Travelling within Europe is becoming increasingly easier, more
comfortable, and affordable, with multiple modes of transportation available.
Making precise and detailed travel plans also requires little effort, as
E-tickets can easily be bought online. After an exploration of the coastal city
of Ostend, in Belgium, a trip to Sweden’s Gothberg, presents new delights and
The old city of Ostend in coastal Belgium, with its colossal boulders
of granite rock on a construction site on the shore, had the rocks imported from
Sweden. A trip to Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden, reveals that
the Swedish city is also a gold mine of information.
There are a number of routes and alternative modalities of transport
connecting Gothenburg to Brussels. One can go to Antwerp Port from Brussels,
which is about 45Km away. One can take a train from Antwerp to Amsterdam, or
take a flight to Gothenburg. There is another alternative, a direct flight from
the international airport in Brussels to Stockholm, the Swedish capital, and
then transferring from the airport to a train destined to Gothenburg. But all
these alternatives simply take too long. I left home five minutes ahead of time
to give myself a relaxed opportunity to walk a short distance up to the tram
station. I only had to wait for two minutes.
The most viable and cheapest way to travel the 910Km distance in a
relatively short period of time was to fly directly from Charleroi. But I had to
travel to Charleroi by train from the Brussels Central Railway Station, a
distance of about 60Km. It was very interesting to search the internet for the
best alternatives, discovering the combination of modalities and purchasing the
E-ticket online. I could also check the schedules of all the modalities of
transport on the internet before I started the journey. The most fascinating
part of the whole experience is the precision of the arrival and the departure
times. One can easily synchronise ones travel schedule accordingly if different
modalities are to be used.
Once I knew the check-in time at Charleroi Airport, which was 12:30 in
the morning, I was able to adjust my travel time giving myself a couple of
minutes. Everything went as planned and I arrived at Charleroi Railway Station
The journey by train brought old memories of my first trip to Dire Dawa
by train back in the 1950s when I had to accompany my parents during their
The farm cottages had brick roofs and were all white washed. Each had
narrow access roads overlaid with asphalt. I could see pick up vehicles at each
doorway. There were corn crops in the fields. Some cows were seen grazing while
others were just lying on the green meadows as if they had preferred sunbathing
to spending their time in grazing. At each station, there were several railway
tracks branching out to serve as marshalling areas. There were a few locomotives
and wagons parked here and there at some stations.
Incidentally, most of the cities and towns in the world are linked by
railway network. Countries that depend on surface transport, benefit a lot from
constructing rail tracks because they are cheaper and the most durable
modalities in the long run, although their initial capital investment is very
At Charleroi Airport, we saw many people waiting for check-in. The air
field was a small one compared to other international airports. Ryan Air, the
Irish airliner, operates in many European countries including Sweden. There were
over 200 passengers flying to Gothenburg. Snacks and refreshments were not free.
All the crew members including the pilot were speaking in English. Many items
including cigarettes were sold at duty free prices on board. Every passenger was
allowed to load a luggage weighing 20Kg and carry on board a 10Kg hand bag. We
arrived at Gothenburg 15 minutes ahead of time, where the airport is even
smaller than that of Charleroi.
I looked around and was stunned by the beauty of the green landscape
and the terrain covered by trees.
There was not a single soul, as if it was prohibited to walk on the
streets which seemed to be deserted for ages, until the rocks on both sides of
the road were covered by green vegetation. It was the first time in my life that
I witnessed walls of solid rock for such a long stretch. I soon reckoned that
Sweden was the source of the boulders of stone that I saw at the beach of Ostend.
The weather was fine and the day was long. We had enough time to go
downtown after a brief recess. The first thing that fascinated me was the
impeccable environment where the community of foreigners live. It so happened
that a man in uniform was carrying a small blowing machine on his back and
passing by the children’s playground blowing the trash from the corners of the
park. Another man in the same uniform came by driving a small tractor loaded
with a massive vacuum cleaner. He swept all the trash and sprayed the compound
There were a couple of children playing in the park. Some of them were
from Africa while others I was told were from the break-away former Yugoslavia.
There were Somali children riding bicycles and kicking a football. Adults are
rarely seen, except a few mothers coming home from shopping. It was very scary
not to see or hear people talking in the community. Silence reigns.
The next day my family and I went out on sightseeing trips. Gothenburg
was founded in 1621 by King Gustavus Adolphus. The botanical garden, which is
one of the most famous in Europe, together with the rock garden and archipelago
mingled with modern high rising buildings give the city special splendour and
beauty. The city has an area of 2,700ht of land, or 175sqm per inhabitant.
The most reputed Opera House in the world and richly stocked museums
with classical paintings and heritages are also found here. Gothenburg is also a
harbour city like Ostend. River Gota is meandering through the city diverted in
a canal. People enjoy sailing on small ferries and boats.
There are hundreds of hotels and eateries in the city. The fish market
is the most attractive centre for all tourists. Next week I will continue
sharing the happenings of my journey in Sweden.