Friday, 31 August 2018

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Many cars in Brussels
look like they have
met this guy...
Let’s make one thing clear: Brussels and cars are not meant to go together. Period. No amount of history, no international atmosphere, no golden decorations at the Grand Place can fix that. The heart of Europe is suffering from lousy cholesterol, blocked veins in the form of traffic jams. It’s filled with road construction, one-way streets, too few parking spaces and the worst driving culture I’ve ever seen. If you don’t believe me, go driving in Brussels. If you are still happy after three minutes, I’ll buy you a beer. The beer there is good.

From Dawn to Dust

Brussel Game Festival was a nice change from the normal conventions. It’s held outdoors, in the Cinquantenaire Park. The organisers provide small tents for booths and punters arrive at the place through a magnificent triumphal arch. That is, of course, if they know how to drive there…

We had our car packed ready, parking permission printed and coordinates for the car park. With the help of Google Maps navigation, we were driving to set up the booth. ”You have reached your destination” the navigator announced – when we were in a tunnel, under the park! After a lot of swearing, desperate zooming of the map, illegal parking and a phone call to the organisers, we finally managed to enter the park with our van.
Timo presented Darwinning! to  Boardgame Heaven.

The park seemed to be a lovely place for a gaming event until the wind got going. Fine dust from the paths of the park flew around and covered everything. Every now and then we had to chase treasure cards and brochures flying away. During the weekend we had several rain showers, during which we had to quickly collect presentation material together and move our tables further under the tent.

Our booth was full the whole weekend.

The Coffee Queue

Even though we had to empty our tent-booth every evening, the event was pretty smooth and pleasant to be part of. Except in the mornings. I need my morning coffee to wake up. Convention days are so exhausting that extra coffee is mandatory.

In the coffee queue. They tried to keep me happy, anyway...
We got food and drink coupons from the organisers. For beer, there were three tents with several beer taps. For coffee, only two machines, which made one cup at a time. A long time. It’s not a very effective way to serve exhibitors.

In Finland, the organiser would have made 50 litres of filtered coffee in a large container with a tap. Pouring a cup would have taken 2 seconds. Don't tell me about freshly ground beans and sophisticated flavour. At the fair, in the morning, people are not looking for a barista experience. They need caffeine. Whatever liquid form you serve it in, they are happy.

Touring Traditions

We stayed in Brussels at the same place we were at during our February visit: the youth hostel Aubergess des Jeunesse. If you ever want to torture yourself by going to Brussels with a caravan or a motorhome, I can recommend this place. The centre of Brussels is within walking distance.

Väinö came back from summer holiday and
started working right away. These players came
from Spain and we will meet them
later this year in Spanish conventions.
Getting out from Brussels turned out to be very difficult this time. The first route was under construction, and getting another option required three different satnav systems. And still, we took a wrong lane in a tunnel. But we decided to drive on, just to get out of the city. We didn’t have a clear plan about where to go for the next night. We have three weeks for a drive to Barcelona. Plenty can happen, many places could be visited.

All of a sudden, we noticed we were heading south, towards Luxembourg. You remember February when we accidentally ended up there… The only country during this tour where we didn’t stay overnight. So we decided to fix that and refresh our memories of Luxembourg. It’s good to have traditions: all roads to (and from) Brussels go via Luxembourg!

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Wall and Bubble

”We need to take the next exit,” I told Timo, raising my eyes from the satnav. ”Hmm… the exit seems to be on the other side of that wall...” We were driving along a German autobahn, towards Berlin. The road was under construction and we were driving in a temporary lane. We looked over the thick wall and saw other cars taking the exit. And the next one. After 15 kilometres the construction work ended and we were finally able to leave the autobahn. A small detour to the campsite.

Cool Berlin Con
Berlin Boardgame Con was held in a building called the ”Kühlhaus” - cool house. It looked cool: old brick walls, iron stairways and a 2 level high opening hall in the middle, with wide balconies on each side. Due to the heat bubble covering the whole of Europe, though, it was anything but cool inside.

Since we are now very professional participants of gaming conventions, we were well prepared. Among other booth furniture, we carried our portable fridge to the site. So during the hot fair days, we had cold drinks available. It also protected the Hunter & Cron chocolates, that we got from the organiser, from melting!

Berlin Con was the fourth convention in Germany for us, this year. I don’t know if it was because of the warm weather, summertime or just the lively atmosphere of Berlin, but people there were really happy and relaxed. We had the very first copies of Darwinning! there and the feedback was extremely positive. An overview of Darwinning! can be seen soon on Hunter & Cron’s site.

Heat and Flood

Butterfly reading Kindle with Timo.
The heat wave forced us to replan our schedules. We have been avoiding travelling and choosing camping sites with swimming pools. We don’t have air conditioning in the caravan, so during the daytime, it is really hot. It is difficult to work when your brain’s melting and the computer gets overheated.
Entrepreneur can
work in bikinis!

Fortunately, the nights have been cooler. In the evenings it’s nice to sit outside and play board games. I bought Azul – the game of the year - from Berlin and so far I have lost all but one game against Timo.

Finland has also got its share of the heat and Lapland has had the warmest summer ever. My garden is there on its own. Our neighbour sent me some pictures, and despite the drought, it’s blooming.

Lovely neighbours fixing our road at home.
One morning, I read on the news that it had been raining at home. A lot. 27.6 mm in one hour and over 46 mm over the day. Just for reference: ”heavy rain” is categorised as 7 mm/hour. I asked our neighbour if everything was ok at our place (I knew the tenant was on vacation). The reply was two pictures from our courtyard road. Part of the sandy road had been washed downhill. Just like I had feared. Even before I asked for help, our neighbour sent me another picture - of them fixing the road. Some people are just pure gold!
This summer will be remembered as the warmest and driest for decades.

PS. When we left Berlin, we noticed one of the caravan tires had a screw in it… I’ve lost count of these. We used the same procedure as with the previous ones: Google the closest garage, get the tire fixed, continue. It delayed us for about 30 minutes. Like the autobahn wall coming into Berlin.