The Eurail pass was a big, fat fail. If they’re going to advertise that bikes are welcome on trains, they should let the Dutch know.
Just before 10:00, I arrived at Centraalstation, ready to activate my pass, pay the small fee I knew was required for my bike, and set off for Brugges.
After getting barked at for attempting to bring my bike into the ticketing area, I stuffed it between two other poorly parked cycles across the street and tried again.
Activating the pass was simple enough, but when I told the ticketing agent my bike was coming too, he shook his head disapprovingly and told me that’s a separate fare. “Uh, yeah, I get that. That’s why I told you I’m bringing a bike.”
15€ later I was sent to retrieve my wheels and line up at platform 15a.
Just before the train arrived I was curtly told bikes weren’t allowed on that particular line. I would have to take the less popular one that leaves from Platform 2. It stops more often, but would still get me to Brugges… eventually.
On my retreat to the other end of the station, I stopped for a second opinion, and was told that actually the best train for my voyage left almost immediately, from 14a. Lovely sprint back, that was.
I got as far as Roosendaal, just north of the Belgian border, far later than originally planned. Eventually I boarded the sad, stuffy little train to Antwerp and that’s where I am now, enjoying a Belgian Gruut (a style that employs herbs instead of hops).
The Belgian train folk didn’t care that I had a bike. In fact, nary an eyelash batted when my 12-speed rolled up and down escalators through this architectural beauty. Unfortunately I was again sent to the wrong train, and only a quick chat with fellow cyclists saved me from a peddling adventure through the North of Belgium.
Making matters worse, I had barely eaten. In the 24 hours prior to boarding, this morning, no solid food had passed my lips. I thought about it, and had both money and a protein bar with me at all times, but really I was never hungry… until about The Hague.
I’ve since consumed a Clif Bar (they should be sponsoring this trip) an apple and a two Smurf-sized bowls of pretzels, complements of the bartender in front of me.
Resigned as I now am to missing Brugges, I have to say Antwerpen is beautiful (at least the two blocks nearest the train station).
I’m a little pissed to miss Brugges, of course, but the rail staff here seem just as schedule-dyslexic as their cousins to the North. Last I heard, I would have had to dip south through Brussels, then change again to get to my intended destination.
Tomorrow I say “Fuck You, rail pass (unless weather or mechanics fail me, in which case I don’t really blame you, rail pass, just the fools behind the windows).” I’m riding to Brussels in the morning, for three days of Belgian Beer Weekend, and a VIP pass provided by this Guy, from McClelland Premium Imports.
From there, I don’t really know yet, but I’m praying my legs can power the rest of my travels through this small, flat, region of the continent.
My Beercycling Hosts have been amazingly generous, supplying me with a detail of beer-driven places to drink in Brugges and Ghent (even though I only paid for a 3-day, self-guided tour through Holland). I’ll save that list for next year, when I’ll either I pick a rail pass OR a bike. Probably the latter.