Times Case Travel Blog
Belgium is like the Netherlands but organised by the French
After a 5 hour train journey, and a short meeting with one of last years winners, we arrived into the ‘ordered’ chaos called Estiem Brussels. But after 20L of La Chouffe, how much order can be left? As a promising start, the beer tank was empty as soon as we tried to get a taste of our first Belgian beer. After a short night of going out and enjoying some Goldstrike, it was time for bed. Not without an emotional goodbye to Casper, the lucky victim sleeping in his own private room with a missing host. Luckily Casper was able to drop his luggage in a gray car described as ‘an apple green car’ later driven by Alex and Egbert’s drunk host.
For Egbert and Alex, it was a relaxing night on a freshly washed and still moist bed. On the background acoustic whale sounds from a puking Turkish guy as well as the relaxing sound of Egbert chopping down multiple trees in his sleep. One additional benefit, windows do not have blinders so Brussels night light could enter the room all night.
For Casper, the day started with a surprise. A total stranger had crashed on the couch of his host. Speaking about his host, her whereabouts are still unknown.
For Egbert and Alex, it was a cozy and intimate awakening on their ‘twijfelaar’. For non-Dutchies; small bed, good if you’re sleeping with your girlfriend, not so good otherwise.
After being reunited with Casper on campus, it was time for some lovely breakfast. Everyone had appetite for some coffee and a few pastries. What a shame that our Belgian hosts amazed us again by creating a weirdly tasting tea-like beverage from a coffee machine. Note to self: tomorrow we buy our own breakfast (spoiler: we forgot).
The programme for the day was simple, a short presentation followed by a tour of the European Parliament and a tour of Brussels afterwards. However, planning is not one of the strong points of Belgians. We were supposed to be at some lunch location around 12. We arrived at the European Parliament at 12. Somehow, the day started with a 2-hour delay.
The lunch was a local specialty called: Croque Monsieur, aka tosti. Our Belgian friends do know how to make those, lunch be bussing fr fr no cap. However, the promising start of the afternoon offered by the lunch quickly turned into the (by now usual) sense of disappointment. After waiting for what felt like eternity until some Swedish guys finished their last tosti, Egbert and Alex resorted to drinking very cheap beer in a ‘Lugus Lounge on steroids’.
As soon as we arrived in the city centre, we started looking for options to accidentally lose the group. Close to the Groote Markt we had our first break-away attempt, but we were caught in the process by our hosts. Our second attempt was successful, and we quickly disappeared in some of the smaller streets of Brussels. In one corner we saw a small kid pissing, apparently Belgians think that is so special they even made a statue out of it. Again, Belgians are weird.
As we thought our first escape attempt wasn’t enough of a challenge, we found a VR Escape Room. This was nice.
Before the dinner Casper and Egbert tried to play beer-pong with a bottle cap. This turns out to be very difficult. Belgians like Prosecco, especially very cheap Prosecco.
As we’ve so far indulged ourselves into all the good Brussels has to offer, Alex and Egbert enthusiastically accepted some glasses. Glasses turned into bottles and when our Finnish friends refused all prosecco we had to finish the bottle with the two of us. To ensure the quality of taste, we put the cork in our glasses. ‘Gast, ik proef gewoon nog steeds kurk’.
Quick note: Casper acted like a Finnish guy, what a disappointment.
After dinner we had an international night in which everyone brought some local specialities.
We brought Stroopwafellikeur, much to the displeasure of one of our Belgian friends: ‘You don’t have Goldstrike?’
Egbert participated in the local contest of drinking beer directly from the tap. He came to a respectable count of 6 crocodiles. The Finnish didn’t even try, again.
It’s great public transport is free in Brussels, although some people use something looking like an ‘OV-chipkaart’ or their pinpas. We haven’t figured out why.
This time, Alex and Egbert were pleasantly surprised by a stranger on the couch. Our Turkish roommates had been disqualified from the competition, and didn’t even bother waking up for the case anymore.
On campus the mood quickly turned into a sense of panic among the organisation. The proposed schedule was not according to the rules of the Times Case (thanks for noticing Finnish friends…). The result, many hours of delay. We chose to flee from campus to have proper breakfast, and when we returned around 12 it was time to start the case.
Despite a short intermezzo for some chewy and cold knakworsten, the case went very fast and smooth. After some beers with the rest of the group: dinner time. Having made our so many-th joke about the Belgians, we had a moment of contemplation. What is the chance any of our hosts will ever read this (not so nice to Belgians) blog? Conclusion, we don’t actually care.
Despite an early awakening and a long night for Alex due to Egberts’ snoring, the day started very well. We appear to be learning from our mistakes and no longer assume our hosts are capable of starting on time or providing breakfast.
As such, the text message by the organisation stressing that we should arrive at 8:30 sharp, was not taken very seriously. So we arrived about 20 minutes late, took good breakfast and were still well on time (what a surprise…).
The main reason for the delay was total confusion when the presentation system was not working for over half an hour. A lot of stressful walking in- and out the room by the Belgians to try every cable present in Belgium later, Casper and Alex took the liberty of taking the matter into their own hands. 1 cable, 1 button and about 10 seconds later, everything was working as it should.
To eliminate any confusion it is key to send as many different schedules as possible. At least 3 survival guides per participant, all with different time schedules for the days to eliminate nasty surprises. Today we are going to be the third group to start, no wait actually we go first. But ow no, the person with the key to the pinthouse (where we could leave our bags the night before) is nowhere to be found. So we start second. The Swedish are now allowed first and got booked to a spacious highly-facilitated room, the toilet.
With all these surprises, the creative juices were fully flowing for the Groningen group and the case went well. Although we are starting to feel a bit sick of the cheesy, much too visual presentations we are spewing out. Luckily the jury enjoyed it.
The first moments of free time were greatly appreciated before heading to the gala dinner. An all you can eat-and-drink event as long as the first or main course has not finished. The Belgian restaurant personnel do appear to understand the spirit of working timely, especially when the first chugs started. They were throwing main dishes on the table before we even finished the starters, in order to minimise the time of unlimited drinking. Finally, the moment all of you have been waiting for…. Who won the competition??? Egbert and Alex’ host already knew the score, but naturally we were still completely in the dark. One loud drum ruffle later, the winner was announced by one of the Estiem staff:
‘And the winner is… you and your group!’ He says pointing to someone….
Luckily this someone was Casper, so Sevilla here we come! And you can join this thrilling experience as well, in our next blog coming march 26th.
En voor onze Nederlandse lezers;
Brussel was mooi :).
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