Wrapping up the year 2016

It is December again, the end of the year, time of celebrations, traditions and the beginning of winter. It is a good moment to count your fortunes, check if you have offended the Karma, and how much more, or less, kilos there are on the waistline. After that we can all consider whether the year was a good or a bad one, and what to do in 2017 to make it better, or worse, in case someone happens to be a masochist.

Well, I started this year with my Waffle in Barcelona. Making wishes as people around us swallowed grapes on every beat of the clock. Since then there has been some new pins appearing to our map. Somehow we orientated a lot to the Eastern Europe this year. Some great mountains and wild nature there. I think both of us fell in love with Montenegro in its endless greenery. Not that Romania is left too far behind.

I think we have gotten a bit used to this traveling. It felt like a quiet year until we lay our eyes on the photo album. We have been to places with quite a hectic pace.

Beside the traveling we do, there is the normal, everyday life we are having. Our relationship is only getting stronger I think. And forming sometimes even a little spooky, symbiotic features. But I love my Waffle and he loves me back, so I don’t really mind even if we transform into one of those disgusting couples who do everything together and the same way.

We have also gained some amazing friends this year. They make me realize the fact, that you should surround yourself with people you feel good to be around and that support you and offer a healthy amount of critique at times, when you are going wild on a stupid idea. Thank you, my new people. And thank you my old people, who are still there and haven’t forgotten me, no matter the distance in between!

And personal growth? Someone told me it is sometimes important to consider that as well, sometimes. Pfft, says I, but lets give it a try. I have always been, and still am, very bad at self reflection. I go with a flow, see where I end up and embrace the opportunities that rise along the way, out of coincidences and accidents. Sometimes it is liberating, at times it is stressful but it works for me. And Waffle seems to be able to tag along nicely, so I am happy.

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Somehow this passed year did force me to look a bit deeper too. Taking a jump off of work was something I had to consider a bit. I wasn’t sure if I was giving up too soon and whether it was fair towards Waffle. But since quitting I have gained a new language (somewhat) and a new job! So no new lessons learned about being spontaneous and reckless.

What about the coming 2017? It is getting closer and closer and somehow we all need to survive it. I usually do not make any resolutions. Now I am making an exception, since I think I came up with a good one that might make me a better person. Or a more irritating one, who knows.

You know, there are those moments when you end up saying “We definitely should do that!” I think most people have that habit. But what happens after saying those words? Sometimes something, often absolutely nothing. Now, I promise that after I blurt out a thing like that, something will happen.

My dear friends. I love you, please don’t make me regret this…

What about you, people out there; How was your 2016 and what is the survival plan for 2017? In any case, Happy New Year!

Couple, Sailing, DFDS

On actual normal picture of the two of us together. Nobody making faces!

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What happened in October

November is usually the depressingly boring month, when the autumn really sets in, turning everything into grey, wet and cold misery. Then the nature goes to sleep, sun does not want to rise anymore and people are getting ill and depressed. At the same time the wheels of the economy are starting to spin faster after the summer break. That is usually a bad combination, and unnatural, in my humble opinion.

The starting of my October was not quite that depressing, or business-wheely. It started of with a birthday hike. Our dear German friend from Karhunkierros was getting older, and she had had the wonderful idea of hiking a part of the famous Mullerthal trail accompanied by hiking people. For us that was also a wonderful opportunity to get together with more or less the same group with which we hiked the most important hike of my life. Oh the nostalgia and the pretty memories! We should start doing that more often!

The planned hike started from Mullerthal and looped back via Larochette, 37 km of Luxembourgish countryside for us to hike in 2 days. We drove to Mullerthal in pouring rain. The weather didn’t get much better when it was time to get going on foot. So we all ended up looking more or less like walking tents in our rain gear.

The first day took our convoy through a beautiful valley all the way to Larochette. By the time we got there the rain had more or less ended and our wet convoy of hikers was able to get their feet dry. The evening was starting to turn a little bit moist though; Someone had brought some absinthe, and the store of the camping had a good supply of beer. We were able to get our birthday girl, and more importantly, the rest of the group, nicely tipsy. Soon there were plenty of inappropriate German jokes and out of focus pool games around.

The return hike to the car began in the late morning and was sturdily hangoverish. The convoy was walking less than straight, but everybody seemed to be pleased with the small party we had had the night before, I certainly was. We crossed quite a bit of beautiful Luxembourgian countryside with rain and wind on our backs.

