A Cacophony in Dutch

elgiumOh, after the weekend my brain was a wreckage. I entered a complete zombiemode on Sunday and Monday came as a relief. It would at least bring some order to the cacophony.

Compared to normal, we had a surprisingly social weekend planned. There was some relaxed campfires and a couple of birthday parties to attend to. As on the go we needed to plan the whole trip to Romania, which is only a few moments away.

Well, it all started very nicely. We camped with our dear friends at one of the bivak zones they have here in Belgium. We chose the one in Stekene in Stropersbos, since it was the only one close by with no forecasted rain. There were a whole bunch of Dutch people too around the campfire. They were apparently hoping to get a glimpse of the lunar eclipse that was meant to happen that night. So we chatted over very very inappropriate topics, laughed from the bottoms of our bellies and completely missed the eclipse. partially thanks to the clouds, partially because we were afraid of someone turning into a werewolf. After a busy week of working and studying, we all went to bed at a respectable hour.

The bivak in Stropersbos is a very pleasant camping spot. It is a short walk away from a road and nicely in a middle of a nature preserve. They also heard semi wild Galloway cows and horses there. One of those ruminants were seeing us off, in the morning. Lovely, huge black beast.

On the Saturday morning we needed to get fast up and going. Waffle had finally hunted down the map for Retezat park in Romania and we needed to pick it up. From Ronse, a small town in the Flemish Ardennes.

Saturday had also a birthday party lined up for us. One of Waffles good old friends got older and a celebration was in order. This time without fireworks, oh thank the lord. We arrived into a garden filled with young families. Loads of laughter and noise. We were literally the only couple with no kids, nor any plans of having kids. The reality of those people was so far apart from ours it was even a little scary. Many of them were somehow expecting that me and Waffle would have also a very clear picture of our future, a five year plan on life, with a set of determined steps and all that. They were having difficult time in finding out, that we do not. I was feeling like a bit of an alien.

Well, it was a lot to take in, that evening. The conversations were all in Dutch, loud and quick. I was doing my best to understand even some parts of it all. Difficult! I could hear my brain popping while it was working and trying to find meanings to the words and understand the complete sentences. I was absolutely finished after the evening. And don’t get me wrong, the party was fun, with music, dancing and helium, the normal things, you know.

We returned to Waffle’s parent’s, where we had earlier brought our tent. We thought it would be a nice idea to sleep outdoors, since the weather was great. It felt heavenly to crawl into the sleeping back, snuggle with Waffle and fall asleep with the cool air of summer night tickling our noses.

But why on earth were we sleeping in a tent in Waffle’s parent’s field? Well, there was yet another birthday party. Waffle’s father had turned 70 and the children had bought him a grand gift of a safari in South-Africa! Waffle’s dad was so very happy, he couldn’t stop thanking people.

We had a lunch with grilled nibbles. All the children with their spouses and grand kids were there. I was again faced with a cacophony of Dutch.  The center for language in my brain over heated, packed its bags and walked out of my ear.

We finally got home to the sofa, I was hugging a pillow, restoring my capability to think.As our TV showed us something pointless.

Monday came, back to school I went, for the only day for this week. Tomorrow a doctor is going to go all wise and smart on my wrist and we’ll find out whether I’ll hike with or without cast. Wednesday we are off to Romania, Wheee!!

 

 

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When Rupelmonde Throws a Party

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 Carnival -Belgian style

It was a bright Sunday morning, as we had planned to rebuild buggy trailer so that it would fit all 4 of our buggies. Our newest, the Apexx, had finally entered the family. So far, it had been sitting on our living room floor, unscrewed and in pieces – Ah the fresh smell of rubber tires in the morning…

After breakfast we stepped out and found ourselves right in the middle of carnival preparations. Carnivals are a big thing in Belgium. The city Aalst is probably the most famous venue for a Carnival here. But even the humble village of Rupelmonde, a town of some 3 000 inhabitants, organizes a carnival of up to 30 groups parading!  Since the carnival was there, I grabbed the camera with us, and we strolled around the streets for a moment. A long moment, since our car got blocked into the parking lot by the whole ordeal.

We walked by the wagons, built for the occasion with all sorts of decor and groups of people finishing the makeup and costumes. There was a hint of nervousness in the air. Kids, walking around, taking themselves seriously, and already a few rather tipsy adults and a random sound check here and there blaring out a cacophony.

The essence of the Belgian Carnival seems to be drinking. As much pilsner as you can get down your throat. The best drinker of the village gets to be the prince of the Carnival. If you manage to be the heavily boozed prince for 3 year in a row, you will be granted the honor of Lordship. The Princes and Lords are the rulers of the village or city for that day. And invite the neighboring royalties to party with them. The tradition is, that they present themselves in gold embroidered clothing and pheasant feathers.

This thing is a serious business for some. It takes a lot of money and effort and passion to put together a good parade. The best groups win prices and rise into fame, at least momentarily. Some of these poor people need to attend the festivities the whole month, and are, undoubtedly, very drunk almost all the time.

Once the parade gets moving, all the wagons blast out dancing beats, throw candy and confetti into the crowd of spectators and dance, jump and run into deeper state of drunkenness.

As the last of the parade had staggered by and the path was clear for us to drive out, we headed towards Waffles parents to collect the trailer. Only to find out that someone had chopped down the trees, so that they blocked the entrance to the shed where the trailer spends its free time. We had a very unproductive Sunday. How was your weekend?