Jun 122009
 

Having had an easy introduction to Brussels, the last couple of days have ended the ‘honeymoon period’. When the Brussels transport system works, it’s very good. You can get round the city quickly, efficiently and at pretty low cost. But when it has a hiccup…

On Wednesday I was travelling to Amsterdam for a visit to the church there (more of that on another blog post) and things did not start well. On the previous evening there had been a cracking thunderstorm and torrential rain. I suspect that some of the transport system ended up a bit out of sync. So, on Wednesday morning my train from Zaventem was running a bit late, but that was ok, I had allowed plenty of time for the transfer. But of course with trains running abit late, there was a knock-on effect and the train to Amsterdam ended up leaving around 25 minutes late. not too bad, and on a long journey (just under 3 hours) I thought they’d be able to make up a bit of time. But no! The train arrived just over an hour late in Amsterdam.

So, I had my day in Amsterdam and headed back for the last Brussels train only to discover it had been cancelled! However, the very helpful platform staff let the (not small) crowd know that if we caught the train to Dordrecht, then transferred to Rosendaal, we would find the Brussels train waiting for us. And so it was! And, what’s more, it actually arrived back in Brussels pretty much on time and I even caught my last train out to Zaventem. But I find travelling by public transport quite stressful. I like to know where I’m going and I like to know how I’m progressing. Being at the mercy of a foreign transport system with no sense of where it’s headed, how long it’s going to take and if it will actually arrive is not my idea of fun.

And if it only ended with that trip!

Yesterday I had to meet my supervisor at 9am so we could head to a BESPA (part of the Belgian CHurches Together setup) meeting. I was up early (despite not getting home from Amsterdam until nearly midnight), caught the 8am train to Brussels and was standing at the requisite tram stop at around 8.20am – more than enough time to get to my supervisor. Alas! my travel woes were not yet over.

25 minutes later a tram arrived (packed to the gunnels) and I squeezed on and off we trundled. Only to terminate about a third of the way along the route. No problem. Just hop off and get the following tram which arrived in a few minutes. Only to discover it was terminating a few stops later. Waited again and another one finally arrived. When I got to the appropriate stop, Andrew was waiting and jumped on hte tram – it was going where we needed to go anyway. And, lo and behold, it came to a halt a few stops later because of some blockage up ahead (lots of police cars coming and going, so it was maybe serious).

Anyway, we gave up, headed for a coffee and rearranged the day.

Oh, and one other lesson worth remembering if you ever come to Brussels – always have an umbrella (or a full set of waterproofs or, even better, your own micro-climate). When it rains, it really rains. Nuff said.