When Rupelmonde Throws a Party

Fireworks, Rupelmonde, Festival

One big part of summer in Belgium are festivals, village celebrations (kermis is the name they give to it in Flanders) and all sorts of small scale events. Our neighborhood here in Rupelmonde is not left out of the traditions, they throw a party called Schellekensfeesten. That event took place last weekend.

What on earth is a kermis then? Well, for Rupelmonde it means a bit of everything. There is a flea market on the streets, small amusement park, gigs, fireworks and beer, waffles and fries. An event for everybody as long as the weather ain’t too bad, I should say.

Well, since we happened to not have any plans to go anywhere that weekend we decided to take part in the festivities. We prepared a BBQ and invited a friend over. He was going to the Lokerse feesten but would have a bit of time to share with us too. Great!

Guy arrived with his Merc half full of beer. Powered by the beers we smoked half of our house, ate and headed out for some more beers and adequately bad music. The towns people started to all gather around and the warm summer evening had a nice atmosphere to it.

Before we let Guy leave for the Lokerse feesten we walked round the festival area and found the bumper cars! There was this warm childish feeling awaking in us and before I knew it, Waffle had gone and bought all of us a couple of rounds in those cars. Oh dear, the poor actual children who dared to join the fun. We all went a little mad, hitting every car we managed to catch. It had been a loong time since I last did something like that, and afterwards my cheeks hurt because the maniac smile I was wearing. I hope I didn’t leave too bad nightmares to anybody.

We were left just by the two of us since Guy had gone to enjoy Slayer, rather than slager. It was nice to see our sleepy little town wake up and have a party. More people were starting to gather for the main event of the evening. There was fireworks in the program. We searched our way out of the crowd (as a good hermit should) and found our spot right at the dam of Schelde. We weren’t expecting much from the show. Rupelmonde is a very small town after all, but we were pleasantly surprised. The pyro people had managed to put up quite a show that lasted probably a half an hour covering the whole town in gunpowder smoke and bits of ash.

By the time the fireworks were done, the people had had enough time to find their way to the beer and back a few times and were soundly feeling the vibes of traditional slager, which the bar next door to us was willingly blasting out of its loudspeakers. There was a happily swaying mass of people singing along less than accurately on our street. It was a hellish job to get to sleep with that.


Sunday came. Some of the people of Saturday were still there. The flea market had given way to people showing their traditional professions of handcrafts and the streets were paraded by giants and marching bands and people in  fancy costumes. Yes, you read correctly, giants.

There is that odd tradition in Flanders of building giant dolls that are then paraded through streets with every possible occasion. Also a marching band might be added. The most famous one from Rupelmonde seem to be the one picturing the map maker Mercator. Quite a fancy doll it is at that. The parading tradition has been added to the UNESCO cultural heritage list too. I am yet to discover why this is going on.

After all that marching, singing and drinking the buzz of the people was calming down. After all, it was Sunday and many were looking at a working day ahead of them. The bar next door decided not to care and played, not slager, but 90′ dance hits well into the night with a large bunch of people cheering them on. Again, not the optimal sleeping conditions, but we managed. And after such a nice weekend at home, I am willing to give in to some discomfort.

Next weekend we are finally leaving home. Off to Les Hemmes again, to try and survive alive yet another buggy session!



The first leg of learning Dutch

GR trail, Sign post, Border

Yup, here we are, a little bit smarter. 80 hours of Dutch behind my back. Breakthrough module is now studied. I think I did good, well, the hell with it, I did great! I got 96% of the maximum score! Just some minor things to be corrected.

Plus I made new friends, which is always a massive plus on any record.

This time studying a language has been very much a different experience than any other time. Counting out the first years of studying English as a ten-year-old eager mind. Now the motivation has been truly innate. I have a huge will to learn which is a wonderful feeling and really helps me to learn. I want to be able to communicate with the locals and of course with Waffle and his family with their mother tongue.

