Ooh! Look! A post in real time! It’s Thursday, May 3, 2012.
We have come to Brussels for a few days while we wait for our Saturday flight to Croatia.
Hmm? Why are we going to Croatia?
Ah, you may well ask. We had no intention of going to Croatia on this trip! Yet we are not only going there; we are going for three weeks!
Ever hear of a little thing called Schengen? (Don’t feel bad. We hadn’t either.) About twenty-five countries have signed the Schengen Agreement, allowing their citizens to travel freely within the Schengen Area (those same countries) without needing a visa.
For non-EU citizens, it’s a bit more confusing. You can travel in the Schengen countries for 90 days in any six-month period. Yep – it used to be 90 days in each country, now it is 90 days total. For those of you who are not good at math, that’s a lot less days. In the case of our 168-day trip, that’s 78 days that we need to get the heck out of Schengen.
Where in Europe can one go that is not in the Schengen Area? Well — bless their hearts– the UK and Ireland have not signed the Agreement. Since we were planning to visit friends in those countries, we are relieved that those days won’t count against our Schengen tab. Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus are the only other EU countries which aren’t in Schengen (yet); Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland are in Schengen but not the EU.
So, besides the UK and Ireland, where else could we go? Andorra, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan or Georgia. How did we make our decision to go to Croatia? Ryanair, baby. (Yeah, I dissed their baggage policies in another post, but they are still as cheap as cheap can be). We got tickets from Brussels to Pula for a mere 13 euros each, plus evil baggage fees that are significantly more than that. The three of us are flying to Croatia for under $150 total.
Lodging in Croatia seems to be a bit cheaper than other places we’ve been, too. Our apartment will be small, but it has free internet and a pool and is walking distance to the beach (which is exciting to me, very exciting to Quinland, and marginally interesting to David)… and will cost half of what we paid to stay in a hostel last week in Hannover. We are paying that same hostel rate for our apartment here in Brussels – 80 euros a night – but here we have free internet and free laundry and a kitchen and a corner apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows that is across from a cafe and a bakery.
Not to mention the beer.
This place is a Lori-beer paradise. I have had my perennial favorite, Lindeman’s Framboise, but I have also had Lindeman’s Kriek. I have had my share of Hoegaarden, but also Hoegaarden Citron. Best of all, I have been picking them up for pennies compared to the prices at home. The Hoegaarden was 0,74 euro per bottle at the grocery store. Heck, I got it served to me for only 1,70 euros. It’s bliss, I tell you.
And yes, those bottles are already empty. I leave for Croatia in 36 hours, and though it may have sunny beaches, it won’t have Belgian beer. I need to get my fair share before I leave!