Enchanted -=EuroHop18/19=- Pt.7: Zeeland, Brugge & Cologne

In this journal:

  • a milking machine
  • largest storm barrier in the world
  • cocoa with 99% gold

[30MIN/MEDIUM READ]

<— Back to Hamburg

Hello Netherlands!

The plane landed right on time in the gigantic Amsterdam airport. However, unlike last time, I would not be visiting the capital. I am here for probably the only friend that I did not meet through travels. I met Kelly during my stays back in Shanghai, as this Dutch girl is a distinguished horse trainer who excels at taming the world-famous Dutch horses. However, she lives in the other corner of the country, so I had to cross the entire Netherlands just to get to see her!

Vlissingen shoreline

My plane landed at 8 pm sharp, and I was basically doomed: the last fast train to the southern city of Rotterdam was bound to depart at 8:08, and there was no way for me to catch it. Except, maybe? Encouraged by fellow seatmates who probably just wanted to see a dude running like crazy and screaming, I said:”well, what do I have to lose?” and began running as if my lunch was on the line the moment the aircraft door opened up. I skipped across the terminal, hopped across the corridors, and leaped over toppled suitcases, going for a mad dash towards the exit. I started purchasing the train ticket right as I heard the sound of the horn entering the platform, and the moment I skidded down the railings, the door beeping began. Right at the last second I rushed into the train doors, like a goalkeeper running in for a desperate attempt: I made it! I ran across the entire airport, got out of the exit, ran into the train platforms all in an astonishing 5 minutes 30 seconds, where the heck is my Olympic medal? However, my shoe lace was a bit stuck in the doors, so I had to sit next to the door. After a change in Rotterdam, I was on the slow double decker commuter chugging along the southern dikes heading to the end of the line: Vlissingen.

Vlissingen

Kelly welcomed me at the quiet station, after the slow train pulled into the desolate city shrouded in darkness. We had a great meeting with her boyfriend, as well as his dog. I was so tired from my mad dash that I passed out in the guest room immediately. Next morning, a sunny day meant a great day to check out this peculiar little corner of the world.

Vlissingen streets

Kelly lives one block from the famous large sea wall blocking the ocean from coming right in. In fact, all the houses you see above are below sea level, including hers. During the last century, multiple times the dikes had been breached, so every house had been sitting in 1 meter of sea water for quite a few years. This resulted in a lot of these houses being undesirable since the bottom 1 meter of the entire structure had been pickled to a salty block, and paint falls off within months of applying. Housing prices are surprisingly cheap here, even though it is a walking distance to a beach where it quintuples in population during summer thanks to the immense influx of German vacationers.

Vlissingen streets

The town prides itself for being the second biggest city in the province of Zeeland, and it turned out to have fewer than 45000 people, which is about the number of people who live on my block in Shanghai. However, this place is definitely of significant historical influence because of its strategic location and incredibly ingenious local folks. I mean, if you were constantly under the threat of disappearing under a meter of seawater, you gotta be smart enough to survive, right?

broadwalk

Sitting right at the mouth of the big canals closest to England, Vlissingen had always been the preferred port to go for reaching the rest of the mainland Europe since it does not involve a lot of backtracking like in Calais. It had become so popular and commonplace that this place has a completely different English name:Flushing, by Anglicization of the Dutch name. Many people believed that the Dutch name comes from a story about Saint Willibrord. According to his hagiography, he visited the village here in the 7th century, and tried to share his stuffs inside a bottle with the poor. A miracle occurred and the contents never depleted inside such a bottle, and the local bishop called the town Flessinghe after the Dutch word fles, meaning bottle.

the beach by the sea

We first took a walk along the famous promenade, where dozens upon dozens of holiday hotels lined the street, which also is the dam that prohibits the water from charging right in. It was the middle of winter, so the entire area seemed to be completely dead: shops were sealed shut, lobbies were quiet like my 10th birthday party, and restaurants put out significant discounts. The occasional sun saved the day from being extremely cold by the blasting winds as well as the lack of popularity.

lunch time~!

