I awoke on the third day in Brussels not really knowing what had hit me.. I’d apparently been out cold for something like eight or nine hours which is REALLY unusual for me.. But it felt good none the less – and we did have a long drive ahead of us later that day.. Yes, leave it to us to spend all of 40-odd hours in Brussels plus almost half that period of time just traveling back and forth. . I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Tina and I don’t have the most normal of field trips, but we do have fun.
Anyways, we had a pretty cosy morning just kicking back for a few hours, eating breakfast, packing up, getting ready to leave.. We even managed to once again disturb and puzzle Zascha’s land lady.. This time around we ran into her while I was trying hard to carry Zascha’s bike up to her third floor apartment. An ordeal that was about as complicated as it was weird and eventually landed me stuck on a landing which is also where I once again ran into the land lady who, by now, was probably really starting to question the sanity of Zascha and her guests.. She had some sort of shouting conversation with Zascha over my head and apparently gave her an OK to store her bike in the downstairs hallway rather than on her balcony which was the original plan. This landed me in a rather peculiar situation where I, already stuck, had to try and turn around and walk down the stairs all while not dropping the full-sized bike I was carrying.. Or falling down and killing myself for that matter.. It was interesting.. Especially with the nice old land lady being completely oblivious to the fact that I did not speak French and insisting on trying to tell me things.. Good times, good exercise!
Having somehow gotten myself unstuck and back down the stairs without falling and dying, we returned to Zascha’s pad, checked some final directions and decided, given that it had taken us all of 12.5 hours to get down there, that we’d probably better find the car and get on our way back home. It was by now about 12 o’clock noon and after saying our goodbyes to Zascha, Tina and I were to embark on our craziest and most epic road adventure yet.. Navigating from Brussels, Belgium to Kolding, Denmark without the use of a map or any written instructions! The plan was, literally to find the E40 motorway out of town, follow it through to Aachen then looking for Köln, Dortmund, Hannover, Hamburg, Flensburg and, eventually, Kolding.. This was, in theory, the easiest and quickest route, saving us having to go through Holland and the road working hell of Bremen.. It was also a route we’d come up with pretty much at the spur of the moment, and since we did not own a map, our grand plan was to memorize the major cities and then just drive by intuition and sheer dumb luck..
Which, believe it or not, turned out to be a pretty damn good plan! For the most part of the trip, we made record time, and it was a hell of a lot of a prettier route, too, I might add. We stopped once and contemplated getting a map, then decided that so far it’d all been pretty easy and that we could always stop and get a map if things started to look sketchy and we felt we needed it.. Which we apparently never did. Most parts of the trip were a breeze, if you disregard the fact that we were both pretty worn out and poor Tina was coming down with a really annoying and persistent bug. The only major problem was a small stretch of road between Dortmund and Hannover (I think) where, surprise surprise, the Germans were doing renovations on the Autobahn grid. The result was that four lanes turned into two and two then turned into one, right at a spot where two Autobahns were merging into one another.. Which caused a two kilometer stretch of barely moving traffic.. That we slammed into right after downing some extra large cans of Red Bull.. Which was FUN considering that the stuff makes you want to pee.. A lot.. and we were stuck in traffic moving at a pretty constant rate of one kilometer per hour.
Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say that when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go and that we can now both add “relieved myself behind bushes at an Autobahn road side” to our resumes. And I can add the experience of having driven on the Autobahn to mine as well.. All of twenty meters or some such nonsense which is all I managed while Tina did her thing. But hey, it’s still the most I’ve actually driven in.. I dunno.. Three years or such.. Which is kinda embarrassing, but hey, I don’t have a car, so I don’t drive.. Which made it all even more interesting to have your first driving experience in years be thick traffic in a foreign country.. I did well, though, until Tina returned and took back the wheel.
When we finally did make it out of the traffic jam, we were quite happy to see the road open up in front of us and leaving us nothing but ample space and great driving conditions.. Which also resulted in the latter part of the journey being made at somewhat higher speed than our average thus far.. Good times, pretty times, awesome roads! Still, we had a two hour delay to make up for and a few more rest stops along the way to get water, food and use proper rest rooms. By this time, my body was starting to really object to our diet on the trip which had consisted mainly of Burger King and pub burgers. But apparently Burger King is all the rave at German Autobahn rest stops and we had neither the time nor the patience to scout out something better.. So Burger King it was, and I did my best to limit my intake and stay off deep fried stuff.. It went somewhat well. At the very least my body didn’t object too badly before the days following the trip.. But I digress..
Fact of the matter is that despite sickness, traffic and crappy food, we were making good speed and good progress.. Some nine hours into our journey, we spotted a sign saying “last gas station before the border” and decided to make a stop for gas at one of the odder places I’ve ever been to. The whole thing looked more like one of those German Border Shops that cater to Danes than it did a gas station. It was absolutely booming with a large supply of Danish beers and jumbo bags of sweets and chocolate.. It was all quite surreal. We stuck to the gas, though, and resisted the urge to bring home overly expensive beer and two kilo bags of wine gum.
Having gotten our fill of gas, we tore onwards, passing another really odd sight in the shape of a German Panzer Tank division that happened to just be out for a stroll on the E45 motorway.. And by out on a stroll I mean actually rolling around on their tracks amidst tourist busses and casual traffic.. Which is something I’ve never seen before and I thought was actually harmful for the road paving. I don’t know, maybe the Autobahn is built to accommodate tracked vehicles. It was all Hitler’s idea after all. Another strange sight was the fact that the whole division was sporting a police escort which I found pretty laughable.. Because let’s face it.. If you’re getting in the way of a fucking tank, you don’t need flashing lights, horns and members of the police force to tell you to get out of the way.. You either move or die, it’s pretty simple, really.. But I digress, again, fact of the matter is it was a fun sight (and one that many envy us) to round off a fun and epic journey which was about to come to an end as we rolled across the Danish border not too long afterwards. From there we had about 50 minutes to Kolding which seemed to be covered pretty quickly considering how much time we’d spent on the road already.
After just over ten hours, we arrived back in Kolding weary, tired, but with an odd sense of accomplishment. Tina made a stop at my place to let me drop off my luggage and I then jumped back into the car and headed home with her to have a little beer, hang out a little and “properly round off the experience.” As it turned out, we were really much too tired to do much of anything, so we settled for just grabbing a beer and a bit of small talk while watching parts of the Eurovision final. Afterwards, I dragged myself home, grabbed a bit to eat, waited for the party that was apparently going on upstairs to die down and then crashed completely.. We’d made it!
Four countries, 1600+ kilometers, a birthday, two awesome dinners, a bit of sightseeing and touring of capitals plus the European Parliament.. All in under three days.. Impressive, fun, exhausting!