Day 1 - 8th of December

8.00 am. We met by the white horse in front of the train station. Does the white horse wish us luck? Is that why it is there? 

The plan is to go to Brussels via Rotterdam. We departed at around 9:20.

Inside, everyone gathers and trade stories between one another. The funny thing is that most do not know each other that well as of yet, however, being stuck inside a tube for a couple of hours usually remedies that.We reminisced about this year’s Sinterklaas, or Sibterklaas. How it looked like a fever dream to those of us not used to Dutch traditions. Even now, some of us feel we’re being pursued by Gonks, ever since Kian decided to show them to everyone in the midst of the celebration chaos. Thanks to that party, every Sibling now has a chance of mentioning gonks to criminal detectives when asked who our enemies could be.

Eef mentioned how the board went to the Hague yesterday. They were invited by the board of recommendation to visit a bunch of politicians, and ambassadors and “other fancy people”. They went to a society club for a presentation about the prohibition of chemical weapons, hosted by the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons). Eef even mentioned how they met with an ex-military officer. Ex, ever since he bombed one Syrian village too many. The board couldn’t join these fancy people for dinner, sadly. 

It is 10:00 am now. We get yet another reminder for the Christmas dinner that is to happen next Monday. 

We still have 4 hours to go. We are already divided between the different types of activities we intend to do during the trip: a section of seats is sleeping, another is talking and another is reading and listening to music. I reckon these divisions say something about our personalities. Can personalities change depending on who you sit with inside a train? If yes, for how long?

We discussed Tralee, the hometown of Kian. This is one of my favorite parts, as an international, living in a city filled with other international students. People here tend to come from really different places, have different backgrounds, have different perspectives. It is simply beautiful to meet someone from a town in the middle of the Netherlands or Ireland and imagine how living there would be like. What would Kees from Haren be like if he had been from Tralee? How would Steven from Delfzijl be had he been born in Lisboa? Quentin Tarantino once mentioned that he enjoys how people can imagine the backstories behind every character from his movies for themselves, effectively creating 7.837 billion different versions of Kill Bill.

10:30 and Eef already crushed my dreams. We passed by Zwolle’s Dinoland and she informed us that it is “very shitty”. Distraught, I keep writing, though now with a tear on my cheek that will forever scar me. 

It’s almost 11:00 and several young military looking guys entered our train. I wonder what are they up to? 

My section of seats, the talkative one, had a back and forth of hand gestures (the kind ones) with someone in another train passing by ours. I wonder where they are going, I wonder what a day in their shoes would be like. Do they have a dog they love and cherish? Do they have issues with their parents or friends? I’m going to call mine right now to make sure they are okay. I advise you to do the same if you haven’t in a few days. Before that, I ask that you ponder what changed in their perspectives of the world because they know you. And how they did the same to you. 

Me and Steven had a great discussion about politics, history, economics and democracy. The talkative section suddenly became the sleeping section, besides Steven and I, of course. 

12:00, I met Estela, a fellow sibling from Lithuania. Both of us studying economics, we had lots in common. At some point I asked “What do you want to do when you grow up?” to which she replied “Well, I want to work for someone else. Amass my own capital. And then have someone else work for me”. The wittiness of this answer can’t be understated. It is in fact, the funniest thing I have ever heard when one refers to future employment prospects. 

12:30 We arrive at Breda station. We are on the last stretch to Brussels. It has been an enjoyable voyage so far. The traditions of every SIB event in Groningen are still being held, despite us being on the other side of the country: people are chatting, either about gossip and/or about intellectual topics, everyone is having a good time and the vibe is superb. 

2:20 pm, after an uneventful rest of the train ride, we made it to the train station called Midi.

It was a nice journey. Everyone was trying to sleep at the end. Now, onto the hotel. Hold on, what’s this? Someone is giving free ice tea inside the station? Nice way to start our rest of the day!

We got out of the train station, and we can already smell the iconic smell of urine present in every major city. Reaching the nearby metro station and we see a scary number of beds for homeless people, some of them are occupied. 

In a crammed tram, we made it to the hotel Meininger on the border of Molenbeek neighborhood that, according to the historians in our group, was filled with migrants and left to their devices, who then created a “terrorist training camp” that led to the attacks in Paris back in 2014/15. On the way I saw many unmatched buildings, more homeless people but also someone jogging. He was fully dressed though, so he probably was just late for something. That or he was running from something. Or someone.

In front of the Meringer Hotel, it was time to decide who goes to which room, we were presented with the 3 rooms just for us, and 2 that had to be shared with random people. I then found out that the board had already taken the executive decision to have a whole room just for themselves, leaving the rest of us to fight for the other 2 rooms for SIB members only. I found this an outrageous abuse of power! They said they need it to “prepare the rest of the trip” and to “wake up early”. Shameful. Everyone was assigned their rooms and there were no more complaining or threats to overthrow anyone.


