A mere 150km away from Rotterdam was Verviers and I am in love with this ancient city – a quiet place with a relaxing atmosphere, especially at night. Situated on hills, this tiny city has the calmest feel to it and if you stand on any one of the multitude of hills, you’ll see layers and layers of glowing lights above the city. Descending and ascending layers of lights mark the uneven contours of the city, giving it a beautiful yellow hue. A delicate breeze gently flows atop the hills, calmly caressing your face as you stand there in awe. I stood on a hill at 3 in the morning and observed the tranquility of the place, its empty lit streets, its dark sky, its few flickering stars, the array of lights hovering in the distant, its houses and above all, its stillness.
I also visited the neighboring French-speaking town of Liege, about 22km from Verviers and Aachen, Germany, about 30km. After that I drove to Brussels, another 130km. I have a few pictures of Brussels but unfortunately my battery has died out on the camera and I don’t have a travel adapter. I will hopefully upload them as soon as I get to London. My trip has then taken me a few times back and forth to Lille, Roubaix and one visit to Paris and then finally back to my little Kortrijk.
On my return, I met an old Englishman by the name of Tom. A tall, lean figure from Exeter, Southwest of England, who was remarkably agile despite his ageing face and who, along with his family, came to cheer his son in the Cycle Race. He too, as I noticed, was quite pleased to meet me;
“Do you know how many people took part in the race yesterday?” he asked enthusiastically in a rather posh accent, after becoming acquainted with a few formal greetings.
“How many?”” I asked
“17,000!” replied he emphasizing the figure and then passionately told me about his son’s participation in the race. He was a nice chap – a genuinely nice person with an amiable character.
This all happened when I was returning the rental back to Hertz. The location was somewhere far out of Kortrijk and no bus routes either. Having returned the car, we had to walk back about 20km back to Kortrijk. A rather exhilarating walk I must admit, though very long, with pleasant views of the countryside and our only companions were the few cars that zoomed past every few minutes or so and the horse riders on the fields giving us curious looks. The Englishman was kind enough to give us a number of a cab but unfortunately there was no telephone box in sight!
It seems very strange doesn’t it? There are people whom you would never speak to or even greet in London or anywhere in the UK even if they crossed your path a gazillion times, but once outside your territory that perception is soon changed. The person that you wouldn’t have ever greeted on the streets of London now becomes something dear outside – you soon develop a mutual connection and an understanding that stems from you being from the same part of the world and laying claim to the same residential territory. Perhaps Mr. Tom wouldn’t even have had the opportunity to talk to a young black man on the streets of Exeter, but in a far away land there seems to be in place some commonality of language and territory.
I must admit though, I did play the game too. You know, “Spot the Somali” game! They have a tendency to stare at you, as if expecting an acknowledgement of some sort or are they simply trying to figure out what clan or sub-clan you belong to from the mere looks of you? Whatever it was, I duly rewarded them with a nod and a greeting here and there to the elders.
That’s it from my trip and though I didn’t take as many pictures as I would have loved to or visited many places, I return this evening to London. Hopefully my planned trip to Somalia this coming summer will be more eventful and I will make sure I record every intrinsic detail of it.