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Travelogue A8

May 14, 2014

As my footsteps carried me across morning flagstone and concrete to the train station to leave Brussels and continue on, I took note of a message spelled out on the pavement in brick, “Pourquoi les autres viennent-ils?”, which I had read the night previous, in something of a hurry, as “les arbres”. This message on others or trees, in function of my different readings, brought to mind still others, for the city of Brussels is full of such queries or tenets to be imparted to its visitors. Perhaps this is precisely the reason why those others come and, in response to the question of the hotel wall, why those same others leave to return home. For home is precisely that place where all questions are answered and all tenets known beforehand.

One of the more interesting dicta that I came across in my there remains a message from the ghost of Darwin. Blazoned on some other wall still, in red paint if I recall aright, the text read: “Charle Darwin dit: Ce n’est pas les plus forts qui survivent mais ceux sont plus aptes à changer”. With a hint of amusement, I noted that this capacity for change included Charles as well who, in an effort to blend in better with his Brusselian surroundings, had quite ingeniously, if erroneously, thrown off his name-final, birth “s” to become “Charle”, perhaps thinking the transformation to be inversely analogous to that wrought on the name “George” and “Georges” between English and French. This reflection and a swift tour of the Musées des instruments de musique carried me all the way to Bruxelles-Central where, following a brief wait, I boarded a train bound for Bruges.

The journey by train was not without incident, for, rather than boarding the express train, I had taken the local. Consequently, my journey had doubled in length, and I was greeted with three hours worth of Belgian countryside instead of the one and half that I had been promised. Yet it was not all for nought, leaving ample time for watching green hills and hills, if not whip by, at least pass at a goodly clip. So it was that I remarked that the local Belgian trains hold one advantage over their high-speed counterparts in that a particular tint is applied to all the windows. This wondrous compound drains all colour and life from the surroundings, rendering it all a general grey drear, peculiar to the mental image of the Belgian landscape that I had dreamt up before leaving northeastern France. To find this shade reproduced here sent a shiver through me.

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