DET VAR VÄRT ETT LIV
Självbiografi av Bernhard Kauntz


Revenge in Belgium


When Cere and Braem had come to Västerås last year in November, we startad a competition beetween them and Gunnar and me. It was a close match, so we needed even a decider, before we finally could beat our guests by 3-2.
Of course we played on home ground, so they shouted "revenge" from day one. I had actually intended to go to Austria this summer, but as my countrymen fussed around with coronamasks, I didn't really feel comfortable. So I suggested to Gunnar, that we might go to Belgium for a couple of days and give Braem and Cere their revenge. Said and done.
As some airplanes have a tendency to leave very early in the morning, we left home already on Wednesday evening and stayed in a hotel in Stockholm, close to the airport. There was not much sleep that night, and there wouldn't be much during the coming nights either ...
We wanted to play some darts in Belgium as well, but there was only one competition closeby - and that started at eleven in the morning. Our plane landed ten past nine. Even worse, it took a very long time before our luggage came on the conveyor belt.
But Cere and Braem waited outside with a car, so we made it to the "Rillaan Open" with some ten minutes to spare. Braem didn't play, he would go home and prepare dinner.
That was quite some experience. The organizers had counted on 128 participants and pool play, but they gave in to the pressure, as there were 171 male players interested. And 24 ladies. Together with some spectators or drivers, there were at least 250 persons in a moderate sized room. The good thing is, that you learn to concentrate on your play, no matter what happens around you. Because of the many participants the competition was changed to a straight cup with A and B follow-ups. On the picture to the right I am still looking happy, as we just warm-up. We didn't do too well. In fact we played rather badly. On the other hand, that didn't matter so much, I just wanted Gunnar to see, how competitions are played in Belgium. And I was very happy to relive my memories of where I had started my darting career. Actually Rillaan was very close to Tienen, where I had played my very first competition. In spite of all those crowds, it was very well organized. Still, it took much waiting time, due to so many players.
When all of us had been expelled from the competition, Cere drove us to our hotel, very centrally situated in Leuven. Finally we got some time to refresh and relax since five in the morning. But only one hour, because Cere would be back to drive us to Braem's house, where we would spend the evening.
Our host showed us the house, which he had been working on for four years, and which he probably and regretfully would have to sell, after his relation newly had ended. He said that he never would get full value for all the time he had put into repairing.
He had also prepared our dinner. Knowing that i love mussles, he had cooked four kilo, making them very delicious, so that there was not a single one left.
Even the beer was enough. Braem said that he had bought 16 cans, but considering, that I was coming, he bought 8 more ... I don't know, if that was a compliment, or not. In the evening somebody suggested a game of poker. We had played a lot, when I was living in Belgium, so it was reviving traditions. It was good to see, that I hadn't lost it all, so I won the first round with outstanding play (and good cards). By then I had become overconfident and was out first in the second.
It became a marvellous evening.
Before Cere drove us home again, I stated that I hadn't had so many laughs for months as only on this day. It had become three in the morning, before we entered our room.
Thursday had been the belgian National Day, but Friday was a working day, so we were on our own to discover Leuven. As I can't walk very far any more, without stopping, I pitied Gunnar, that he too had to wait until I had caught my breath again. A beer now and then helped as well to recover. Gunnar also seemed to enjoy those refill breakes.
We went up to the town center, the "Grote Markt", with the Town Hall. I am fascinated by those buildings, which have hundreds of statues on their facades.
I like the architecture of belgian houses in general. Leuven was no exception. Besides, the city is known for its university. And almost all university cities have a nice atmosphere, as there are many young people living there. On our way to the University Library we found a temporary field for beachvolleyball. We watched some time, as Belgium lost against Argentina. Afterwards we continued our sightseeing in the Sint-Donatuspark.

This is a rather big green area with large alleys, fountains build small ponds and there are remains of the old city wall from the twelfth century. Some towers are left from that time. It is also a very nice place for picknicking.

Leaving the park on the opposite side, we came to Sint-Michiel's church.
This church has a very interesting history. It was built in the 17th century by Jesuits, who eventually built a monastery around it. When the Pope in 1773 forbid the order of Jesuits, it was Empress Maria Theresia, ruler of the Austrian Netherlands, who closed the monastery on September 13th, the same year. The voluminous library and many paintings were sold on auction. Maria Theresia opened a collage for former theology students, waiting to be placed in a parish. Her son, Emperor Joseph II, so often in opposition to his mother's very religious viewpoints, closed the collage about a decade later.
For me it is always interesting to see, how far the Austrian influence reached throughout Europe, no matter if it is in todays Belgium, Spain, Czechia, Hungary, Romania, Italy, Poland or in the Balkans.

