Europe 2017: Gent, Amsterdam, and Feeling Crappy

Posted by Mike Merritt in Travelogue on

Castle in Gent

Although my primary goal of this trip is riding the trains, one of the disadvantages of spending only a small amount of time in any given place is that when something happens, you now have even less time to explore that place than you did before.
Such was the case with this leg of the trip. It actually started on the second night in London when suddenly I was experiencing a nausea-like feeling from my stomach. I’m still not sure what it was – maybe a stomach acid thing – but fearing a stomach bug, it sent me back to my room rather than seek out food that night.

I would note that I was still transitioning to the time difference, travel fatigue and all, as well as having kind of pushed myself the first day to stay up, so that may have been part of it.

Regardless of the cause, I was able to get up and to the station for my Eurostar trip to Brussels.
Thinking that maybe the issue was lack of food, I grabbed some breakfast after passport control in St. Pancras. The train trip itself was indeed fast and uneventful. We passed through the Channel and into France and then Belgium.

Upon getting to Brussels, it was clear this stomach issue wasn’t going away. Still thinking it might be food-related, I found some lunch, and then pushed off to Gent, my destination in Belgium. After some previous discussions, it was clear there isn’t a whole lot to do in Brussels, anyway, so I’ll visit properly another time.

It wasn’t long to Gent, about 25 minutes. Once off the train, I found myself in a bit of a bind. I knew I had to take a tram to a street near the hostel, but it wasn’t immediately clear to me how to get a ticket. The machine only took certain coins and even after getting them, it still didn’t work. I finally was able to ask a waiting passenger if they sold tickets about – turns out the answer is yes.

Once I checked into the hostel, I was feeling better, so I took a walk around the old part of the city. It’s a nice area, with some thin streets, some wider ones, and even a castle and some churches. All in all, it’d be a nice place to stay for a few days and I will return.

Although I was able to walk a decent distance, my stomach had other plans, and I had to return to the hostel. I got a few hours sleep. I wasn’t happy about it but thought it better than getting ill. After waking, I thought I’d better get some food, so went to a nearby place. Nothing special – just some nuggets and fries. Something was definitely up, though, because my appetite was shot. I ate as much as I could and returned to the hostel.

One thing becoming apparent by that time was my constipation. It is unusual for me not to need the bathroom at least once per day, and with Crohn’s it’s usually more. I now wonder if that was part of the problem, perhaps in combination with crap food and not a lot of food. The next morning I was feeling better, so it was off to Gent station and to Amsterdam.

The trip itself was uneventful but the exact train routing was weird. I had to take three trains to get there, even though two of them would have gotten me to the required stations. Oh well.

Finally, I was there. No intra-city transport issues this time. I chose a hostel that is across the water from the station but is accessible by a free 24/7 ferry. Easy peasy. I was able to check I’m early and then went out exploring the city a bit.

Man, it was cold! Actually, it was in the low ’50s but with the wind, it felt at least 10 degrees colder. It was kind of bone chilling after a while. Still, I saw as much as I could and then returned, still not feeling 100%.

Unfortunately, Crohn’s is a cruel mistress and my previous day of no bathroom needs had caught up to me by the next day. It took me a while to get going, and I left my room too early against my better judgment, but a had purchased a canal tour and also hoped to take a walking tour.

Canal house

Unfortunately, the canal tour wasn’t exactly as great as I’d hoped. There wasn’t a whole lot of lecture on the city itself, and what was there was pre-recorded. Guess I’ll with someone else next time. There was a half hour stop in the tour (it was a hop on hop off type) and I explored a bit more.

By the time the tour returned to its starting point, the departure for the walking tour had long passed! Not their fault because of my late start, but a bummer anyway.

Making matters worse, I needed a bathroom pronto, so I had to return to the hostel. I think a combination of food that causes me Crohn’s issues, the “good” bathroom day in Gent, and some stress from trying to find the damn boat (canal tours in Amsterdam are a hopping industry) contributed. I never did feel quite comfortable leaving again after that. So I had dinner at the hostel –  a pretty decent pasta meal with a light sauce and veggies. By the time I felt better enough that I could have left, it was night and I wanted sleep for the next day.

I’m not too bummed over losing time in Amsterdam. A future trip to Europe will take a more route further east than this one, with the start likely in Amsterdam since plane tickets there can usually be had for a good price. So I’ll be back.

The next morning I got to the station easily and am now on my way to Bonn and the Rhine valley. I’ll be basing myself in that city and likey visiting Cologne as well, since it’s about 20 minutes away by train.

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