My first few days in Kortrijk were, of course, with some relatives. But the time for pleasantries was quickly over and my intention was to discover as much of Belgium as I could before I left. So the morning came, bright and warm, bringing along with it a pleasant Belgian breeze, and I started my walks in the city.
The best way to discover any place is by walking through it, from one end to the other. But since this was impossible, given the time constraint and the immensity of this little city, I walked through much of Kortrijk . Several mazes of streets – narrow, dusty-looking, brick layered streets – sprung from every corner, one after the other, each street featuring its own set of antiquated shops and flower stalls which sent sweet scents wafting through the streets. As if public announcements were a regular thing, loudspeakers were mounted on the walls, between every three or four shops, releasing non-stop voices of men and women into the air. This reminded me of George Orwell’s 1984 somehow, where constant orders were shouted over the Telescreen. At some point I was half-expecting to hear the words “Attention! Attention!” through the loudspeakers, but perhaps even that would have been indiscernible by me. The country is linguistically challenged and has adopted the languages of its neighbouring countries – French and Dutch are the main languages spoken here.
Sets of apartments, adjoined at the sides as if leaning on one another for support, stood adjacent to the city centre, some slightly slanted and dull, displaying years of solitude and neglect, some standing tall. Nearly all the apartments were of equal height and resembled each other, and on the ground floor, the shops took their place. There Pakistani man was busy stacking up his stock outside the shops. And the few black faces I saw stood huddled around a table at a coffee house, engrossed in their conversations. As I passed by them, they turned around, particularly an ageing man wearing a grey suit with a matching Kappa hat – the sort that Samuel L Jackson wears. Maybe he expected a formal greeting, but we shared a short moment of unspoken exchange of greetings, as I expressed my silent reverence. Nearly all the flats stood surrounding the city centre, with a few exceptions of flats that have skidded off the path. Narrow roads left the city centre, leading to the outskirts of the city. After a few irregular traffic lights that always go directly from red to green, and you’d come to open roads – either leading to the Motorway or to the farm houses of Kortijk.
Having familiarized myself with my surroundings, with the help of a relatives, I’ve decided to brave it and rent a car. But after travelling throughout Kortrijk, I couldn’t find a place to rent a car. When I finally did find Lux Autos, I sadly left without the car, as they were out of stock. This led to another exhausting search for a car rental company. We finally did find, much to my delight, Avis, a few kilometres down the road from Lux Autos. I was rather excited by the presence of something familiar in this city, and the opportunity presented by Avis, I thought, was grand. Unfortunately, they too declined me due to the minimum age requirement of 25 which i failed to meet. I’ve travelled far and wide into every corner of Kortrijk but still couldn’t find a car to rent. A generous man pointed us towards the direction of Hertz, about 20km from where we were and thats where finally our efforts paid off!
A limit of 4000km (they use km instead of Miles) is imposed on the car, and i intend to return it just 10km short of that!
I am off to discover more of Belgium and the Netherlands! see you there…