A Blizzard in Brussels leaves an Aussie stranded

| January 8, 2012

Brussels under snow

It was December 2009, I’d been a wide-eyed Aussie kicking around Europe barely two months and was on one of my newly conceived weekend trips into the continent. The candidate for this episode? The capital of fries, beer and a pissing child – Brussels.

People from hostel in Delirium Bar

I’d had two days of drinking extremely strong ales, stomping through an already snowed over Brussels visiting historical architecture and jumping on tables with Italians. I was relaxing in the hotel lobby and as I checked out I mentioned “I’ve got to get the train back to London now, how do I get to Gare du Midi?”. It was upon hearing this that another bloke in the hostel muttered “you’re not going anywhere tonight on a train mate”.

I queried the Eurostar website and lo and behold, all trains to London were cancelled due to extreme weather conditions, making the Channel Tunnel impassable. Stranded in Brussels, it could be worse right?
The problem however was that it was Sunday night, I have a full time job, and I needed to be banking cash first thing the following morning at work in London. I needed to get back there fast.

Brussels Airport covered in snow

Scrambling online to find a flight back that night was a challenge, everything was either booked or cancelled due to the horrendous weather. This was unlike anything I’d ever experienced in Australia. Eurostar guaranteed to reimburse all travel costs to those affected, so I booked a 6am flight the following morning at a cost of €350. That price was one way!

I thought after that “no worries, job done” and gave my boss a call to say “crisis averted daddy-o, see you bright and chipper tomorrow morning!” but alas, it wasn’t over yet.
The hostel I was staying in didn’t have any beds available that night, so I was stuck on the street in a foot of snow with nowhere to sleep. I poked my head out of the hostel into the -15 degrees, bracing cold of the dark and uninviting streets of Brussels to discover there was a nondescript looking, divey looking hotel across the road. I darted over, asked if they had rooms and then asked how much. €60. Not too bad. My wallet worse off, I’d found a bed to sleep in that night. How I spent that worrying Sunday night? Watching French TV.

In the morning, it was straight into a taxi to the airport at 5am. €50 (!) later, I’d arrived at a hectic, overcrowded and heaving Brussels Airport, full of people sleeping on the floor waiting for cancelled flights to be rebooked. I battled the slush in the drop-off area and crowds stranded in the terminal to make the gate on time. Of all the flights scheduled to depart that morning, mine was one of the only ones that day to leave Brussels due to how much snow was bombarding Northern Europe.

And what about work? Well, I made it on time.

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Category: Guest Post

About the Author ()

Justin Morris is an Australian living the expat dream in London. He explores European cities on weekends between working as an IT consultant 9-5. He runs 48 Hour Adventure, a site that demonstrates that rewarding short term travel experiences are possible.

Comments (1)

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  1. Incredible you made it through all that on time! Reminds me of a time we were in New York during a blizzard. City all but shut down on Saturday night and Sunday morning. All flights out of New York cancelled on Sunday until 4pm…ours was at 4:00… We were likely the first flight out of JFK in nearly two days, and there were 127 people on standby trying to get on a flight that I just randomly booked 3 months earlier…