I never was a big traveler. My only trips were in school when teachers organized everything. Those trips mostly took place in my country, sometimes neighbor countries. I never had to plan anything, and I didn't care much. But somewhere in my teenage years, I started to develop deep interest about the world. I think it was in geography lessons. Those become my favorite. As I learned that I am just a tiny piece of dust in this crazy big world, I started to feel this strong urge to see it with my own eyes. I think I was thirteen when realized that maybe I will not be able to do this because traveling cost money. But there wouldn't be this blog if that would stop me.
I am sorry, but this going to be a little bit long intro. But I really have to start from the beginning. So keep reading, and you will get to know the reason behind the title of this post (you have to admit it's pretty original.) Of Course, the story itself isn't from the short ones too.
I would lie, If I would say - Ou, That was easy! One day I woke up and decided - I will travel, no matter what! And then I did it!
No no no... first steps are always the hardest. But they are also the ones you never forget. So now, seven years after my first planned trip, I can tell you the story about how this all started.
Once upon a time.... or two years before this trip, I had a class excursion and my first flight. I was so thrilled and happy, I think then "travel bug" bit me even more. It all seemed so easy.
So even I didn't have a lot of money as a student I could spend hours just to chase a good deal on flight tickets. I really wanted to go somewhere! See something more! I had to buy tickets for the plane, reserve hotel, and that's it! So I found very good price for a flight to Brussels. Originally we really wanted to go to Rome. But as you may understand the tickets were too expensive. I had my best friend John on board (for many reasons it was good to take at least one male friend with me), and my study mate and really good friend Anita. I was the trip planner because I thought I know it all. Actually, I hadn't any idea how to buy plane tickets, or what to take under consideration when starting to plan a trip. Those two completely trusted me. Oh Gosh! I bit off more than I could chew. But it all turned out - one hell of a ride!
So I found very good price for a flight to Brussels. I got a bargain - 20EUR ticket both ways, for each. That's a students life! Save money where you can!
Somehow I managed to buy those tickets, and even book a room in a hotel! I felt great! I got everything under control - at least that what I thought!
We did everything right. We got our tickets, we checked into the flight, we arrived to the Charleroi airport. But we didn't think that airport usually isn't in the city center! Dooh!
So the first surprise was when we got to know that we can't just walk to the city, we have to drive there (You can definitely see our confusion in the picture above). We didn't want to pay, to get there, so we had a brilliant idea! Hitchhiking!
Sometimes even I amaze myself! But that's how the journey began! We left the airport's territory, wrote "Brussels" in French on a paper and started to wait (luckily we knew what is the local language, although we couldn't say more than merci beaucoup!). Many drivers passed us with strange looks on their faces, some of them even started drive slower just to check us out like animals in the Zoo.
Then we heard the car stopping. We were very very happy. It took us only 10 minutes to get it.
Did I mention it was a high-speed highway?
The driver didn't understand English, and we didn't understand any of the languages he was trying to speak with us. But that didn't stop us from getting in the car. The driver was chatting all the time. He was so thrilled to have someone to listen, even though we didn't get the message.
So after one hour (!) drive we said the only phrase in French what we know, and got out of the car. We were at Central station, so our first task was to get the cheapest food we could find because we were starving.
After a quick bite, we studied the city map and headed to the old town. That's where was my booked hotel. As we couldn't check in until 2 pm, we had plenty of time to walk around. The city was gorgeous. All the buildings in the main square (Grand Place) looked like out of the fairytales about princesses and castles. So many gold details, gracious columns, interesting windows, and doors - that all amazed us. Some building looked like made from lace. Huge, intricate, stone lace.
So that's how we survived the first part of the trip. Quite good - I would say. But it was just the beginning. While John was getting some groceries, I and Anita were sitting in the small market square near our hotel. We saw two guys with cameras, taking many pictures there, and our first thought was "Probably they are tourists like us" (we also stated some more comments about them - They were quite a good looking). I think these boys noticed our stares and laughs and suddenly they turned around and came to our direction.
After a few words, we felt very guilty. They were professional photographers, obviously locals! We decided to meet for drinks the next day, just so they could show us around. This was very unexpected turn. We were in this country just for few hours and already making friends.
But that didn't mean I stopped failing. When the time came we went to the hotel where I had booked a triple room. It was a good deal and of course cheap. I think my jaw dropped when the lady at the Front desk told me:"There is no reservation by this name!" And they also didn't have any triple rooms left. "We can offer you one single and one double room!" she said. The single room was more expensive, so after a short discussion, we decided to go to the closest Tourism information center, and find us where to stay.
When we got there, after small observation Anita said, that she has a little bit of emergency money, so she can take the single room. When we got back to the hotel lady smiled at us and said: "Sorry, the last double room is booked, we have only single rooms left." I thought that I will pass out. It was just 10 minutes before when they still had the room. TEN MINUTES!!! I was devasted and sad. I failed my friends. They trusted me that I will find us where to stay, that I will plan everything.
So far there wasn't a single thing that went by plan.
And then John said in a very happy tone: "We can sleep in the park!"
But actually, we didn't. We got a triple room in the hotel across the street like the grown (I don't want to be rude) a** people!
After that we still got time so we went to Mini- Europe park to see tiny reproductions of monuments in the European Union on the show, at a scale of 1:25. Roughly there are represented 80 cities and 350 buildings.
So finally I had a chance to go to Paris!
And we even saw small Statue of Liberty from our capital, and The Baltic Way in the background.
We didn't check out the Atomium, as it was already late. It is a landmark building in Brussels which is now a museum. But we saw it from Mini-Europe. If I will visit Brussels ever again, I will definitely go there.
This is How we survived the first day in Belgium. It was perfect! Ha Ha!
TO BE CONTINUED.
P.S. As you may notice, the quality of the pictures isn't so good. But there actually was a time when having a camera was a luxury, and the ones in phones were very very trashy.