When In Bruges

When I checked in my hostel in Bruges, the first thing I asked the receptionist was to book a cab to take me to the train station two days later at 5AM. My train for Amsterdam was leaving at 5:30, and I figured half an hour is enough time to get to the station. It took me 20 minutes to get to the hostel from the station, and it was while taking the bus. With a cab, I figured it’ll be a short 10-minute drive.

Fast forward two nights later, I’m hanging out with a bunch of people outside the hostel bar, mostly locals, and was having the time of my life. The beer was flowing, the weed was being passed around, and the conversation was smart and interesting. Around 2:30, I tried to excuse myself from the group, hoping to get at least a couple hour nap before hopping on the train. No such thing was going to happen. My new found friends insisted that it’s better if I stay up all night as oppose to taking a nap. I’ll be more refreshed in the morning they assured me. Somebody handed me another bottle of beer, and that was all it took to convince me to stay.

A couple of hours later, one of the local guys asked how I was getting to the station that early in the day. I told him I have a cab coming to pick me up.

Are you sure?”  he asks. “I can drive you if need me to.”

Not wanting to get in a car with a drunk man I’ve only met an hour ago, cute and charming as he was, I assured him I was fine. A few minutes later we all said our goodbyes, exchanged email addresses and Facebook information, and went our separate ways. My drunk Belgian asked again if I wanted a ride, and again I politely declined. He kissed me goodbye, and I headed back upstairs to pack up my bags.

At exactly 4:45, I was standing outside the hostel with my backpack and duffel bag full of tea and spices. I didn’t want to miss my cab so I went down super early. At 5:05, I feel the bile rise up my throat, my cab was still not there and nowhere in sight. Not wanting to miss my train, I started walking up the main street. I figured if my cab was late, he’d see me walking on the side of the road. Armed with nothing but a tourist map of Bruge, I tried to plot the most direct path to the train station. I miraculously made it out of the old city in less than 10 minutes, but still no cab in sight. According to my map, it should only be another 10 minute walk to the station. No biggie, I had 15 minutes to spare. So I walked, and I walked, and I walked some more. Five minutes before my train is to depart, I realized i was lost and had no one to ask for directions. Panicking, I started running towards where I thought the train station was.

A little while later, I did find myself outside the train station but on the other side of the highway. As I’m crossing the street, I hear the train pulling in. Oh shit! They stop for less than two minutes for passengers to disembark and get on.  With about 30lbs on my backpack and another 20lbs on my duffel bag, I sprinted towards the station, past the little coffee shops and up the escalator. Halfway up, I hear the train whistle go off, signaling that it was about to leave.

WAIT! WAIT FOR ME!!” I yelled as I tried to run as fast as I can with 50lbs of crap strapped to my body. “PLEASE WAIT!! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLEASE WAIT!!”

Mind you, this was at 5:30 in the morning on a Sunday, and I think they could hear me all the way to Amsterdam. Two seconds later, I see a head pop up on the top of the escalator. It was the train conductor checking to see if someone’s being murdered and flayed. When he saw me, he just laughed and told me to take my time. The train isn’t going anywhere without him, and he wasn’t going anywhere without me. When I got to the platform, he gently pulled my duffel bag off my back and led me to the first class compartment. He didn’t care that my ticket was for second class. When we got on the train, he signaled the engineer to go, he then led me to a seat in the middle of the car, and left before I could thank him. Five minutes later, he comes back with two cups of coffee and two muffins. He stayed and chatted with me until I had to get off and switch trains in Brussels an hour later.

He carried my duffel bag for me again, and as he left me on the platform, he gently reminded me that I only have 10 minutes before my onward train to Amsterdam arrives, and it’s best if I just stay on the platform to avoid missing it. No need to be running and screaming again he says. I laughed. He gave me a hug goodbye and a chocolate bar, and I thanked him.  What could have been the start of a very bad day ended up being one of the sweetest and nicest experience I had on that trip.


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