The ending part of the trail took us to a wooden path that was extremely slippery after a couple of days of rain. On every second step someone was almost dropping off to greet the bushes. Soon we started to see more and more people, we were approaching the very popular bit of the famous stone formations, waterfalls and bridges, which many people obviously want to see.

Soon after that we found the cars, packed all the wet hikers into them, and drove home. For us it was a bath awaiting accompanied by some good wine.

The next weekend it was time to teach some basics of kiting to our dear friends Maria and Bram, who we have met via my Dutch lessons. One Friday we sent them off to Les Hemmes with their camper van and children. We would be coming after them on Friday.

That weekend turned out to be full of surprises.  First one being, that the camping we have started to use, was closed for the whole winter.  We had sent our friends there to find a closed gate and felt very bad about it. They had to go look for another campsite for the night.

On Saturday we arrived too, and got a confirmation of the camping really being closed. Another set of our dear friends, Maarten and Yvan, had found us another camping and even reserved a spot. Lovely people those guys! So we managed to focus on the more important tasks at hand, socializing over a beer with buggiers that is.

There was of course eventually a time for the beach too. The beach was perfect, I realized and felt immediately sorry for myself, since my wrist would not allow me to kite or drive at all. But the weather was nice, I had a chair, a camera and a good book with me, so the beach life would not be that bad.

By the time Maria and Bram joined the group we had already built our buggies and enjoyed a very buggier-like portion of beer, thanks to our dear friend Maarten. It was definitely time to drag ourselves to the beach. We set camp and Waffle started teaching.

Waffle’s day turned out to be hectic. There were two adults to be instructed and their kids to entertain. He was driving our tandem up and down the beach all day long, with too low wind and massive kites and kind yelling at him to go either faster or slower. If he wasn’t driving he was teaching people to fly a kite. I was ruminating my own misery of not being allowed to even touch a kite (I did though, do not tell Waffle).

That teaching resulted to the next surprise of the day. Bram was incredibly talented. Waffle shoved bigger and bigger kites into his hands and he didn’t die. Soon Bram found himself in a buggy with the kite and sure enough, he drove! He found the correct wind direction very easily and managed to drive some very impressive lines. Either Waffle is getting great at teaching or Bram is phenomenal.

The following day the wind was completely gone. Other activities needed to be invented. Since there were kids and all, we decided to go see the seals. As usual, to see them we had to drive through the makeshift refugee camp, The Jungle. Driving through that place is always an experience. To the kids it left quite an impression for sure.

At the shore we saw quite some seals. Apparently very contempt and happy seals. I have never seen them so relaxed before. They were just floating around with the current and socializing with the other blobbers. It was great to end that weekend like that, watching something so beautiful.

After that my October became a little bit more business-wheely. I had to stop my Dutch lessons (still getting my diploma though, with 89% score!) and get to work. So it finally started. My new challenge in working life. I work in the EU quarter in Brussels, right in the middle of EU politics. Which is surprisingly lot of fun. The job is interesting and the people are great, finally I am happy to be working again!

But I do spend a lot of time on the road. It is not the optimal journey to work from Rupelmonde to Brussels, especially as I am for the time being refusing to drive to the center on my own. That is why I haven’t been writing too much lately, at least in English, so sorry about that. I just haven’t had the time. But I’ll try to get it going again.

We do have some things coming up. Waffle is doing his No Alcohol November and we are going to Mallorca for a getaway weekend. There is another set of Finnish Beer Festival coming up and of course, Christmas is here pretty soon. I am happy to announce, that we’ll be spending it in Finland!

How is autumn getting along there, where ever you are?

A Weekend Starts With Delirium

The heat in Belgium was still going on when the wonder of a weekend was brought upon us. A bit earlier we had decided to go and visit the brewery of the family Huyghe, in Melle, a small town right at the corner of Gent. We were foolishly thinking that an indoor activity would be good for the hot day. Our friend Ivan was dragged along too, with a promise of some BBQ after the beer tour was done.

Huyghe is most famous for their Delirium beers, which come in many tastes, but they do brew quite some other stuff as well, including fruit beers and also darker stuff. Even though the brewery has a long history, it is nothing but old and drowsy. They seem to be hooked on investing and expanding, and sustainability is one of their core values. The place has a water filtration plant of their own which makes the production very efficient in water usage and they employ people with special needs, who might face difficulties in a normal job market. Great stuff Huyghe!

The English tour goes on every Saturday at 4 pm, you will get in for the mere price of 8 euros a person and it includes beer tasting. Plenty of beer tasting.

