"We have only twenty minutes left to Brussels," I say, while a large piece of cookie is dropping out of my hand and dying somewhere under the driving seat. We have already left Amsterdam and Zandvoort behind on our Europe
Road Trip and are now roadtripping to Belgium. My boyfriend is looking at me. "How can that be possible? Why is everything so close in Europe?"
I explain to him that in Europe you can cross twenty countries, while at home in the USA you just got a cup of coffee on the same route. On the way, I had to point three times to the tiny blue EU sign with the yellow stars to state that we were just crossing a border again.
I'm about to conquer the next big city by car. I am only moderately excited after I have already survived the left-hand traffic in Dublin, the endless traffic jams of Los Angeles the hell of Naples in the past years. But I'm looking forward to Brussels.
I was there once in 2010 and can only remember that I was totally drunk - which didn't make the city any better.
Two days later we will fly to Copenhagen and from there travel on to the Ruhr Area in Germany where I grew up and live. Where our Tiny House is waiting for us. I'm excited. Also
because we will meet my family and friends then. Together for the first time.
But first I smash a Belgian waffle with cream on the street, cause public annoyance in a jazz café and die of fear of flying in a storm.
Sunrays are shimmering in a foggy way through the roof of the elegant passage. On the left the colourful packages of sweets, truffles and waffles are glowing behind mahogany-coloured wooden windows and on the right a shop with old globes, binoculars and ships attracts my attention. We have been in the old town of Brussels for two minutes, got diabetes and are totally blown away. I'm trying to remember why I disliked Brussels in 2010. Maybe because I was 19 and stupid.
A little bit later we enter the Grote Markt. I feel like I'm falling into a huge treasure chest of gold. All the buildings around the square are sparkling and surpass each other in their curved and majestic forms. "Wow. I mean, I've been to so many places all over the world. But this is one of the most beautiful squares I've ever seen!" my boyfriend says impressed.
We sit down for a moment before I throw my credit card down the Hard Rock Cafe's roaring throat to buy another t-shirt there. At some point I started collecting these rags from every important city in the world. I could probably survive a whole month without washing by now. And without stinking.
The Street Art in Brussels is particularly impressive. Incredibly creative motives ar decorating the entire Old Town. We even spot Bob Dylan on the wall of a record store.The smoke that comes out of his cigarette is forming the words of the lyrics of "Blowing in the Wind". At a different corner there is a figure holding a three-dimensional heart in its hand that grows out of the wall. And down at the canal, multicultural portraits with colorful glasses stare at us. Brussels is a fucking awesome city! Only surpassed by its food.
We are on the verge of robbing all the chocolate shops, but then decide to go for an original Belgian waffle. Which somehow isn't edible because the mountain of cream on top is too high to get it in the mouth. I try anyway and promptly drop a large piece with strawberries and chocolate sauce. My boyfriend and I look at each other for two seconds. Then I grin, pick it up from the street and eat it. "Thank God you did it. Otherwise I would have done it," he says. We're totally nuts!
The alarm goes off at 4 a.m. Of course the plane to Copenhagen takes off at a completely silly time again. I run halfway into a cupboard and am briefly shocked by the sight of a terrible-looking person who is, however, only my reflection. My boyfriend runs around annoyingly awake and keeps talking with an enormous anticipation. About something that I cannot process in any way because my brain is somewhere between REM sleep and savoy cabbage.
I only regain normal consciousness when we are already on the plane. We booked a budget flight in a plastic hell machine. A fantastic idea when you're afraid of flying. But then
again it doesn't matter whether you die in luxury or in the crap class. My boyfriend tries to cheer me up with technical details. While I nod monotonously and think about the
perfect moment when the wing will break off and what this lifejacket is good for when you crash into a mountain from 36.000 feet ahead.
We arrive in Copenhagen at 9 a.m. - alive. We throw my backpack into the luggage storage at the main station and admire the impressive building, which is a mixture of wild west architecture and Hogwarts. Fancy chandeliers are hanging from the rooftop. It's almost like in the Bronx!
