Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Belgium's coastal tram (De Kusttram) is the longest tram route in the world. Running the entire length of the Belgian coast, the tram blends surrealism, fantasy and the utterly mundane. Join us for moules et frites, and lots of gnomes too, as we ride the coastal tram from Plopsaland to Preventorium. full article available in pdf format

article summary —

The gnome peered out from under an enormous plastic rain hat and announced in the manner of one promulgating an important government decree: "There's nothing remotely Canadian about Manitoba." Gnomes with white beards are surely well informed, so we began to have second thoughts about travelling all the way to Manitoba.

The matter of Manitoba seemingly settled, the gnome turned his attention to a little girl who was standing in the drizzle holding a huge waffle in each hand and looking up in awe at the bearded figure. "If you eat both those waffles, you'll be so big you might explode," said the Gnome. "Then we'll have to send you to the Preventorium."

The five-year-old's face crumpled, a blueberry waffle dropped to the ground, and Plop the Gnome apologised to the child's parents, ushering the whole family to the front of the queue. Then it was time for Plop to get back to his toadstool, leaving the waffle girl and her extended family to buy tickets for admission to Plopsaland. And leaving us still wondering about Manitoba.

Plopsaland is a theme park on the edge of the Belgian village of Adinkerke, a place where Plop and his friends are utterly at home. Plop is as Belgian as waffles and only those with Belgian blood in their veins can really be expected to understand either. Just a short distance away to the south, Brits bound for home pull off the E40 motorway and stock up on cheap ciggies at Tobacco Alley. Adinkerke has the greatest concentration of cigarette shops of any village in Belgium. Sociologists must look with wonder at an entire community powered by gnomes and cheap tobacco.

All stations to Preventorium, Manitoba and beyond. That's the coastal tram. Even in the low season drizzle, it runs at least every twenty minutes. It is the easiest way to escape from Plopsaland.

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About the authors

hidden europe

and Susanne Kries manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers. They delight in discovering the exotic in the everyday.

This article was published in hidden europe 25.