 
The church was badly damaged in World War II, but the facade remained unhurt, seeming lika a miracle. In later days the church was pronounced as Church of Peace, today working with different issues concerning the whole world. As a symbol of the connection between St. Michael and peace, there is a modern statue in the church. It shows Michael slaying the dragon and throwing it onto the earth. But after doing that, Michael breaks the sword, in order to show, that he will be fighting for peace in coming days.
I am very happy to have been there, as I could pick up quite some new information.
After that we had a marvellous lunch, which took a couple of hours. As we were rather close to our hotel, we decided to walk home and wait for Cere to come. He would drive all of us to the barbecue this evening. Cere had fixed the meat and vegetables for the barbecue, during the day. But he had also called Charlotte and Benjamin, if we could do it at their house.
We could. And I was amazed again. I had met my hosts for the first time, when I was in Belgium last time. Even though they didn't know me at all, they invited me to join Charlotte's birthdayparty in a restaurant. And now I was welcome in their house as well.
Braem's new acquaintance was there - Goela, a very nice and smart woman, as well as Greg and his girlfriend, Alice from Italy. Charlotte and Benji had put a lot of effort for preparing things, so it became a real feast. As Charlotte was going to Vienna a couple of weeks later, I was more than happy being able to return some favour and help her out with some tips about my hometown.
My Flemish is still doing rather well, but here everybody spoke English, as not to exclude Gunnar. Talking about excluding ... They all could have been my grandchildren, but I never had a feeling of being treated differently from all the others. We had lots to talk and to joke about and then somebody suggested to play a game of werewolves. Oh yes! It was long ago, but I was certainly looking forward to it. It is a game in which you are given some overarching rules, but in which the participants "make" the game. It consists of debating, deciding and a good portion of social interaction.
 
The disadvantage is, that you have to be quite some people to make a good game of it. When Greg and Alice left, we were only seven. Benji suggested another game, to find the best, or most amusing text to a given picture. It was fun, so we kept going, drinking beer, sipping whisky and laughing. When Cere finally had driven us to our hotel, again it was three in the morning.
The next day was the day of the big revenge. But again we had time for ourselves in the morning and early afternoon first. So we went to see, what we had missed yesterday, mainly Sint-Pieter, the main church of Leuven. Sint-Pieter is interesting, because none of its towers were built, they never even reached half the height, they were intended to have.
The inside looks rather basic for a Catholic church, but then the treasures of the church were demolished during the French Revolution, and in World War I a fire caused the ruin of many more. Apart from that the side chapels were put on fire intentionally.
We visited an old Roman archway, which was the entrance into a female convent, known as the "Guest House Sisters", who from 1184 until 1999 took care of travellers and sick people. Braem came earlier than expected to Leuven, so we met and had a beer or two, while waiting for Cere.
Spirits were flying high on entering the fighting arena. We had been informed that the games were to be airhockey, pool and table soccer.
We started off with the airhockey. I played Cere first, but I was too offensive, holding my playing tool too far apart from my goal. The disc bounced from the rink onto it and from there in my open goal. I lost 7-4 after scoring four own goals. That still hurts ...
Gunnar evened the score against Braem, but then we both lost our second matches. Next game was pool. Braem was the big favorite here and they won the first game easily. But in the second Gunnar and I played over all expectations. They still had some numbers left, when we went on black. I made a marvellous shot, rather difficult from far away and put the black into the - wrong - pocket. Instead of getting a draw, we lost the pool 2-0.
 
