By car it’s barely an hour away but by train, north with changes in Antwerpen and Rosendaal, then hard east for half an hour, for me taking four hours – missing the first connection by 3 minutes. And the first leg, I found myself in a carriage full of Tibetans, with delirious children clambering over me. I was thinking of the hundred Tibetans who have self-immolated in recent months from Gansu to Lhasa as I realised this carriage wasn’t just an afternoon outing, as raucous and lively as it was, and discovered just now that yesterday was the 54th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising Day.
So I paused in Antwerpen, and ran for the train in Rosendaal, arriving in the cold, dim evening in Tilburg to knock on Daniel’s door, where I shall stay for the next couple of days as they bring their 11-week long tour to an end.
And Tilburg (or Tilblurg as I just wrote), what an odd, odd town. We are staying in the old centre, and it’s wall-to-wall tourist restaurants of the international cliché variety. There’s the obligatory Paddy Irish, Señor Mexicano, Papa Italiano and of course Satay Thai, all with forlorn and empty ranks of chairs outside, expensive “all you can eat” menus and disco lights inside. It’s strange because Tilburg is so difficult to get to and doesn’t seem to warrant such an intense tourist strip, and all my interneting and brochure reading hasn’t revealed why all this is here, unless it’s a hangover from the coffeeshop drug era when everyone drove across the border to visit potland and the first city the hit was this one.
In keeping with this year’s winter it’s so grey as to not be worth looking out the window; however, once they have finished rehearsals, Daniel and I shall go exploring.