HS testasi ratikan, joka on reitti on maailman pisin – ja ehkä myös hauskin. Belgian rannikon Kusttramissa on 68 pysäkkiä 67 kilometrin matkalla, ja sillä pääsee hetkessä rannalta toiselle.
Teija Sutinen HStext
Juha Roininenpictures and videos
VApise Tampere’s trolley, get out from under Raide-Jokeri! From here comes the Kusttram, the world’s longest tram route, which runs 67 kilometers from one end of the Belgian coast to the other.
The route of the coastal tram starts in the municipality of De Panne, located on the border with France, from where the route continues to Knokke near the Netherlands. The whole trip takes two and a half hours, with 68 stops.
Along the Ratika route are the holiday destinations on the North Sea coast, beloved by Belgians, whose white sandy beaches have been visited by families for several generations.
If anywhere, here ratikka is an unbeatable game. If one destination starts to get boring, you can pack the beach bouquets in the shop’s durable plastic bag in the style of the locals and change the scenery for a few hours. From there, the Kusttram already comes with sand around it, during the beach season in July–August, every ten minutes.
A one-time ticket costs 2.50 euros, but with a day ticket for 7.50 euros, you can sometimes deviate from the ride.
The De Lijn company operates Kusttram, and one of the company’s drivers, Alain Neuvillehas time to take a breather at the terminus of De Panne.
Fortunately, he has Kusttram’s latest model tram car underneath, with the air conditioning running at full power. According to Neuville, the fastest speed on the tram is 70 kilometers per hour. It is the same maximum speed as the Tampere trolleybus and the future light rail in Helsinki.
Kusttram’s trams need a lot of maintenance, because sea sand and salty air wreak havoc. Now, according to Neuville, an additional concern comes from the hot weather, which causes the wires to sag.
Unlike HS, drivers never drive the entire route from end to end. Neuville’s next stop is midway in Ostend, from where he will return to De Panne.
From the terminus of De Panne, you can hear people squealing on the equipment of the adjacent amusement park Plopsaland. The name comes from the Plop gnome on Belgian television who lives in a small house that looks like a mushroom.
The Plopsa parking lot is full of cars despite the trolley. Belgium has good public transport, but the people love their cars, on which terms the whole country is still designed. On a summer weekend, looking for a parking spot at beach destinations is a chore.
Coastal is part of the history of Belgian royalty. There is a king on De Panne’s beach boulevard of Leopold I statue in the places where he first stepped off a ship in his life onto Belgian soil. Leopold I was imported from Germany and ascended the throne of the country that became independent from the Netherlands in 1831.
The statue of Leopold I, the first king of Belgium, on the beach of De Panne. The German-born king who lived in Britain landed in Belgium for the first time.
Otherwise, De Panne is like Jätkäsaari moved to the shore of the North Sea. The building stock is new and high, and more is coming.
We continue to Oostduinkerke and happen to be there conveniently at low tide. On the coast of the North Sea, the fluctuation of high and low tides is strong, and even here the difference between them is four meters – which means that the shoreline has now receded far into the horizon.
Have to squint, but are there horses in the sea?
This is how shrimp was fished in Oostduinkerke already 500 years ago.
We have hit the beach just as the paardevisser show is starting. In the summer, the locals who value tradition present how fishing was done on the beach 500 years ago: fishermen climb on the backs of strong club-footed Brabant horses and guide them into the sea, where the triangular net they pull behind them collects shrimp from the bottom.
The fishing method has been included in UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage.
The horses wade into the sea up to their chests and make a long run parallel to the shore. After reaching the beach, paardevisser Nele Bekaertthe only woman in the group, pours the catch from the net into the strainer.
Nele Bekaert maintains the paardevisser tradition.
Nele Bekaert sorts the catch on the beach of Oostduinkerke.
Some of the small pocket crabs in the catch end up in children’s beach games.
Instead of shrimps, small squirming crabs and small fish come out of the sea. A flock of seagulls moves impatiently.
Renée Bostyn is her husband By Bryan Vermeulen bought a three-day ticket to Kusttram with
“We like to vacation in Belgium,” says Bostyn.
The couple lives nearby in Ypres, better known by its French name Ypres. Oostduinkerke is a familiar place – Vermeulen first came there when he was eight years old. They make trips by trolley to nearby towns, to Blankenberg to see relatives or anywhere else they can think of, except Knokke.
“It’s too great for us. We are ordinary people, Knokke is for the upper class,” says Bostyn.
Belgians Bryan Vermeulen and Renée Bostyn like to vacation in their home country.
Between Oostduinkerke and Oostende, the carriage can finally see the sea. On the other side of the road are the restored remains of the defense line of the Atlantic wall, which was built by the Germans in the section in Raversijde already in the First World War.
The digging of bunkers continued in the Second World War, because Adolf Hitler correctly guessed that the North Sea coast could be the weak link in Germany’s defense.
The next stop is De Haan, or Rooster. According to a local story, fishermen knew how to navigate from the foggy sea to land when they heard a rooster crowing in the village.
De Haan is a favorite destination on the coast for many, especially German tourists.
In De Haan, the villas and the Kusttram stop building exude the atmosphere of the early 20th century. Leopold II oversaw the construction of the city himself and wanted to make sure that there would be enough villas and that they would not look too similar. The scale is more humane than in other destinations on the coast, as there are still no high-rise buildings and hotels.
The electric tram started running between Ostend and De Haan in 1905, a few years before the king’s death.
De Haan’s restored tram stop is from 1888, from the early days of Kusttram.
The most famous resident of the locality and the current statue is Albert Einsteinwho lived here for a while after escaping from Germany in 1933.
The Germans Simone and Markus Schlimm waiting for the Kusttram back to Westende, which is an hour away. They have first spent three days in Brussels, then two in Ghent and finally ten days on the coast, on a trolley every day at a different destination. The coast feels like home, although not everyone here likes Germans.
What can you do! But on the Flemish-speaking coast, many people know German, which makes vacationing easier.
North Sea the white shimmering coastline is about to break, as Zeebrugge, Belgium’s second largest port after De Haan, approaches. The largest is Antwerp, with which they are the same company.
After the logistical mess of containers, truck knobs, docks and rails, the sandy beach continues undisturbed towards Knokke.
The cart is now running almost empty, apparently the people going to Knokke have other means of transport at their disposal. The terminal stop is far from the beach, outside the city center.
Knokke’s upper-class reputation comes from, among other things, the fact that a city the size of Kajaani has four Michelin-starred restaurants, Belgium’s largest casino and good shopping opportunities along the Lippenslaan, the main street leading to the beach.
A young lifeguard on the Oostduinkerke beach has previously said that Knokke is a good place to party, but it’s a bit hard to believe that. The future picture of Europe’s fit but elderly pensioners might look like Knokke.
Ona Inghelbrecht and Jaro Vanhalst were the day’s lifeguards at De Haan beach and are waiting for the Kusttram in the direction of De Panne. Vanhalst goes to water polo training in Ostend, Inghelbrecht lives there. Lifeguards are employed, among other things, by small children who have lost their parents.
Thanks to Kusttram, it was easy to get here. You can also get out just as easily.
Towards the evening, the trolley shift interval increases, and Kusttram wagons are driven to the Knokke depot.
Juha Roininenpictures and videos
Janne Elkkivideo editing
Tuija Pallasteproducing and editing the text
PUBLISHED 31.07.2022 © Helsingin Sanomat