Monday, September 09, 2013

Ghent outta town

The hostel is to the right of the bridge
I arrived to the Ghent train station and hopped a tram up to the main part of town.  As I turned the corner, I was blown away.  The city was gorgeous.  I walked past a giant old clocktower and into the canals.  I was on my way to a hostel called De Draeke, but passed one named Hostel Uppelink that was closer.  I stopped and checked if they had room.  They had a bed for only one night, but the fellow called the other hostel for me, and found out that they were full on Thursday night but had beds on Friday and Saturday.  So I would stay one night here and switch to the other the next day.  This hostel happened to be beautiful.  It was in an old style gingerbread house, right off the canal.  I dropped my stuff, and had a shower and went out to find food.

Belgium is not France, and it is hard to find food late night (other than doner kebap) as I have learned.  I didn't want to eat another kebab, so I found a cafe that had one last piece of brie, spinach quiche.  I had the yummy quiche with gherkins and sun-dried tomatoes, and washed it down with a Westmalle Tripel.  I sat out on the canal, listening to the sounds of Flemmish fill the night air as the old houses and churches reflected in the calm canal water.  It was a beautiful scene.

I returned to go to bed, and found a gaggle of frauleins filling the hostel room.  This was less cool in the morning when the frauleins were up early chatting and woke me.  I looked out the window, and the sun was pouring its golden light through a church steeple, it was an incredible sight.

I meandered through the morning, having breakfast than I headed over to the other hostel..The other hostel was about 15 minutes away.  It was more of a proper youth hostel, but fine accommodations.  The hostel was right off a canal with lines of weeping willows swaying about the channel.

I dropped my stuff and went wandering around the city.  I passed the giant Gravensteen castle.  If I had dragons, I could take it.

And I wandered through the beautiful alleys of canals and spired city.

As previously discussed, I sat out on the grass behind the church, reading and napping.  When the rains started to come, I ducked into the church.  The saint is Saint Judas Thaddeus, whom I would consider the saint of all Quijoteans: Saint Judas Thaddeus is the patron saint of lost causes.

After the afternoon waiting out the rain in a stone tavern, I stopped back in the hostel for a lil nap.  I met some of my hostelmates, an elder Russian gentleman named Leonid. He spoke Russian and German, but no English, French or other languages.  And there was another fellow, a tall Dutchman whose name escaped me.  He was a carpenter.  A tad odd, and into conspiracy theories and Libertarian doctrine.

Having questioned the previous day if it was the homeless lady on the tram that smelled, or me, I decided it was time to do laundry.  The guy at the hostel desk pointed me to a concept laundry place called Wasbar.  It was a laundry mat and bar.  Farther than other laundry mats, but sounded interesting.  So I took my bag down with me along the canal a few km, and found the spot.  They were offering a buffet of free antipasto and cheeses for the washers.  Unfortunately, it was a little too conceptual, and they required accounts of 15 euro minimum.  But the nice lady explained that there was a regular laundry mat just up the street, and I should drop my clothes off and come back there for the bar and food.  A fine idea.  So I threw my dirty clothes in for a spin, and drank Trappist beer while I read of the last temptations.

I finished my wash, and returned back to the hostel.  Just as I was putting my bag down, the shoulder harness snapped.  Stront (merde)!  The last bag I had was a Jansport.  I bought it from the discontinued rack, and it lasted 10 years.  This new one, the so-called Cadillac of Backpacks, lasted barely 4 years.

But I was with a carpenter!  Surely, he would have some glue to re-connect the broken plastic.  He explained that his stuff was at another hostel, since he liked to keep 2 residences just in case.  Knew he was a little off....

But the Russian fellow broke out some gauze and his pocketknife, and we went operating on my bag.  He turned the broken washer around and we jammed the gauze under the washer and tied it to the bag.  My father and sister have hands that fix things; I have hands that type.  As such, in the process I managed to cut the poor Russian's hand, so his thumb was bleeding all over the operating table.  But we managed to fix it.  In my gratitude, I ran to the store and bought us beers.

At first the Russian fellow would not take the beer, and I couldn't understand why, because he had another beer on his window sill.  So he broke out the googletranslate and he went back and forth from Russian to English:

I cannot take this, I didn't fix your bag.  It could come apart again.

You have fixed my bag, and it will get me through the last of the road.  Please accept this beer in my friendship and my gratitude.

We went back and forth a bit on the google translate, until he finally accepted my thanks offering.  Sometimes technology is great.  We offered cheers in a bevy of languages.

The fellow was from the Russian East, right off the Sea of Japan.  I always find the Euro-Russians of the East to be so fascinating.  See under: Disraeli's quote about Russia's European face to the East, and its Asian face to the West.  While I have not yet visited Russia, all my interactions with the Russians in Central Asia makes me like their easy-going ways.

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