For lunch, we stopped at the headlands at the end of the promenade, where a little cute glass house stood above the featureless sands. I was absolutely famished, and quickly chowed down on delicious seafood and local “pancakes” made of cheese and ham on top of tiny slices of dough.

nomnomnomnom

At the other side of the house stood a weird installation. 27 long bamboo pipes protruded straight up into the oblivion, producing menacing humming sounds that haunts one’s brain with its monotonous tune. This is the result of an ambitious artist Raphael August Opstaele, who wanted to build a series of these art installations from West Africa to the polar regions of Norway, singing the chorus of Atlantic in unison.

Kelly admiring the scene

However, this one in Vlissingen is the only one that has ever manifested into reality out of his lofty mind. Even this lonesome art had been destroyed twice, once by a strong storm and once by a few vandalizing adolescents. I guess his idea of a long coast of melody turned into a sad old man singing out of tune by the sea, growing old with nothing else but solitude.

what a beachfront!

The beautiful promenade almost put me in a trance, even though it was not exactly the best season to be by the seaside. On the other side of the entire walk sits the harbour area, clustered with hundreds of small boats. The big dockyards sit at the back further down the coast, so whenever a large ship comes in, a special agent would whistle, signalling the people to come back from the waters onto the beach. This is because they get so close due to the obstructing sand dunes in the middle of the waterway that the enormous wake caused by the ship’s wave can easily take away a grown man. Kelly showed me some videos of large container ships passing dangerously close to the shores. Their waves were as large as mini-tsunamis that definitely caused multiple casualties back in the days.

what a nice walk!

While becoming increasingly jealous that Kelly has half a year every year just free and chilling in this seaside resort town, she showed me something that definitely made me mad. She showed me where she once worked: Muzeeum. You get it? Eh? It is Zeeland so it is a muZEEum! That is a kneeslapper right there eh? eh? eh? The environment is perfect: in front of the harbor right next to the bobbing fishing boats; lots of happy tourists walking in the door looking for some cool knowledge. The people were so nice to me in the museum, and the pace was slow as if the entire place was falling into a tranquil little nap in the warm air conditioning. Why would she ever quit that job, I would never know.

by the harbor

In the museum was a collection of all kinds of items relevant to the province, ranging from prehistoric human remains all the way to recent shipyard products. Theme of the entire place is understandably “water”, and Kelly used to be a manager inside. There were also many stories about the many Dutch navy generals born in the town, as well as tickets sold during the past 3 centuries for crossing of the English channel. In a big room, many models of specialized boats made here in the dockyards also populated the space. These are the specialty of Vlissingen nowadays, as yachts, military vessels and polar expedition ships are all the rage in 21st century.

Kelly making a point

The view from the top of the museum, as expected, was fabulous as hell. It has a sweeping panorama of the whole town, as well as being a great vantage point for the horizons to the west. I also took upon the option by the museum to wear a traditional seafarer’s hat while exploring, even though it is geared towards children under the age of 12. But you gotta admit, it suits me perfectly, right?

Vlissingen, Netherlands
Dutch meatballs with cheese for dinner, huh

Kelly showed off her cooking skills by presenting me a nice dish of potatoes with meat patties, covered in a strange cheese that looked like curry sauce. Apparently this is the prided local dish here in Zealand, and it seems to be more of a history book of all the nations Netherlands had been in touch with since Zeeland is the most prominent sea-faring province of the tiny nation. Potatoes from South America, meat patty from North America, and broccoli from the depths of hell. Well, maybe except the cheese, that is totally a manifestation of the local milk industry boom.

Middleburg & Zeeland countryside

a building in Middleburg

Kelly, as a great host, also took me around the local area to show me the zeal of Zeeland. Sitting in the southwest corner of the country, segregated from the mainland Holland by a few dozen rivers and streams, the province is the least populous and connected in the country, while its surface area barely qualifies as a township in China. More than half of the province sits under ground level, which made it extremely prone to flooding back during the years before large dams. The capital, Middleburg, is famous for its history and marvellous city hall, and also is one of the few places in the province that would not be flooded once global warming kicks down the door of the outer dams in 2030. Hooray~!

narrowest street in Netherlands!
neatly named plaza called Abdij

Middleburg is one of the most important towns during the Scientific Revolution, since most of the master lens craftsmen were living in this little port city. Most people would attribute the invention of microscope as well as telescope to the members of the guild here. Additionally, the town also made a name of itself as an important slave trading port a century later, while acting as the second hub of the world-beloved, totally benign Dutch East India Company. Thus, thousands of warehouses in a classically lavish style were set up along its canals, decorating the streets with Amsterdam-like cute rooftops. They still cost a few million Euros like in Amsterdam though since they are highly prized possessions of the millionaires as a trophy. We love capitalism!