I am getting closer to that goal. At least on a theoretical level. It seems, that everybody outside of the classroom is speaking a completely different language. The differences in dialects in Belgium are huge. We are thought to speak somewhat proper Dutch but in the real world, the dialects rule the game.

Even though Belgium is not a big country, there are loads of regional differences in culture, and definitely in language and dialects. The obvious is of course the division between Dutch, French and German speaking Belgians.

The Dutch spoken here differs a lot form the Dutch in the Netherlands. Belgian version is actually called Flemish which has more influences from French compared to the proper Dutch. And there are several different ways of speaking Flemish as well. Starting from the west, the dialect that needs subtitles in national TV, since no Belgian outside West Flanders can understand them. They have they own set of words and completely self made way of pronunciation.

In the east is Limburg, there the Flemish is rather clean, people speak slowly, and practically sing all the time. Lovely people, these ones even I can understand without too much painful effort and millions of “Wablief?”s.

Closer to my home is Antwerp. They are famous for their arrogance and the Aantwaarps dialect, with a lovely, lovely “A”. It sounds like they have a permanent hot potato in their mouth, poor people.  Also the whole Flanders seems to have an odd passion of swallowing the letter “I”, which will make many sentences completely incomprehensible. Now how am I supposed to make anything out of anything? I am lucky though, I think, since I live in one of the cleaner dialect areas. But still, I am more or less screwed everywhere outside Rupelmonde, since the next village is already adding its own twist to the language.

I already booked the course for the next level, which will begin on Monday. The teacher spooked us students by telling us that it is going to be more intense. In preparation for that, I’ll be abusing Waffle. We’ll be having an hour each day, only communicating in Dutch! I am horrified. But he is very capable of talking sloooowly and in proper Dutch so even a dumb person can understand. Maybe eventually we evolve into more normal style of conversation.

So here I am, on my way to learning a new language, one step further!




A Belgian Beer Festival

Just as we waved good byes to my parents, our minds were already turned to the next destination. That would be the yearly event of the Zythos Beer festival in Leuven. That has somewhat formed to be a tradition for us. It is the perfect place to go find new beers and get to know new breweries. At this point, I must remind you, that there is a large difference between the German style beer festival and the Belgian style beer festival. In Belgium, you drink several different beers form a glass of 1 deciliter, rather than pint after pint of a beer.

Neither of us was feeling like staying sober for the night and driving home. So we packed the tent into our car, with plenty of blankets, since the night was going to be cold. They even forecasted snow in the east and south of Belgium. The plan was to camp on the lawn of Waffles work, which happens to be right on the corner of the festival hall.

By the time we arrived, quite some beer had already been flowing to those small glasses. We heard the cheer of someone breaking their glass clear, loud and on regular pacing. The hall smelled malty, sweaty and sweet. Not quite as bad combination as one might think. To most Belgians, I guess, it is a sign of a nice party with good beer.

The beer stand of Timmermans brewery was the first to catch our attention. That was a good choice, they poured us a dark glass of Bourgogne des Flandres, which we fell in love with. Very nice, not too sweet, warmly brown liquid that was. Yum. We met some other nice tastes too. Delirium red is my new favorite of cherry beers, at least for the summer to come, and an interesting taste combination of chocolate and coffee in a quadruple was found from the Inglorious brew stars.

There are other things to a beer festival than just beer. The event is often international. This time we met people from Argentina, and old couple from USA, on a trip through Europe. Even an English guy, who had been studying in Finland. And loads of others. The best part is, that after a few beers, people start talking to people they do not know. Add a couple of more beers, and they’ll start singing schlager. You decide for yourselves whether this is a good thing or not.

The beer serving stopped at half past 10 in the evening, and the hall started to wonder out. Surprisingly lot of people headed for their camper vans, parked right outside the hall. Our destination was our tent, couple of hundred meters further. Morning rose with a hefty hangover, at least we knew, that the evening had been a success.

So very sorry about the quality of the pictures. We replaced the camera with a potato…