The weather has been on the chilly side for a while already all over Belgium. Finally, this Saturday it snowed a little in Flanders! That is a rare event and is a cause for joy for many. I spotted the first kid running around with a sledge outside before 9 in the morning.
We were less amused, since it was that day that we had to take Waffle’s new buggy to be adjusted. That meant driving to Roosendaal in the Netherlands, on the snowy roads. You see, snow on the road in Belgium is not a very good thing. It causes panic and screaming and upside down cars, usually not a pretty sight. And sure enough, before we passed Antwerp we saw 3 accidents and judging by the radio, more was in the making.
With good luck we managed to get to Roosendaal in one piece and dropped of the buggy to be made narrower. That caused some discussion since the maker of Xxtreme buggies is a sworn competitor. He did not have much understanding for Waffle’s style of driving. The narrowing would change the weight balance of the thing, which would make it slower, etc. etc.
We were told to call him in two hours time to check if he was done with the thing. That gave us enough time to head for Rotterdam. The snow covered Netherlands is a beautiful sight with its muffled colors and bolders and trees appearing from the haze. Such a pity we left our camera home.
In Rotterdam some shopping happened. Yes. You read correctly, we went shopping. We found a street, right in the center of town, with coffee shops mixed with all sorts of small boutiques selling oddities, vintage and trinkets. Luckily we had no time to go circling too many other streets. We went home with a pair of very seventies dresses (I actually do wear normal people clothes outside of the trail), and a remarkably narrower buggy.
By Sunday all the snow was gone. It seemed to have evaporated and turned into mist. The white cloud wrapped around everything: The windmills seemed to appear from nowhere as we drove past them towards Dendermonde, where we wanted to have a walk.
There we did a loop between the rivers Scheldt and Dender. The side of the Scheldt seems to be the Dendermonde villa district.The walking path took us in between the grand houses and the river, hiding in the dense fog. I must admit, I like looking at peoples homes. Especially if they are houses I would not be able to ever own, and the ones some architect designed and by some miracle managed to sell to some poor fool.
We were following the wonderful numbered crossing system, and our selected route took us quickly into more calm countryside. Everything was white, it felt like we were walking through a cloud, that only slowly revealed what was coming up ahead. A surprisingly lovely weather for a walk.
That was such a calm weekend. After that it is good to turn our gazes towards the trip Cyprus, which is here in a day or two. We are especially looking forward to the flocks of flamingos and the empty beaches. Maybe some mountains too!
Once more we were expecting visitors from back home and getting ready to show them all the best sides of Belgium. This time the lot was a bit different though. They were my parents, visiting my new home for the first time. That also meant, that very soon the parents both mine and Waffle’s would meet. Scary stuff.
They arrived on a Saturday evening to Brussels airport. At the airport you are not allowed in to the building, if you do not travel, so we were left outside on the street to wait for them. There were only a small group of people waiting and soldiers passing by, walking in between the doors and the waiting group of people. The effects of the resent bombings were clearly visible. Made me angry and sad to see what those terrorists did to this country.
Well, after a while the oldies emerged from the doors and we packed them into our car and drove off to Brussels. First there was the ever so important visit to the Atom in the northern side of Brussels, followed by visiting one of the cathedrals and the Grand Place. We grew hungry, unsurprisingly, and headed for Le Bistro, sitting right next to Hallepoort and serving traditional Belgian cuisine.
We were heading for a full week of parents visiting. Though poor Waffle had to work during that time. The feeling is always kind of double when the parents come over. It is lovely to have them over, of course it is, but at times, it can be a little rough. The way they still think you are about 5 years old and need help in just about every task in life. Although in reality they themselves are getting slower and older and don’t understand all the new things in this world. But they are your parents and you do enjoy their familiarity and way of living.
On Sunday we headed for the tulip fields of The Netherlands. The island of Texel would have been a bit far, so we decided to stop by in the Flevoland instead, which also has quite some nice fields. The blooming was late though, which was a surprise for us, since the spring is a little ahead of schedule in Belgium, but we did manage to catch some nice colors of tulips, so much so, that the oldies got a little bit bored.
Some more tulips.
I had to inspect closer.
Ans just in case, a couple of more tulips.
That was hint enough to move on. My dad had wanted to see some heavy duty damn building, Dutch style. So we went to cross the damn that separates the Ijsselmeer from the sea, drove off to Amsterdam, passed Rotterdam harbor and walked around some nice delta works in Brouwersdam, where we got a wonderful treat to see some seals fishing, before getting back home. And we had thought Texel to be far. Oh boy.
Monday came and Waffle returned to work, leaving me the responsibility to keep the oldies entertained. So we went to a concentration camp. Well, a museum of one called Breendonk. The camp was built into a old fortification and filled with political prisoners and Jews. The museum is well done, it preserves the reality of the camp well, you can still almost hear the Nazi yells echoing in the long cold corridors of the fort. Not really the fun and joyous holiday destination, but it is undoubtedly important to know the resent history.
After that we filled the days with Hallerbos, so some flowers after a grim day in the concentration camp. The blooming of the bluebells was announced on the news, so the parking lot for the forest was of course full. We managed to keep off of the main trails and actually found some peace and quiet, surrounded by the delicate smell rising from the flower carpet.
Even more flowers we found from the large fruit farms. The apple and pear trees are right now in full bloom and the orchards are looking beautiful! Those are in Verrebroek, rather close to Doel, the ghost town, so we payed a visit to it too and had a tasty picnic watching the ships sail by to the Antwerp harbor. Somehow calming and odd, to have the thriving harbor at one side and the silent, dead village on the other. Dad gave his speech on the useless graffiti art, which me and mom kindly ignored as we leaped over to an apple tree to pick some of the blooming branches before heading home.
That evening my oldies met the Waffle’s oldies. The setting made us a bit nervous. There was a lot of translating needed, since they do not have any common language between them. But apparently it went fine. People laughed, drank some and had a surprisingly good conversation with mine and Waffle’s censorship in between. I hope they liked each other, at least the Oldies of Waffle have been invited to Finland.
For the last full day we had gathered a trip to the Belgian history. A few, a little bit embarrassing bits of it. We were off to Mons, first having a useless pit stop at the Beloeil castle. Useless mainly, because the castle was closed. It is open only on weekends, which is something I did not notice while surfing their site. Stupid me. Waffle was rather frustrated. It was a very beautiful castle though, for the part we could see.
Off we were then, slightly disappointed as we drove through the withering Mons, where once mighty houses are now rundown, since the coal industry died there. Mons was left behind quickly when we headed for the boat lift of Strépy-Thieu, it is a huge tower that lifts and lowers boats over the height difference of 73 meters. It has never really been needed to its full capacity. It is just one of the ironic statues of the Belgian waffle iron politics, where money to invest needed to be divided equally cent by cent between the north and the south. I wrote little something about that area here.
This time, there even was some action at the boat lift…
All things end eventually, and The Oldies have now been chauffeured back to the airport and left on their own devices. I hope they make it home safely. I think we managed to show them rather nice bits of Belgium. Also, everybody was relatively happy, Waffle has not been murdered as an unfitting companion for me and I have not been kidnapped back to Finland. Plus, there are still places in Belgium for them to visit later on.