Our time in Cologne was over too quickly, but we had a train booked for Belgium so we had no choice but to pack our stuff up and make our way to the train station.
There’s a bus that goes from the hotel to the train station, but it wasn’t really that far to walk, and with all the stuff to look at along the way it seems even less of a distance. So my dear boyfriend had the joy of pulling the suitcase along the cobbled streets of the city. We made our way through the Christmas markets before arriving at the cathedral about an hour before our train. As the station is just the other side of the cathedral, we decided we’d have time to do a bit of shopping for our families. After the stollen fiasco of the night before, we decided to make our way to a supermarket we’d spotted the night before on our walk from Neumarkt.
Turns out the supermarket was quite far from the station, and it must have just registered that we’d seen a supermarket the night before, instead of us realising how far away it was. Must have been the epic downpour of rain that distracted us! Regardless, the further we walked away from the station the more concerned I became that we’d miss our train because we were looking for cakes. Just as we were about to call it a day and head back to the station, I spotted a supermarket down a side street! We quickly nipped in and found 3 stollen logs and a few more packets of my favourite gravy, and then finally made our way back to the station via a pretty church!
We made it with time to spare (thankfully) so grabbed some food for the journey. I love that it’s so acceptable in Germany to just eat bread. It doesn’t need to be made into a sandwich, or have anything on it, it’s totally fine to just eat the bread. When I do this in England, I get a few funny looks as it’s common practice here to use the bread as a base for a sandwich, toast, or other bread-based dish. Me, I love to just eat bread. So for the train I bought a Käse Seele, which is basically a cheese loaf, as well as a ham sandwich (my favourite!), a frickadellen sandwich and a weird yet delicious cake. It was a lot of food, but we had a 3 hour journey to conquer!
As we settled onto the train, I was amazed at how comfortable it is. We had the same worry of ‘are we on the right section’ as before, but thankfully we had allocated seating so we couldn’t go far wrong! After just a couple of hours we arrived in Brussels, and attempted to find our way to the train for Bruges.
Brussels Midi station is a maze, and after joining what seemed like a million different queues, we finally found the longest one to stand in to buy tickets for the train from Brussels to Bruges. There are standalone machines, but they’re cash only and we barely had enough change to use the toilet let alone buy two train tickets. Once we’d finally got to the front of the queue, I was a bit nervous about the language barrier. I can get by on German, and I can get by with Spanish, but these people were speaking French! I thought Belgian was a mish mash of Flemish, French and German, yet I had no idea what was going on.
The lovely ticket lady got the gist and we had our tickets. My boyfriend had the sense to ask if she knew which platform we should aim for, and she told us the train was leaving in 4 minutes! Luckily for us, the platform was the one closest to the ticket office, and we had just enough time to get there. The train leaves every half an hour, meaning we’d have had a long wait if we missed the train, so rushed to the platform. As we made it on to the platform, my heart skipped a beat. Anyone who has read my previous posts might be aware of my odd fascination with double decker trains. And right in front of us was…a double decker train! I couldn’t have been more excited, and we quickly checked that this was the right train for us before jumping on. Oh, but wait, it wasn’t going to the same place we were. That’s right…not for us!! How could I come so close, and miss it again!
It was in fact lucky we’d checked this was the right train, as we were on the brink of just getting on, and I have no idea where we’d have ended up. As it pulled away, our ordinary single decker train pulled up, and we enjoyed a comfortable hour-long journey to the lovely city of Bruges. And then for our next challenge – how to get from the station to the city centre?
We must have stood at the bus stop for about 15 minutes as I tried to work out which bus we needed. I even tried to eavesdrop to some English tourists to see which bus they were getting, and just hope they were going to the same-ish area as us, but to no avail. Eventually I decided we just had to get on a bus that was going in the direction I thought was right and deal with the consequences once we got to the other end. Of course, I pretended to my boyfriend that I knew this was the right bus – it’s not fun otherwise! One thing they don’t do on Belgian buses is tell you the stops coming up, or even the one you are stopped at.
So as we journeyed along, the bus kept stopping and I had no idea where we were! I knew we were staying by the Grote Markt, but there are a few squares in Bruges and they all look the same as you speed past on a bus! I was starting to get worried we’d be on the bus all the way back to the bus station, so at the next stop I attempted to ask the elderly couple sitting opposite us. Turns out they had no English, but Grote Markt prompted a smile and the gentleman held up 1 finger to me (not like that) as they departed at the next stop. Only hoping that meant one more stop instead of a weird Belgian wave, we jumped off at the next stop, and hallelujah we were about 10 metres from our hotel!
All checked in, we had a lovely, modern room in what seemed to be a fantastic location! We weren’t in Bruges long, so decided to explore the city and see what was on offer.