The tour starts with a glass of beer, straight from the draft, under an old copper brewing kettle made into a bar. I think we all drank a Campus, which was a very pleasant acquaintance, with subtle flavors and nice sweetness to it. After that was done, the show moved to a small auditorium to watch a short movie on the steps of the brewery becoming what it is today.

After the film, we moved on, to see the older copper brewing installation, that had served the brewery before all the hightec things they have today. Apparently it had taken endless efforts to clean it. They are now serving their purpose as museum pieces, and beautiful pieces they are, large shining copper bowls.

Next we walked to the room where the magic actually takes place. Even though the brewing was not going on, it was still very very hot in the room, the giant stainless steel tanks were breathing heat from the previous brew. Our guide explained to us all sorts of things of the temperatures, boiling times and stages of incubation and filtration. In the next room they held the grains that make the mash. The smell in there was so very familiar and nice, smell of grinded grains, it reminded me of home. They use a variety of different seeds, even spelt and quinoa, which was a complete surprise for me. Oh, and they have a special hop room too, with its own set of scents!

The smells were left behind as we explored some more tanks and pipes and cooling stages and learned why lager is lager (it has a low fermentation; laag = lager). The beer making process is quite a science quest with all of its accuracies and fine tunings. After the tanks we moved to the bottling and barreling lines. Which are extensive. They brew about 200 000 liters of beer each day, so there needs to be quite some bottles and barrels filled. At Huyghe that is also a very well modernized operation, with robots and all. Those liters of beer are then packed into crates and stacked high in warm rooms to keep the fermentation going.

The tour was over, the guide – who by the way was a volunteering beer enthusiast and did a great job – poured some more beers into us. We tasted their triple, the Guillotine, and of course the Delirium itself. Delirium has a story behind it, well the name especially. It was named after a beer inspector, who had had too much to drink that day and was having a delirium tremens. A smart manager from the brewery decided to give that as a name for the new beer they were brewing. And so, also the pink elephant.

We left happy, and a slight bit tipsy which might be the reason why we also now own t-shirts with pink elephants on them. The point is, if you want to be happy, and are in Belgium, visiting a brewery might not be a bad idea, at least the guys of the Huyghe are extra friendly.

The weekend was not over, we still had a Sunday to waste. So we got some friends along, took the car and buggy gear and drove to Zeebrugge, the less known coastal cousin of Brugge. There is a big harbor there and a beach right next to it. Our friends Yulija and Igor had never even heard of buggying before, so we decided to show them what it was all about.

The wind was rather hard, even Waffle was not thinking about flying anything larger than a 4 meter. The dry sand was flying around and quickly finding its way into our eyes, ears and underwear, good thing it was still sunny and warm. There were dozens of kite surfers out there in the sea. I find it always very beautiful to see so many kites in the air, it is a sign of people having fun.

Igor and Yulija were, after bit of hesitation, getting exited as Waffle pulled the buggy together and attached the tandem to it. My buggy was left in the trailer, no driving with a broken arm. I was feeling a little sad.

There was only one buggier in addition to us on the beach and we parked our camp at a respectable distance from him. He was flying an old school delta kite and Waffle was jealous. Apparently those are fun to fly, they try to kill you even more than the ones we use, apparently.

Waffle spread out the first kite, our barely used 4 meter of a Yakuza. The wind was rather hefty. Normally he drives a tandem with a kite twice that size. We managed to convince Yulija to hop in the back after repeating 7 times that she would definitely not die. And off they went, out to the sea and back to the quay, making a turn with sand splattering and out again. We could hear Yulija’s excited screams as they passed us close by. Igor was getting more and more certain, that it was either crazy or dangerous to go and ride with Waffle.

Nevertheless Igor soon found him self sitting as a passenger, as Waffle lifted the kite up, and they went to their way. I was feeling a growing itch to get riding, or at least kiting myself, but of course that wasn’t an option. Plus, to be honest, I probably would have been scared of the wind. I had to settle for the next best option; tandeming. The wind had picked up, and Waffle switched into using an even smaller kite. A kite that gave me some flash backs of Denmark, my very first time of kiting.

After all the tandeming was done, it was time to teach the newbies something. Out came the “shopping back” our tiniest toy kite with only loops for handles. The wind was already too heavy to give a rookie even a 2 meter kite. They ended up having quite some fun with it, learning steering, looping and spinning. Both Igor and Yulija learned fast the basics of kiting; I think Waffle is getting better and better at teaching people!

I think we managed to get two new people hooked to this thing we do. At least they now want to buy a kite of their own to have fun with. That is always so nice, to help people learn new things and getting them excited over it!