Meeting the ICC bar team (or “Belgium is the best!”)

Once again, I traveled to Belgium. And once again, on the train-side, it was a mess; but the time we spent together – as usual – made up for it!

As I had an appointment in the north, I booked a flight from Hamburg to Brussels and went onwards to Leuven by train. The trip went quite smooth, and even the assistance at Hamburg airport showed up as planned.

In some of my past posts, I kept complaining about the way they try to organize the assistance when calling up the airport office in Hamburg, because they keep telling you to call again after having arrived with the S-Bahn, so they would send someone to pick you up. This is simply due to possible delays or – as it happened in my case – an S-Bahn cancellation on the route, meaning that we needed to board the next scheduled train 10 minutes later. Obviously I am not the only one to assist, so they just want to make sure that they don’t lose too much time they could have used elsewhere.

Long story short: You might have to wait a little for the assistance to show up, but if they say they are going to pick you up, they usually will. In any case, it is recommendable to be at the airport at least 2 hours prior to boarding, just to be sure.

In Brussels, the airport staff brought me to the airport train station and handed me over to the assistance, who helped me boarding the train to Leuven (just one stop away from the airport).

Julien picked me up and I joined him for lunch in his flat and a while later, we were on our way to Lier to meet Youssri and the rest of the slowly but surely arriving bar team.

However, at first there was a platform change which we didn’t notice, so we boarded the wrong train. At the time we realized, the doors wouldn’t open anymore and the train departed, but we could still catch the train to Lier at the next stop after leaving the wrong train.

Arrived at Youssri’s House, we had a great dinner and enjoyed the evening in good company.

The next day, we went to Leuven for a guided city tour. While our guide was explaining the sights we came across, he also set the focus on our senses (what we could smell, hear, touch, etc.)

It was a great experience, besides the mid-June heat.

Afterwards, we went to a restaurant for dinner before we took a train back to Lier, where a taxi back to Youssri’s place was waiting for us.

Fortunately, the temperature went down during the course of the night, making it easier to sleep later on.

On Sunday afternoon, it was time for Philipp and me to travel home. First off, the taxi which should bring us to the train station was cancelled, so one of Youssri’s neighbors gave us a lift.

Problem number two came up right after: Our train from Lier to Leuven was cancelled, so we would have missed all our connecting trains. To our biggest surprise though (and I never saw this anywhere else so far), the assistance who came by car from Antwerp drove us to Leuven and handed us over to the assistance waiting for us. This way, we could surprisingly still catch the train to Liège, as well as the ICE train to Frankfurt.

And last but not least, let’s wrap it all up with the 3rd problem: The ICE train for some reason was cancelled between Cologne and Frankfurt, so everybody traveling onwards to Frankfurt had to change in Cologne.

In addition, the train I boarded in the end only stopped at Frankfurt Airport. The train was full and on the entire trip, no conductor was seen, and I could also consider the assistance as cancelled as well.

Luckily a passenger helped me finding a shuttle from Frankfurt Airport to Darmstadt, which was much more convenient than traveling to Frankfurt central to catch a connecting train to Darmstadt from there. The shuttle though was also packed with people and luggage, so in the end I was more than happy to be finally home.

Update from the future: I have been traveling to Belgium quite often during the last few months, so I decided to wrap it up in one post, as the journeys back and forth all had a similar outcome. At least on the train-side – usually between Germany and Belgium – we encountered different technical issues causing train cancellations on the route with a few extra changes involved, as well as tremendous delays. On the other hand, however, I visited the German part of Belgium – at least for about 5 minutes. This was due to a train cancellation in Aachen, after which we ended up in a fully packed local train heading to Spa in Belgium, and they instructed us to change in Welkenraedt for a train to Leuven.

Putting all the travel-stress aside, the most important reason why I keep traveling to and from Belgium is the great time we are having with great company, so I do look forward to the next occasion to meet each other in Belgium again – or to say it in John Finnemore’s words: “Belgium, Belgium, Belgium is the best!”

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