A VERY LONG ROAD
We arrived at the port of Zeebrugge at around about 11.00 p.m. British time/00.00 European time – a new time zone…oooweee - and disembarked. A courier from European Express collected us and shepherded us to the new coach. We jammed our cases into the open luggage compartments of the coach and then jammed ourselves into the seats and finally jammed the remaining bag and guitar case between our knees. The bus set off, slowly navigating through the narrow streets of Zeebrugge town. It is a measure of my lack of travelling outside the British Isles if I say that Belgium, where we now were, seemed to me deliriously exotic.
I didn’t realise it at the time but Belgium is not exotic. In fact it is just totally boring and it lulled me to sleep as it always does. So I was unaware of passing Brussels and later Luttich and climbing the steep hill afterwards which leads to the route into Germany.
We came to the border and had to wake up to show our passports to the German border police and soon after I got my first view of Germany. It must have been about 4 in the morning in the very beginnings of dawn and I just happened to open my eyes and look out of the window to the left. And there it was – this enormous…building, a huge thing with cooling towers belching out steam; with hundreds of lights glistening on its sides. A massive edifice -like some alien artifact on a forbidden planet - sitting there near the side of the motorway dominating the horizon and spewing out power. It seemed to say, “THIS is a German power station and this is what Germany in the middle of its economic miracle is all about, mate. Power…pure power so don’t fuck about while you are here.”
It left me feeling hugely impressed and slightly uneasy (I have since passed that power station hundreds of times driving to and from England but it never ceases to impress me. On one occasion I was even taken there by the police who wanted to weigh the...hmmm, well, slightly overweight back axel of the van I was driving. There was a weighbridge in front of the edifice and while the police were busy ripping me off with a fine I am sure they just pocketed, I took the opportunity to gaze up at the mighty splendour of the huge structure).
It slowly sank beyond the horizon and I then started to notice the signs on the right of the motorway – Ausfahrt. What a brilliant language! How did they know that after the beer in London and another on the ferry and the cup of “coffee” and biscuits in Belgium that they were dead right with these signs…the wind was really starting to build up in my gut and I would gratefully Ausfahrt-ed quite regularly. I assumed that these signs were for drivers travelling alone who could poop in peace without gassing anyone.
Germany in the hands of European Express just turned out to be one very long road which we bombed along all morning until in the early afternoon we saw mountains which looked suspiciously like certain hills which once had been alive with the sound of music.
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