Upon a recommendation, I decided to head to Maastricht as I continued my hitchhiking journey. I had no idea how to spell it, nor even which country it was in when I first got told of it. It turns out that Maastricht is a small city in the part of Holland that is surrounded by both Belgium and Germany. Looking at a map, there wasn’t a direct route to it and I wasn’t quite sure how I would get there. Even leaving Gent from a good hitching spot took nearly an hour as I changed my sign multiple times. It became less and less specific until I finally accepted a ride to Brussels from where I took a tiny ride to a smaller town to try and get out of the rain. I was left on a junction that indicated Brussels in one direction and Grimbergen in another.
Grimbergen is also a type of beer.
In time and broken French, I found my way to a slip rode and took a lift, only to be dropped of at an equally un-hitchable spot in the rain. It took ten minutes for the first car to pass, but only fifteen before I caught another lift and after that, another. My sixth and final ride of the day was a ballon shaper. He made giant models (racing cars, houses, etc) out of balloons. He was very happy about it. From him I learnt about cycling around Europe which is an exciting adventure for another day.
Maastricht was full of cobbled streets and I was impressed by my first night spent at the university open mic with a hippy theme. There are some things that locals can show you that you simply wouldn’t learn about while staying in a hostel. I wrote a post about that night and I won’t repeat myself, but the performers had passion. The next day my host took me to a football tournament and I played with the ‘British Smokers’ who expected to come last in the tournament of seven teams, due to their decreased physical condition. We won the tournament and I enjoyed being part of a team for a few hours, sharing in the joy of an unexpected and united performance, and then saying goodbye to some great people who I most probably won’t ever see again.
Such is the transient nature of travel.
Holland lost yet again, all but sealing their fate of an early exit from Euro 2012, but I pointed out that mathematically it is still quite possible that they will qualify. The sea of orange turned from a celebration party into a drink your sorrow away party and we toured the streets avoiding the smugness of the Germans when possible. There are almost as many German students in this city as there are Dutch. Against my better wishes I went out for sushi. The taste was as vile as ever, so I washed it down with beer, mozzarella, and pesto. I spent most of yesterday wrapped up in myself, unable to leave bed until late in the afternoon. Is it possible to get food poisoning from vegetarian sushi? Either way, I won’t be trying it again in a hurry. At difficult times, it is little things that make the difference. My host walked with me as I shuffled across the square, struggling to put one foot in front of the other, until we reached a store to buy some food and freshly squeezed orange juice. This gesture, along with strawberries and kiwi, lifted me greatly. Enough that I left the house for dinner and enjoyed walking through the streets until my tired legs were ready to rest again.
I once saw a movie called I believe I can Fly (Flight of the Frenchies) by Sébastien Montaz-Rosset. It is a movie about slack lining and base jumping. After I watched it, I went to the official website and paid for it out of respect. Both the cinematography and the amazing moments of life that are captured are capable of taking your breath away. I recommend watching it at least once. I watched it yesterday for the second time.
My time in this new town is at an end now. I have a friend in Paris, so that is where I will head now. Possibly to Luxembourg after. Possibly not.
I watched a window cleaner as they finished up their work. They looked more like a dancer than a window cleaner and highlighted the fact that any skill can be perfected. I can’t dance yet.