Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bonjour, Brussels

Here's the thing about Germany that blows my Canadian mind: it shares a border with nine other countries, all easily reachable by train. Nine countries!

Back home, you can drive for days and still be in the same province. Canada's extreme width measures more than 9,300 km, which is more than the distance between between Bonn and Beijing (7,830 km).

That you can jump on a train in Germany and pop out in another country in less time than it takes to drive to the airport and clear security is a novelty that hasn't worn off yet. Two weeks ago, I left Bonn at 6 p.m. and was eating dinner in Brussels two and a half hours later. When I got on the train, people were speaking German and eating sausages. When I got off the train, people were speaking French and eating waffles. It's about as close to teleporting as it gets.

Belgium's historic centre is stunningly beautiful. But I recommend giving the Atomium a miss. Built for Expo '58, the Atomium is one of Brussels' most inexplicably popular tourist attractions. We ended up at the Atomium thanks to a Mountain Equipment Coop employee who, upon learning Brussels was part of our itinerary, imparted some misguided advice: "Duuuuude. You have to go to the Atomium. It's wild."

Sure, the Atomium is interesting to look at from the outside. But don't waste your time lining up or spending money to go inside. There's nothing to see. Most of the pods are closed to the public and if you want to go to the top pod for the panoramic view of Brussels, you have to go all the way back down to the ground floor and cue for the elevator.

Mini Europe, on the other hand, was great. Where else can you travel across Europe in one hour? Where else can you trip and fall and almost bring the Eiffel Tower crashing down with you? The Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate was especially well done.


Anonymous said...

Vancouver to Halifax (West-East Canada) is about 4430 km, which is a bit more than Bonn to Astana, Kazakhstan (4360 km) or a bit less than Bonn to Novosibirsk (4860 km). It is similar to Brest, France to the Ural mountains in Russia, the traditional Eastern boundary of Europe (4400 km).

Halifax to the North-West of Yukon (diagonal Canada) is 4960 km. Bonn to Beijing is 7830 km. Lisbon to Moscow (diagonal populated Europe) 3910 km. Lisbon to the north of the Urals (physical diagonal Europe) is 5190 km. Lisbon to Beijing 9670 km (West-East Eurasia). Brest-Wien (West-East Western Europe) is 1530 km. Lisbon to Berlin (diagonal Western Europe) is 2310 km.

Measures thanks to Google Maps distance measuring tools. http://support.google.com/maps/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1628031

Sarah M. said...

Thanks! I'll revise the post a bit based on your helpful advice! On a side note, I never understood why people measure from Vancouver to Halifax. What about Vancouver Island and Newfoundland?! I don't think it's a true measure across Canada if we leave out an entire province. :)


Peter Marquardt said...

I find your view on Germany and Europe very refreshing

Sarah M. said...

Thanks Peter. Maybe it's because I haven't been here that long and I'm seeing everything with fresh eyes. After a while, my views might not be so refreshing! :)


Olivier said...

Did you know there's a direct ICE train from Siegburg/Bonn to Amsterdam that leaves at 18:50 and arrives just 3 hours later ?

Sarah M. said...

Cool. I didn't know that. But I've already been to Amsterdam. Any "must see" places you'd recommend???

Olivier said...

That's a tough question, all these countries have their charms. At best I can give you the other direct train connections:
Frankfurt - Paris (4h)
Frankfurt - Copenhagen (12h)
Frankfurt/Süd - Prague (9h30)
Trier - Luxemburg (1h)
Berlin - Krakau (10h)
Frankfurt - Vienna (7h)

Sarah M. said...

All great tips! Thanks, Olivier. :)

Didn't realize that it takes so long to get to Prague. It looks so close on the map....

Olivier said...

That's the direct night train. Day-time trains with connections will probably take less time.

Sarah M. said...


p.s. Let me know if you're around on skype these days. Would love to find out how life in Montreal is going!