Crossing borderlines

11. Juli 2015 § Hinterlasse einen Kommentar


Kein Tollhaus, nur ein altes Zollhaus

On this trip, we have crossed borders too many times to count. We cycled in and out of France, Germany, Luxemburg, Belgium and the Netherlands, spreading our accommodation euros evenly, sometimes lying in the lap of luxury, sometimes sleeping happily in simple digs (as I did just now in a tiny B&B room, which is quite obviously the abandoned boy’s den complete with airplane models and a microwave for late-night pop corn). We hardly ever noticed when we crossed any of the old lines which once were the butt of conflict and havoc.If there every was a reason for folding down border controls and toll houses, here it is in this part of Europe, where we cycled past places with such emblematic names as Strasbourg, Schengen and Maastricht.

Once, though, I had to call out my indignation at a less than friendly welcome. I won’t name the place, but it was just inside Belgium. The afternoon turned red-hot, and we couldn’t resist that shaded restaurant terrace. There was a sign out that said no food would be served outdoors, but the small menu promised apple tart with vanilla ice cream. So we ordered two portions, and two jus de pamplemousse. My friend asked for some ice, as usual, to be sure. The burly waiter, who was the owner of the rather classy-looking etablissement, replied sourly that the drinks were as cold as they could be because he kept them in the fridge. We should be happy that we got something to eat. He seemed to regret having put the dessert on the menu. But it was delicious and we said so. He mumbled something in German.

We stayed on for a bit because of the heat. Reto ordered coffee, with milk as hot as possible. This was a mistake, and the man got a bit more upset, shouthing between clenched teeth that it was the machine that made the coffee. If it wasn’t hot enough, (dot, dot, dot).

The ultimate explosion happened after five more minutes. The heat was so oppressive and we were kind of reluctant to cycle on, that I dozed off, sitting upright in my chair, head lolling to this side and that side of the border.

Reto, always quick to make himself comfortable, laid down his head on a chair cushion that he had put on the table. I knew what would be coming. „Das gehört sich nicht!“ The poor man who had just done good business with us shouted, ran in, wrote out the bill and kicked us out. Some other guests looked on with sympathy and reassured us that not all Belgians were like this. I wanted to pay up the odd cents with small coins, but that got him even more outraged: „Kein braunes Geld“.

He had no idea that we had half-seriously considered staying at his hotel overnight when we arrived because of the heat. That was obviously out of the question now. We might have dirtied his linen!


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