In the space of 3 days I drive through many towns and cities after leaving Brugge, notably Maasiek and Ghent in Belgium, Selfkant and Cologne in Germany. The weather alternates between overcast/drizzling to sleet/snow. Not good for taking pics (there’s a limit to the number of moody cloud pics you can take), but when the weather clears my camera goes into overdrive. I have 3 days to fill before heading for the next engagement in Herscheid Germany. I take the time to reflect on the issues of life on the road.
Coffee The biggest daily challenge for this kiwi is to find good coffee. I don’t know what it is about the Europeans, but they simply have no concept of real coffee. Most offer filter coffee which has many of the required attributes (brown & wet), but lacks one basic ingredient: caffeine. Coffee without caffeine is like, well.. there is no adequate comparison. Maybe a horse without legs?
Driving on the wrong side of the road When I came to Europe in 2013 it took 3wks for my subconscious driver to accept going around a corner on the wrong side of the road, totally nerve-wracking and draining. In 2016 for the Eastern European Tour it lessened to 3 days to acclimatise. In 2017 for the Scandinavian Tour just one day. This year from the get-go I slotted back into it, like a hand fits a German glove.
Driving habits in Europe Europeans (and in particular Germans) are better drivers than kiwis. They have a lower road toll than us, and yet they can trust their drivers to drive at 200kph on some autobahns. How is this possible, and what can New Zealand learn from Germany? Driver training. A subject NEVER mentioned in NZ. We don’t train our young drivers, Germany does, requiring 40-100hrs of defensive driving prior to the licence. German drivers are polite, defensive, patient. Kiwi drivers are rude. aggressive, impatient. But we love our freedoms and until we mature enough to train our drivers we will continue to accept as normal the hundreds who die each year on the roads.
Accommodation When travelling between centres, I use Booking.com to scan the options. I look for the cheapest place (in a smaller town) and pay about 50€ for b&b (NZ$85), which night after night makes a dent in the wallet. The downside of the cheaper places is you never quite know what you are getting. Monday night turns out to be a Buddhist meditation centre. There are crystals everywhere and assorted paraphenalia. I hear the distant chant of om.. A song comes to mind: Should I Stay or Should I Go? I decide to stay, pray the covering of the blood of Jesus, and sleep well.
Alone My whole life has been characterised by time alone. In the early days, I would feel obligated to feel lonely. Now, as I age I see it simply as time alone with God. As I look back over my life I see the alone times as when I build my personal faith most, and where the bulk of my emotional healing is achieved. So alone, yes, but not lonely.