Thursday, December 20, 2007


Essen on Track

The glasses proudly pronounce "Essen 150 jaar spoorgemeente"- 150 years of train connection from Roosendaal in the Netherlands to Antwerpen via Essen.

The slogan is dated for several reasons. Not only did the celebration actually take place three years ago - glasses are reused so you get your 3 euro deposit back if you hand in a clean glass upon leaving the festival. You may also opt to keep it as an inexpensive souvenir, but appearantly few do so.

Second, it is my prediction that this particular railway line (line no 12) is likely to be less important in the near future. A new high-speed line has been built east of the line 12 connecting Antwerpen and Brussels with Amsterdam via the barony city of Breda. (In an endless series of delays, it now seems scheduled to open in October 2008). It will reduce travel time from Amsterdam to Antwerpen to just one hour!

Unfortunately, the first day of this year's festival was struck by one of several one-day strikes by the Belgian train personnel. Some trains were still running since not all trade unions participated in the strike, but the train company seemed unable to predict which would still leave (even if with a delay). There is an air of helplessness descending upon many Belgian companies and employees when the unexpected strikes, which is so contrary to the originality and creativity shown in Belgian beer brewing. As a result, getting to the festival from inside Belgium was very difficult that day (but manageable from Roosendaal due to some good piece of advice on the festival web site).

The festival itself was on track as always with 126 different beers on offer. As such, it has rightly become one of the biggest annual beer events in Belgium, attracting craft beer enthusiasts from all over the world. In fact, international visitors may well outnumber the Belgians, and the Nordic countries are well represented, especially Denmark.

It was organised for the 13th time, and was subject to some unlucky circumstances this year. However, with the skills and dedication of the organisers, Objectieve Bierproevers Essense Regio, the local branch of Zythos, there was no way the festival could possibly derail. Trains may come and go (or rather not, as the case was), but I am pretty sure that beer tourists will continue to make their annual call at Essen for years to come.

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