Middleburg City Hall

It is hard to visit Middleburg without noticing the giant Gothic city hall sitting smack in the middle of the old walls. This is probably one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in Netherlands, as it features asymmetrical exterior and a host of statues of the local counts and countesses. White and red are the colors of the local government. Built in the 1500s, the town hall collapsed during a heavy bombardment in 1940 during the advances of Germans. It was finally rebuilt after the war in the exact original style, and now functions as a university complex. Interestingly, it originally featured a little side entrance to a separate part of the building that specifically served as a meat market, aptly named Meathall, note its difference from my favourite item Meatball.

oh god so good

One of the delicacies in Zeeland is unsurprisingly obvious: fish. They fry the various fish chunks in a clear oil before serving them up as a tasty snack shareable on the go. With a large scoop of tartar sauce, thousand island sauce, or lemon squeeze, it is heavenly. I only ate two boxes before stopping for a drink, so I think my self-control has been steadily improving.

windmill

It is not a trip to Netherlands without seeing a windmill. In the countryside of the city we visited a little ranch that was more tailored to educate and entertain the kids than actually raising livestock. We got to see a lot of cool farming tools and a demonstration of how windmills worked back in the day as a grinding method for all the grain, along with a bunch of children who were fascinated by the concept of centripetal force. Don’t blame them, they probably just grasped the idea of object permanence. We then continued to the most impressive part of the province, one that had shocked the world over a few decades back: the Delta Works.

sea from land

In the above picture you can get a clearer idea of how precarious the situation in southern Netherlands can be. You have a small dike sitting above the low-lying lands, and the river ominously situated above on the other side. If anything happens to the water barrier, the entire salty river dumps straight into the entire area, destroying everything in its way. This was exactly what happened to Zeeland in 1953. A large storm swept through the North Sea, and a combination of strong winds, heavy rainfall, low pressure and high tides overwhelmed the defences set up hundreds of years ago (and strategically opened up by Canadian forces during reclamation of WWII), and over 50% of the province went swimming. Oh yeah also nearly 2000 died, which is a huge number in a province with fewer people than a Chinese hot dog eating competition. Unlike the flooding of Sichuan Province caused by similar problems in Dujiangyan, a small-scale solution was not easy. The government could not tolerate this any more, and set out to fix the problem once and for all: let’s build dikes, levees, locks, sluices, dams, embankments and barriers all over these motherfucking places. And here began the 50-year program named Delta Works.

eastern storm surge protectors

The solution was a drastic one, after studying a smaller scale work done in the north, beautifully named by a drunk cat casually walking over a keyboard, Afsluitdijk, they decided to close off two rivers out of three in Zeeland. The estuaries of Rhine from Germany, Meuse from France, and Scheldt from Belgium all had to be dammed, or should I say, damned? This would significantly shorten the lengths of the dykes needed to reinforce, and thus make it much more manageable. And they began work immediately after people stopped dying from the flood. Trillions of tons of lands were moved during the process in order to make an outer defence against the surges, and inner rings of dams were created to make second, and even third layers of protection against crucial points of importance such as cities and industrial lands.

driving on top of Oosterscheldekering

The most impressive one is Oosterscheldekering, whose name rolls right off the tongue as easily as any Dutch word murdering children’s dreams in spelling bee contests. 9km long, it was so big that it requires an artificial island in the middle in order to support its structural integrity. Due to public protests under environmental movements, half of the dam was changed into a storm surge barrier that remains open during normal times and only close down when huge waves come in. This allowed the river to flow in and out with the rhythm of the tides, preserving the marine life in the low lands inside the dams. Most of the dykes constructed as roads as well, so nowadays you can drive on top of most of the important Delta Works that saved millions of lives. Safety, novelty, and usefulness put this entire project onto the list of the greatest engineering projects in human history, and I believe it is very well deserved.