4:00 After dropping off our baggage, some of us went to the a square 5 minutes by walking away, filled with food shops in front of this beautiful white church. Me and Steven decided to buy ourselves a blueberry beer. It’s quite good! It was also a nice relaxing moment between all of us. We’re now waiting for waffles.

After a pretty good afternoon snack, we joined the rest of the siblings to do a city tour. We passed by a massive cathedral and several Christmas markets in front of the Bourse de Bruxelles. There were also a notable amount of religious buildings and towers scattered around  the city, especially in Rue au Beurre, a street we passed through at around 5:00 pm.


It lead to a massive square, the Grand Place, at least 1.5 times bigger than Grote Markt back in Grunn. It had a huge tree in the middle, filled with Christmas lights, surrounded by massive beautiful buildings sprayed by an ever changing pallet of bright colors. Accompanying this spectacle, there was this amazing jumble of sounds, composed of singing that sounded as if it was from Angola or Mozambique, Australian didgeridoos as well as an extraordinary set of chimes that set this mythical and fantastical vibe to the whole square. I struggle to put it into words.

We took our merry time here. Enjoying the light show, the music and the vibes. It was really good timing from our navigators’ part. Almost as if it was planned from the beginning… After a while, we decided to keep going with our sightseeing. There was still plenty more that this city had to offer. 

At around 5:30 we went over, get this, a hill!! The piece of walkable ground that has a change in its height along its course, only present in legends told by internationals to scare the Dutch.

After a comical realization of what we just achieved, Aria gave us an actual tour, by leading us to several historical places and informing us about several facts regarding our surroundings. These included the Mont d’Arc and the aforementioned Grande Place square.

Minjae and Annemijn tried to break the record of highest swing in a swingset in the middle of the square in front of the Mont d’arc. We all like to believe they succeeded in doing so.

We then stumbled upon another square, massive as well, yet it had cars all over it, busily passing through the square to hopefully reach their loved ones. 

We stood what felt like an hour next to this waffle food truck that had an accordion player in front playing relatively well, despite repetitively, the music of Bella Ciao. Me and Florentyna shared a little dance while we waited. The board took their time making sure everyone had a waffle, maybe to compensate for the fact that they took one of the rooms for themselves. 

5:50 Aria led us to the massive royal palace, which is right in front of an impressive park, where a castle once was.

We stood what felt like an hour next to this waffle food truck that had an accordion player in front playing relatively well, despite repetitively, the music of Bella Ciao. Me and Florentyna shared a little dance while we waited. The board took their time making sure everyone had a waffle, maybe to compensate for the fact that they took one of the rooms for themselves. 

5:50 Aria led us to the massive royal palace, which is right in front of an impressive park, where a castle once was.

Everything in this city is massive. It being full of people helps avoid the sense of emptiness that could easily be felt otherwise.

6:00 and we kept going. We passed through rue de Namur, a very nice street filled with stores of (we just passed by a random gonk inside of the stores!) different kinds. Every one of them looked superb and full of life and care. A recommendation for those looking to buy things in the city.

We keep walking and walking, passing by thousands of people who were either walking by or in their automobiles. Everyone of them has a story. Everyone has something in their minds; everyone is either running from something, heading somewhere, or a bit of both. As a kid, I loved looking at people, wondering what amazing things they could tell me about worlds I could never live in. As I grow older, and experience the sourness in life, I begin to split the attention I give to people between the sweet and the sour, as i think what good and what not so good has affected them. It is… Interesting, that we have both good and bad times. Without one, we wouldn’t know the other. 

6:35 We kept going through the city, as we heard Aria tell us all about  The court building, Palais de Justice and the Church of our Lady of Victories. Afterwards, everyone started demonstrating how tired they had gotten. However, there was one last stop!

The Little pissing boy, who has been here for centuries, was dressed every so often to celebrate certain events and was stolen at least once. It represents the semi sarcastic humor of the Belgian people.

Some of this humor is seen in the prices in this town. Everything is, surprisingly, a bit more expensive than in Groningen. Yes, it is a capital city, and yes, it is visited by loads of tourists, but  this damn restaurant we went to didn’t get me any tap water for free!! Why?? “Oh no, we can’t give less than a cent worth of water to the guy who just paid 14 euros for a ramen with mediocre broth and terrible tofu!!”. The place looked nice, though, and everyone I was with seemed to enjoy parts of their dishes. No one even complained about their hot sake.

I was fairly tired, so, even though most went out for a night in the city, I decided to take my leave, passing by the Christmas market in front of the Bourse de Bruxelles.

When I got home I decided to buy some things for tomorrow, and all I could find was a packet of nuts that cost me 5 euros. Thankfully, I was accompanied by a Japanese girl named Airi (あいり), a roommate from the room I was staying in who was kind enough to join me on a 9:30 pm stroll in the streets of Brussels. This goes to show one of the best parts about international travel: meeting other travelers who really enjoy meeting new people. 

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