted on seeing it and glueing himself to me. After some more or less random searching we found it. It was tiny and not particularly well done, the only reason tourists like it is that it's "naughty". I think they'd ban it as child porn in America. Having finally dispensed of Ari, I had to go to the train station's own restaurant. The fries were excellent, but the quasi-steak was raw and stringy, doused in a way-too-sweet sauce. And I paid a king's ransom for this too, the glass (not even bottle!) of water clocking in at an extortionate 55 F. Never again.

The day's budget
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