Now we had already lost the match as well, but we could restore a bit of our self-confidence in the table soccer - we thought. We had had that experience in Torremolinos earlier this year, when we were playing those Spanish professionals. We should have learned a little at that occation. It was only that Cere turned out to be at least as good as the Spaniards, so we got our asses kicked, which constellation we ever tried to play in.
We were outscored, defeated, beaten, subdued. But we are certainly looking forward to the next match - in Sweden. However it was a perfect last evening together in Belgium. And Cere was doubtless the Man of the match, dominating the soccer and winning both airhockey games. He enjoyed that apparently, but Gunnar doesn't look too unhappy either.
It was well past midnight again, when we came home. But then we had four beers in the fridge, so Gunnar said that it would be heavy to carry them all the next day. He had a point of course, so we had a nice chat for an hour or two, before listening to our pillows.
Check-out time was eleven in the morning. Cere - how can we ever thank him - was there at eleven.
And he had a suggestion for what to do. He is going to start a new dart-club together with some friends.
Therefore he wanted to show us the café, where they will be playing. That suited me perfectly, as I wanted to get a Belgian player's license. It costs a lot less than in Sweden or in Austria, and I need one to be able to play in tournaments. So, Cere fixed that as well for me. I don't intend to play any league matches, but I could do that in Belgium now. And I have learned that one never should say never ... My new club is called the same name as the place, where we are playing: In de Veldkant.
Naturally Gunnar and I played a match against Cere and Braem. It was tough, but in the end we had won 3-2. That was a little consolation for yesterday's loss. The man in the picture, throwing darts, is Nick, our teamcaptain.
After a couple of beers, we had to leave, all to soon. But we wanted to get a decent lunch as well, before we went to the airport. We found a place with a nice waiter, who offered to take a photo of us all together. Cere drove us to the airport and there it was time to say good bye to him and Braem. It really had been some marvellous days, full of events, laughter and exitement.
Within a couple of hours we would be back in Sweden - we thought.
But when the gate was opened, it was announced that the plane was overbooked. It would be very appreciated, if there was anybody voluntarily being able to stay until next day. The company would of course pay for the costs for food and hotel. And they would even pay 250 Euro per person as compensation. Ha! I didn't hesitate a second. Gunnar had to be at work the next day, of course. But a phone call removed that hinder and so we were looking forward to another unexpected holiday. We needed of course our luggage, as Gunnar had packed his lenses and I my medicine, believing that we would be at home in the evening. That was no problem, they assured us, the suitcase would be brought to conveyor belt 7.
After waiting an hour at the belt, I went to the service counter of Brussels Airlines. Oh yes, I was told, that could take some while. Why didn't we go and eat in the meantime and come back to get our luggage. That seemed to be a good idea, so we went to the nearby hotel and used the 36 Euro-voucher to the last cent. When we returned after two more hours, there was still no sign of our suitcase. At the luggage-center they said that this was Brussels Airlines problem and that they couldn't help us. Back to the service center ... But it was closed by now.
Being a little unfriendly, I got the attention of the neighbouring counter, from where I got a phone number to a 24/7 support of Brussels Airlines. Rather fed up by now, I called there and met a moron, who didn't or didn't want to understand. He assured me about twenty times, that he was very sorry for what had happened, but that he couldn't do anything, if we didn't fill a form for missing luggage! It wasn't missing, I told him, it was at the same airport as we were. It didn't help, so I cursed him and hung up.
It had become eleven in the evening, so I was really angry. There we had volunteered to help the Airline, and then it was impossible to expect the least service from them.
Instead of having a nice evening, maybe out in Brussels somewhere, we used all evening chasing our luggage. But then then we decided that we probably would survive without lenses and medicine, maybe would stink a little next day, but that we still could make the best of the evening. Gunnar had then the marvellous idea, that they certainly should have Grand Marnier in the hotelbar - and that he finally could get his real French Coffee. The barkeeper fixed a really tasty one, so we hung around in the bar over a couple of beers as well.
We had a good night's sleep and a steady free breakfast in the hotel, but the drama was by no means over. True, at the airport we were finally assured, that our suitcase still was at the same place, where it had been unloaded yesterday and that it would be placed on the same plane as we would be.
But - Gunnar had bought some deo or aftershave in the tax-free shop yesterday. That happened of course, when we already had checked in the luggage. They wouldn't let him pass with that through security control. And, according to Murphy's law, I encountered some trouble as well. I had moved over my darts from my backpack to the suitcase. But somehow, however that was possible, on of the darts had escaped the box and was still in my hand-luggage.
They wouldn't let me pass either through security.
It was not the end of the world of course, but still, a couple of hundred Swedish crowns worth would go down the sink.
And all that, because that stupid and lazy airport personal didn't do their duty.
So - back to the support counter of Brussels Airways. And they found a solution. We could check-in my backpack as well, for free, before going through security. That finally worked as it should - I could even pass the normal cue waiting for check-in. And after all this stress we had time enough to put ourselves behind a last glass of Belgian beer.
But, after all, maybe I will hesitate a little longer next time, before i volunteer to give up my place in a plane, in order to help out.
I wrote of course a couple of e-mails and filled out some form, but - as foreseen - without any result. Customer service ...
Be ashamed Brussels Airlines!
Finally, my thanks to Cere, who let me use a couple of his pictures here.

© Bernhard Kauntz, Västerås 2022


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