Plompetoren

On the bank not too far from the massive projects, quietly sits one of the remnants of the ancient village of Koudekerke. The village thrived in 15th century as an important merchant route stop along the prosperous region, but a few floods later, the entire floodplains devoured the area. Long abandoned, the tower now sits inside the dam and serves as the last beacon of a treacherous past.

moo moo

Kelly also took me to a farm, where one could pet and feed the cows while getting some cheese from the cafe right next door to the barn. Ever since I was little, I had been looking at the large tin cans of DUTCH COW brand powdered milk with awe. How did they have such tasty milk, I wondered. Now I know first hand it is the combination of advanced technology and human benevolence. A strict regulation and a farmers’ conscience made sure the animals are treated right with bright, airy and comfortable homes, and that resulted in one of the best flavors in the world.

milking carousel

Twice a day, all the cows get on the special machine in order to be milked. Unlike some people who blindly protest the use of animals for human benefits, I actually learned quite a bit of husbandry when I was younger in Taiwan. These cows have been bred for so many years that they have turned into an individual species that has to rely on human beings. (the merit of such practice is another topic, probably debated somewhere far away in another blogsphere) They have to be milked frequently or their breasts would hurt severely. The milk here is so good that one of the farms puts some unpasteurized milk directly in a dispenser next to the main road, so one could get some truly fresh protein without paying the supermarket a dime!

nothing fresher than this! well maybe if you crawl under a cow…

I have seen my fair share of weird vending machines, but fresh milk vending machine? Now that is a first. The milk is so darn good that I was practically suckling on the metal tube after inserting my 2 Euro coin. Netherlands may not have impressive mountains like northern Argentina, or beautiful ocean views like Seychelles, but it sure does have its own charm, like a reserved Dutch hottie full of hidden tricks up her sleeves.

Brugge

After bidding Vlissingen farewell, Kelly drove me across the border to somewhere a bit above sea level: Belgium. It was a simple ride to the beautiful world heritage town: Brugge. I previously visited this beautiful medieval city during my EuroHop 15/16 trip, but it is so mesmerizing that I decided to come back.

Brugge
Belgian flag!

The capital of West Flanders is not an obscure one. The city was plastered with tourists even during the dead of the winter. We carefully weaved around the city with a bit of awe and a lot of hunger, looking for the coveted Belgian delicacy: waffles. It is true that Belgian waffles trump all other kinds of double-sided-baked treats. Nothing beats a large lick of the fresh cream after taking a bite of the fluffy hot waffle underneath. And the best place to enjoy such inconceivably guilty pleasure? In a small alleyway of a medieval Belgian town of course!

Trivia: Did you know? For some bizarre reasons, I actually have a Belgian phone number, instead of a Taiwanese, American or Canadian one.

vlogger: what’s up youtubers?
me, a potato lover: what’s up you tubers?

Since I visited most of the popular sights last time around, this time we went for some bizarre museums instead, such as the fries museum. Yes, because Belgium is the rightful origin of French fries, and it is just Belgian fries would be too much of a word for simple American brains to recognize, as it is hard to grasp the idea of another country called Belgium. Here, if you even dare to order French fries, you would be ganged upon by local street kids, old grannies, businessmen and housewives alike: the Belgians may not have too much patriotism about other things, but they sure as hell would not let a French fries speaker live till sundown.

french fries museum

Inside, hundreds of kinds of items related to the frittering industry were presented. From all kinds of potatoes, to the first shop selling fried potatoes, to the kinds of seasoning and mayonnaise used, to the equipment needed in order to make such a simple yet epic delicacy a reality. Belgian fries are so good because they are fried in a two step process: first time in a hotter oil to lock in the moisture, and the second in cooler oil for taste and color. We even got our large share of fries in the cafe too!

torture museum, intentionally in potato quality to preserve your sanity

However, we also got bigger potatoes to fry. Kelly dragged me into a dungeon featuring all kinds of torture devices, commonly used for interrogation during the city’s acme. It was definitely not for the faint-hearted. Oh boy, what they would do to the girls that got locked up in the dark, moist underground pits of hell… My god, even I cannot even dare to describe in my blog, which is known for swearing and ridiculously horrible food, so you can thank me later.

