Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Trip dist: 51 kms. Trip time: 3 hrs, 26 min. Tot dist: 4,023 kms.

Celebrations IV.

Hmm...would've liked to have arrived here yesterday. Then the 4000th kilometer would've come very close to being right after crossing the border (no such luck due to the 30 km roundabout of yesterday), and it would've coincided with my brother's birthday, this last one, I think, a sign from the gods, and therefore a fine opportunity to send him a special gift (and hopefully he'll think to bring a bike along!).

Anway, the ride was all uphill, but pretty, especially Belgium right after Liège (Liège iself is very industrial and not particularly picturesque, in fact, it ails with all the ills of any modern city, and the industrial feel and the red brick 3-story houses reminded me a lot of Bristol. I don't think I'd like to live here), because what happens is that you climb up a hill chain, and then ride along the ridge, so that you can see the fields and villages below on the left (north) side, and the sea of green of the other fields on the right (south) side (for a quick movie panorama check here).

And, as you can tell from the picture above (again taken approx 1 km inside the new country), I couldn't find border crossing indications today, either. That's a good thing, though, right? One Europe and all that. Harmony and brotherhood blah blah blah, etc? The only way I could tell I was in Germany was that suddenly all the restaurant signs were in German and no longer in French.

Funny, I think whenever one learns new languages after you're about 16 or so, they end up being stored in the same "section" in the brain. When learning French for this trip, for instance, I kept trying to conjugate the verbs in German, but by now I've grown comfortable enough with French that by the time I got to the Youth Hostel in Aachen I kept trying to ask for things in French instead, even though my German, after having studied it for 2 years in University and having worked for over 2 months in Switzerland, is perfectly good enough for simple things like that. The cute receptionist was a sweetie, simply smiling discreetly whenever I said: "S'il vous pl...er, Bitte." or "Oui, nein, Ja!", while my head kept screaming at me: "Es ist auf Deutsch, du Dummkopf!".

Funny, too, clearly I'm thinking things in French first as well (not in Spanish or English or my other native tongue, all of which are, of course, far more fluent and were the base languages from which both French and German were learned), for at the tourist office when I asked for a city plan and the location of the nearest internet cafes in German (or what I thought was decent German), in spite of my desperate efforts to get my brain to "switch" languages once and for all, some word or another must've crept in, a random "oui" here, or a distracted "merci", or "plan de la ville" instead of "Stadtkarte", for after patiently listening to me, the tourist office clerk promptly came back with a city guide for me....in French.

Ha ha!


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