I admit, we had no business being there. But then again, neither did he. And while our hike was a relatively mild trespassing, his actions were rather more… well, odd is probably the word I’m looking for. Judge by yourself – does the mere fact that you’re wearing the uniform of the Belgian army give you the right to fly your car around the bends of a dirt track across a military practice range on a Sunday? With your kids in the back seat? Armed with rifles and randomly shooting into the woods?
People, including myself, say that Holland has no wilderness. They say that all nature in Holland is cultivated and trimmed to a national standard. They are right. But Holland is a small European country and what a small European country lacks, there’s usually a neighbouring country not so far away that has it. So while there are no hills or forests in Holland, they are all present just across the border, in the Ardennes. Compared to Holland this region of Belgium is empty like the Australian outback. Also present in the relatively sparsely populated Ardennes are military practice ranges, on one of which me and my buddy were hiking that Sunday, thinking they won’t be shooting on their off day. We forgot it was Belgium, where the rules of logic are fuzzy at best.
There we were, eye to eye with the plump fellow in a grey-green uniform, fuming with rage behind the wheel of his Renault, angry mostly with himself for being caught in such obviously irresponsible and illegitimate act. He must have thought to himself that attack is the best defence and started shouting “C’est impossible! Terrain militaire!”, or something along these lines. My French is rather non-existant, so I was not sure what he was saying. Trying to speak Dutch was not going to earn us more points here in Wallonia (Belgium is a prime candidate to split into two, even smaller European countries and the two parts, Wallonia and Flanders are at odds with each other) and we were scratching our heads for French words. All I could come up with was “Je suis un camion”, which I learned from The Tom Green Show and which is the most useless phrase in any language. My buddy attempted to explain that “nous sommes touristes”, but that just triggered more angry French from the plump grey-green fellow.
The situation was growing more awkward, then in a split second it burst in a blaze of silent agreement. Without any further communication, we all knew we have agreed to pretend we haven’t seen anything and weren’t there at all, anyway. The plump grey-green fellow shouted “Allez!”, stepped on the gas and the Renault flew past the bend, leaving us in a cloud of fresh dust. I heard renewed gunfire. Belgium is definitely the most dangerous small European country I’ve ever been to.