Markt

The city center is the large Markt square, where dozens of cafes serve overpriced tourist trap foods. The towering Belfort sits 100 meters above the skating ring set up just for the holiday season, filled with kids laughing from tag chasing and kids crying from falling off their balance. To the left, one of the most beautiful buildings in the entire country, Provinciaal Hof the Provincial Court silently idles by the side, only opening up to visitors when there are special ceremonies. Hundreds of horse drawn carriages chugged along the cobbled streets with tourists holding selfie sticks on the back, leaving only echoes of the hooves hitting on the slippery rocks. Brugge surely is stuck between modern capitalism and medieval idealism.

Basilica of the Holy Blood

Around the corner from the museum, after walking through the hundredth chocolatier in the same black, a tiny church caught our attention. This ornamental and intriguing little building is sandwiched between two larger ones, but featured golden statues and a spiral staircase. It turned out to be Basilica of the Holy Blood, a tiny minor cathedral that housed an allegedly vial containing the real blood of Jesus Christ. The lower floor is a Romanesque chapel that has been kept the same way since 12th century, but the upper floor is a Gothic-revival style chapel with a higher alter presenting the vial.

upper Gothic-revival chapel
meow meow motherfucka

Unfortunately, I could not take a photo, let alone a lick, of the blood vial. The words on it seemed to be Roman, marking the years of MCCCLXXXVIII/1388, even though the popular theory is that this treasure was brought back from the Holy Land by the Count of Flander Thierry of Alsace during the Second Crusade, which was 1147. It is more likely that this little tube of glass was brought back from Asia Minor during the Sack of Constatinople in 1204. Hundreds of faithfuls lined up in front of the tiny altar, and praised the little carpeted vial under the watchful eye of the priests standing beside it. What a neat little place!

a chocolate shop and a knitting supply store

After a long and fun day crossing into Belgium with Kelly, it was finally time to say goodbye. She would drive straight back to home sweet home below sea level, while I would continue with a train to the capital of Brussels. It had been a great day in the Venice of the north, and I promised myself that I would come back again to stay for longer at this authentic city despite its constant love-hate relationship with visitors like me. Thank you, Kelly, for being an awesome host to me in one of the places that I least expected to visit. To be honest, I would probably never come to Vlissingen in my whole life if I have never met this horse-riding professional goofball. It is also the first time I met someone who I did not encounter during my travels, which is kinda bizarre because usually there would be a lot of catching up to do but since we had just met a month ago in Shanghai, and would meet again in a month later in Shanghai, it was totally a weird thing for me. Friend that I get to see more than once a year? WHAAAAA?!

Brugge at dusk

Brussels

If you want to know more about Brussels, consider taking a look of my other journal about this tiny city in charge of this big big world. I am here this time mostly to make my way to Frankfurt for my flight back to China. Sadly, as a result, I would have little time to dwell other than saying hi to my dear friend and a long-time frequent guest on this blog: Pinar. Pinar has her life turned around and got herself a new apartment as well as a loving boyfriend, and let’s not forget she got a better job too!

ah yes, goofy as always

I sat down in the large living room of her new apartment, and devoured her restaurant-level cooking. I almost felt sorry for asking for the 4th plate but everyone knows I have skin thick as the crust of Pizza Hut pizzas. We chatted about our lives, and I of course congratulated Pinar for her new achievement in life, since last time I felt extremely bad for crashing in her tiny apartment shared with her elderly mother. I will always miss ya, Pinar the Little Peanut!

ICE is cool

After a nice snooze, I waved goodbye to Pinar and her boyfriend, and continued on moving. A quick ICE train ride would take me all the way across the nation to one of my old pals in one of my all-time favorites. This is the final part of this long yearly ritual, and we are back where it all started.