It's drizzling and stormy outside. It is my very first time in Northern Europe and I'm happy that the cliché works: it's cold and pissing cats and dogs. My boyfriend thinks it is warm. Because it
is not minus 150 degrees like in Wyoming.
After that we are a bit disappointed, because the Tivoli - Copenhagen's big amusement park, comparable to the Prater in Vienna - is closed until April. We had planned on a murderous roller coaster and the freefall tower! I don't know why I'm saying this after what I just died mentally on that airplane. Maybe because I know that I'm falling on the Freefall Tower. And that it's intentional.
Close to the town hall square with its beautiful brick-coloured buildings and green-blue copper roofs, a giant statue of Hans Christian Andersen is on display. I'm thrilled and we're taking a picture of me sitting on his knee. Then I want to explain who Hans Christian Andersen is. But my boyfriend taps his forehead at me because, of course, he knows him. Because he's as much a European American as I am an American European. Then, unfortunately, it begins to rain more heavily and we entrench ourselves in the second floor of a large and cosy coffee house. There we share an awesome piece of chocolate cake and make travel plans. Because the first thing you do when you're traveling is making new travel plans! We talk about Peru and Ecuador, while outside the rain quietly drips down the high windows.
The weather only improves moderately in the coming days, but that doesn't stop us from ripping off 200 miles on foot through the city. We're going to the Little Mermaid because she's on my boyfriend's bucket list. From there we walk to Amalienburg Castle, Nyhaven and the Torvehallerne - one of the best food markets I have ever visited. We eat a fabulous pizza with crispy dough, wafer-thin potatoes, rosemary and goat cheese. I'm about to eat the table top, too, because the stuff tastes so incredibly good. The only thing keeping me from ordering another pizza is the horrendous food prices in Copenhagen. We decide to be fat and broke at the end of the trip.
The return flight a few days later is - again - accompanied by hurricane-like outgrowths. I briefly see the end of all days again - live and in color - as the plane slithers towards the runway in Charleroi. Then I say with a little shaky voice, "Fear will never be a reason for me not to do something!"
I look at the time. "It's time go. The interstates in Ruhr Area are... special," I say.
"Because in Germany you can drive as fast as you want," my boyfriend tells me proudly his knowledge about this country.
I can hardly hold back my laughter. "Yes. Especially on the A40," I say, very serious. THE traffic jam road in Germany par excellence.
We drive about an hour to the house of my grandparents, where we meet my dad, my grandpa and my uncle.
"Doomsday - all three at one time," my boyfriend jokes with a soft echo of anxiety in his voice. It'll be fun. He doesn't speak a word of German (except "Scheiße") and my family
only speaks very bad English. I decide to make the best out of it and simply translate unpleasant embarrassments wrongly or not at all. Or shout out loud "Scheiße!" and laugh.
But then everything comes differently than expected. My grandpa opens the door and brings the old corny joke "Hang yourself up!" right at the wardrobe. We're already laughing in the hallway.
Inside of the house is my dad, who seems to have taken an English crash course overnight. Which leads to my boyfriend saying out loud and for fun that I said my whole family was
old as the hills and about to leave the planet. Not knowing that my dad can understand him perfectly well. For the rest of the afternoon I am the nutcase who told bullshit about her
family. Luckily my grandpa wants to do a selfie with everyone right away, which distracts from the somewhat unfavourable story for me. Especially because my dad and my uncle spend 15
minutes handling the camera. Nobody knows what they are doing but they are pretty good and giving good advices the other one completely ignores. In the end, my grandpa stamps
into the basement to get the tripod, while we shout upstairs, "You don't have to get the tripod now!" Which, of course, my grandpa ignores. My boyfriend and I are close to tears of laughter. Then
he looks at me for a long time with his wonderfully mischievous smile. "Now I know why you are such a bullhead..."
At the end my dad and my boyfriend hug each other outside in the yard and I hear someone say "See you next time!" so I quickly yell "Then in the USA!"