I arrived in Leuven on Friday morning (June 4th)! The flight to Brussels didn’t seem as long as I expected and it was extremely easy to take the train from Brussels to Leuven. Once I was there, however, it took me a while to find the youth hostel I stayed at for a few days. While I work at IMEC this summer, I’m considered a “visiting scholar” at KU Leuven (the university in Leuven). You can’t reserve permanent housing from abroad, so you must stay in guest housing for a few days. The guesthouse at KU Leuven was booked this week, which is why I’m in the Youth Hostel Leuven, “De Blauwput.” It is actually right outside of the train station, but there was no big flashing sign that I expected, so I wandered around asking directions before finally coming back to it. The hostel is very nice, again not really something I expected… I suppose my prior “knowledge” of hostels came from American horror or comedy movies… I was in a room with 4 beds, a bathroom, sink, and shower. There is a kitchen (where breakfast is free and you can buy other meals or coffee), a lounge area, bar, foosball table, etc. They let me check in early so I could drop off my stuff and then go explore and find a bike!
It seems like everyone rides a bike around here, and I will need it to get around to work and to look for apartments, so the first and only thing I did on Friday was rent one from Velo, a bike rental place and repair shop. It was 67 euros for 3 months, but I will get the 50 euro deposit back when I return the bike. It was nice to wander around the city a bit with a goal – I got to see a bunch of the city but it helped me orient myself and stopped me from doing too much shopping! The ride back was much easier than the long walk there. I noticed that the bikes sort of go wherever they want and cars just go around them. On the main roads, there are designated bike lanes and even bike stop lights, but in the center of the city it is more or less a free for all of bikes, pedestrians, and cars.