Cologne

Ulrike in front of Dom

Hi there, my old friend, are you doing okay recently? I stood underneath the mist-shrouded Dom yet again, and asked. I am not sure to whom, or to what, this question is for. To this vibrant city? To myself? Or to Ulrike slowly waving at me? Ahhh yes, the same Ulrike, you have not changed a bit! No matter what time and space that we got to meet, Antarctica 3 years ago, or Cologne last year, she has always been the same, in probably the best way. She is like the time keeper of my timeline, as every incidence of me seeing her marked the end of another round of travels. Thank you, old buddy, because you are older than me ;P

the bell Petersglocke

Surprisingly, I have never climbed on top of the gorgeous Dom before, so we decided to go on to the top despite the fact that it was a bit gloomy in West Germany that day. After a painstaking 200 steps, we were at the first platform showing off one the 11 impressive bells installed in the building. Just the bell clapper of this giant is over 1 person tall! However, this would mean nothing compared to the humongous Kaiserglocke mounted here during late 19th century, which weighed over 27 tonnes. It was the largest bell to every swing in the world. However, you cannot see it nowadays, as it was melted during WWII to support the German war effort, so you can say, Kaiserglocke was eventually made into Kaiser-glock! Eh? Too soon? Okay. Now, Petersglocke takes over the mantle and is still the largest bell in the world.

view from the top
pinnacle

Another hundred or so steps later, we reached the top with barely a slimmer of air in our lungs. The view up here, needless to say, is absolutely breathtaking, pun intended. Do you know what else is breathtaking? You the reader! Haha but also Dom’s rap sheet of achievements. This is the most visited site in Germany by tourists; this is also the tallest twin spiral church in the world; second tallest church in Europe; third tallest in the world. It is one of the tallest buildings completed before 2000, even though it broke ground in 1248 and was not completed until 1840s. Its facade is the largest church facade in the world, and is so big that the entire building has to be buttressed in its entirety.

a Berliner Weisse/White Berliner, oh and also the alcohol with the same name

After a long trek down that felt like my descent from the top of Kilimanjaro, I reached the bottom for a rewarding drink that Ulrike practically forced into my hands. It was bubbly, sour, green and tart: Berliner Weisse. Do not get confused with the Berliner I mentioned earlier in the Hamburg journal, this is not a pastry, but a kind of beer. It is named like the Belgian counterparts Witbier since both are made of wheat. These alcohol were playing their own games until last century as these northerners had evaded the purity regulation Reinheitsgebot for hundreds of years, so the drink tastes fuzzy and sour, so much so that the invading Napoleon army called it “Champagne of the North” thanks to its effervescence. To combat that tartness, a special green herbal syrup is added for some neon colors, though sometimes a red raspberry syrup is used instead. As someone from Berlin, Ulrike force-fed me this weird glass of Area 51 alien bath water, which tasted pretty good actually. Now, it is hard to find a good glass of Berliner Weisse as generally it would net you a grand total of 0 girls in your lifetime if you hold one while standing in a bar.

all chocolate display!
chocolates necessitates rotates!

Lastly we took a late night visit to heaven itself: Lindt’s chocolate museum right on the river of Rhine. In front of the lobby sat a large Christmas display made all of chocolate. This is my first time seeing chocolate baby Jesus, and that was enlightening indeed. Inside the hallowed halls, I got to see the history of chocolate, history of Lindt the company, and the history of chocolate processing. Passing the knowledge part was a greenhouse full of tropical trees which featured a few cocoa trees, and then a working, living chocolate factory! I got to see how they make their famous hollow chocolate bunnies using rotating mechanical arms, and how they mixed the different batches with large scale industrial processors. You could also customize your own chocolate flavor for 5 Euros! HOLY MAMA!

Cologne, Germany

However, the place where I got to see chocolate Jesus myself was the end of the tour. Thick creamy milk chocolate flows out of a large golden cocoa statue like the fountain of youth. I looked everywhere in Bolivia, Zambia and Myanmar looking for the fabled spring of eternity, but I would never expect to truly find this fragment of God himself in Cologne. When the girl handed me a large chunk of waffles with a smile, my vision blurred as if an angel was reaching out to me to bring me into the next plane of existence. This is the closest to a spiritual experience I have ever got.

