Europe during Delta? Writer Brookline recounts his adventure abroad
So last week I was in Ostend, Belgium, at a massive 5 day rock festival during the throes of Delta.
How, you ask?
It is certainly a great miracle. This is my third W-Fest, and I swore that after his enforced two-year hiatus, I wouldn’t miss him no matter what. And I am a constant N95 mask holder, overly cautious, avoiding people and restaurateurs.
But the EU is very different from the US. On the one hand, she is much more vaccinated. The United States is currently 53 percent fully vaccinated; EU residents are at 70 percent. And Belgium is over 71 percent nowadays.
On September 4, the Council of the European Union deleted the United States off its safe travel list, as its current rate of coronavirus infections exceeded the EU limit of 75 new cases per 100,000 population in the previous 14 days. In fact, according to Bloomberg, the United States recorded 507 new cases per 100,000 population in the first two weeks of August.
Europe has, however, reported a decrease in cases. Fortunately, I was already there.
Delta Airlines needed a current negative COVID test to board, proof of vaccination (the agent was impressed that I had also wielded a Pfizer booster the previous week) and masks during the flight to less actively eating. The attendants even checked the sleeping passengers. As my pals were reluctant and said they would wait for my videos, I stayed in a private Airbnb across the boardwalk from the beach that I had taken last year when the festival was announced.
All good. But … a rock festival?
W-Fest worked with the Belgian government to achieve this. They moved it out, inland from Waregem to the Ostend waterfront, 5.5 miles away. Participants were required to have full proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test within 48 hours (a rapid medical test station was on site). No exit and re-entry was authorized. Once inside, you stayed.
The charming seaside town on the North Sea is roughly opposite London. Marvin Gaye had lived in Ostend, and had recorded his mega-LP “Midnight Love” there. As I got off the train, I saw why. Pretty views of the harbor on boats, preserved warships, fish stalls, lively cafes (like the “Bistro Chopin”), war memorials and works of art greeted me and I immediately heard the festival.
I couldn’t forget the view every day from my Airbnb on the 7th floor as I looked down on so many people on the rubber tiled promenade, on foot, on my bike, on vintage looking boards and wheeled gear that could accommodate entire families. The side streets were filled with restaurants and shops of all ethnicities (to be on the safe side, I opted for the large gourmet supermarket SPAR for my groceries). Everyone spoke English, although I tried what I knew in Dutch.
Return to W-Fest. Every day I was intensely controlled. I had to show my vax card, my recall card and the test result.
There were thousands of them there, yes. But all, miraculously, were equally negative. It was a full, sprawling village with lots of areas to be isolated if desired. I was able to sit on a raised platform above the crowd to write and safely enjoy OMD, Human League, Nena (“99 Red Balloons”), Paul Young (” Every Time You Go Away “) and other post-punk and new wave top 80s. This year a few earlier hitmakers have been mixed up like The Orchestra (ELO members), Starship, the Queen Symphonic (a theatrical tribute to Queen, with a full symphony orchestra) and the Jacksons (the brothers)!
As I had not been to Europe for almost 2 years, I had decided to stay a week in the region and explore Bruges, the charming cobbled medieval capital of Flanders, and Ghent, a more cosmopolitan city also crowded. of picturesque canals.
Direction the Netherlands. I stayed two days in Amsterdam, where I had not been for many years.
My first stop was the Anne Frank House, which I had visited before but which is still overwhelming. It is now a large museum that connects inside the hideout intended for the family. It was more than weird to connect to Anne Frank’s Wi-Fi signal and say a prayer. But indoor locations weren’t in my plans during Delta, so I prowled around the beautiful and still bustling city.
Large parking lots filled with bicycles were everywhere, and that’s how everyone gets to the picturesque squares, the little shops, and like in Belgium, the greatest breads and chocolates. I only ate in my private rooms, or outside, in empty spaces. The N95s weren’t out of my face, not even in the photos.
Yes, I walked through the red light district and browsed the space cake shops selling various sweets ranging from “chill out” to “Wow, what a life!” But I was more blown away by the breathtaking view of the canals lined with barges.
I then visited The Hague, the international city of peace and justice located further upstream from Ostend on the North Sea. Home to the seat of the Dutch Parliament, the city is known for its historic peace treaty conventions. I walked to the ICC (International Criminal Court), then to the neo-Renaissance Peace Palace, which houses the United Nations International Court of Justice.
I was then delighted to discover the beautiful, lively and charming city center, with its narrow streets lined with cafes, shops and artistic sites. The squares and the sculptures seduced. I stayed at the old, tall, skinny Dutch Golden Hotel and in the morning headed to Brussels Airport for my pre-flight PCR test.
After the sideline for the airport was Rotterdam. I had been there two years ago, but had not explored the downtown area, aptly named “The Cool District”. (The town’s name Cool dates back to 1280, so it probably didn’t mean what it does now, but it does.) The busy, mostly pedestrianized area is full of outdoor restaurants, shops, performance spaces and works of art. Every street was crowded with super hip people and bikes. The grand Stadhuis, or town hall, and the tourist information building are must-sees. A long, pretty canal had colorful chairs and sandbags, with striking sculptures and amazing architecture in all directions. My eyes were wide, and under my mask, my mouth too.
Rotterdam holds a very special place in my heart, because it was there that in 1920 my ancestors, like many immigrants from Eastern Europe, set sail for America. They had fled the pogroms and firing squads in their village in Kiev and had walked here on foot in the winter.
I had been to the docks of the Wilhelmina Pier two years before, and while I was saying the commemorative prayer for them, a white swan appeared under the post of the quay where I had laid stones, in Jewish tradition.
Nearby there is a plaque telling the proud Dutch story of helping those who moved there find a start in a new country. A tribute installation “Lost Luggage” presents suitcases and bronzed luggage.
It was time to walk to Central Station and head back to Brussels Airport, where I would look for Belgian chocolate for gifts and work, until I checked in at 4am for my flight back to 7 am. My reluctant driver was waiting at Logan’s and I was a zombie, but a zombie filled with new memories.
Oh, and my adherence to the N95 mask, my avoidance of indoor stores, and my distancing from people had paid off. I was “negative”.