Kranhaus

After touching a piece of heaven itself, we were pulled back to the normal universe. Walking alongside Rhine, I got to see the famous Kranhaus. They are weirdly designed to resemble the old cranes that used to operate along these banks that transported goods on and off ships. Three of these crazy 18-story buildings were constructed 13 years ago, one of which is a luxury apartment complex instead of office space. They sit precariously over the river in an upside-down L shape, which really puts the power of modern engineering into perspective.

Christmas Market

We wandered a bit more before heading towards an old beer hall where we would meet my other all-time favorite Kölner, Pauline, the pretty native German blonde featured as a guest star in my last Cologne journal and Australia 2015 journal. She made her way across town to meet me even though I barely had 20 hours in the city, which made me eternally grateful. We drank one Kölsch after another, while chatting about the fun lives we lead as travellers of this small, blue marble floating in the vast emptiness. I united two Cologne dwellers by meeting them in 2 continents 2 years apart. The world sure is getting smaller, and we cannot let that estrange our hearts.

Kölners unite!

Pauline was always the sunshine in the gloomy Rhineland weather for me, and seeing her doing better than ever brought a smile to everyone’s face. We laughed about my mishap during my Voyager trip mishap; we argued about the integrity of German beers; and we lamented about the ruthless passage of time. Before I knew it, I was a few strange glasses of Kölsch deep (strange glass is the special container for Kölsch), and I could only remember Ulrike dragging me home like a lioness dragging a buffalo carcass across the Kenyan savannah. Good times and Cologne go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly, or Kölsch and laughter!

good night, Cologne

Next morning, Ulrike sent me off at Huptaubahnhof (I love using this word!), and waved me goodbye as I cried into a little puddle on the train platform. Do not worry, I am sure that I will be back sooner than later, this is my third time waltzing into her life, so I bet it was starting to become a bad habit that would die hard. This marked the end of my visit to Cologne, and Europe during this trip. Who would have thought it all ended on such a whim?

Epilogue

I hopped onto the ICE train heading towards Frankfurt airport, and watched the trees whoosh by as I moved incredibly fast towards the last leg of my month-long journey. I used to think Amsterdam represents Netherlands, but Vlissingen and Kelly had taught me a lesson. Going Dutch is more of a lifestyle than a manifestation of materialism. It is about cows, sleepy canals, and earth-bending mega-projects. Brugge is an ancient city of my past travels, and revisiting old friends is a good reminder that I am a man on the road. I am a vagabond, living the life on the path. No matter how hard I try and shake off my awkwardness and dirt on my jacket, I will always be a wary traveller, and I should cherish all these people I managed to cherish in my past lives, no matter if it was in Australia, Antarctica, Costa Rica or Shanghai. This is not about me: my life is about them.

Vlissingen streets

This EuroHop had me exhausted. I was no longer the energetic young boy hopping on his voyage to see his friends for the first time, thinking it would be the last time. This is my third time touring this magical continent in winter after EuroHop 15/16 and C.A.T., so I was a bit scared that it would become less and less stimulating. Yet, I was blown away. The awesome tea times in London and Cardiff, the sense of nostalgia in Lisbon, the vomit-giggle in the Nordics, the family long lost in Lyon, the gold-pooping peasant in Dusseldorf, the glistening spirals of Hamburg, and the hugs from my friends, had me enchanted. This is no longer a trip or a journey: this is my life. I am so honoured to live a life enchanted by all these fond memories, and that is why I am sharing them with you here. These are truly the great times. I, Young, as a vagabond, shall live on this road, forever.

FIN

-=ForeverYoung|EuroHop 18/19=-

The trip is over now, but the path continues. Next part is the review of Condor Business Class from Frankfurt to Kuala Lumpur, with a tag economy flight on Malaysia Airlines to Shanghai. Feel free to take a browse if you are interested!

Condor Business Class Review —>

<— Introduction
<— Travel MasterPlan

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