24 July, 2007

When the wheels became squares...

There are many, very many bike paths in Belgium and they all lead to everywhere. So we took them. And four hours later we still didn't reach our destination.

It was a nice sunny day, not too warm and just perfect for biking. We had a plan. We decided to go 15km further to visit a friend and look at his boat at the river. We had a plan but we didn't look at the map. We crossed the village center and the railways, and then the forest, and then another village, and one more. It was saturday, perfect weather for biking, not many people biking (saturday), enjoying the nature, watching the houses, comparing the gardens, what more does one would want...? At the certain point we even got to the middle of Flanders, Opdorp. This is a small village with a huge market place with a park in the middle of it. We passed few nice restaurants but it was not a time to eat so we continued the trip with a plan to come there on our way back. Lots of green around us. Blue sky... and airplanes!! The 21st of July is the National Day in Belgium.

Het was op 21 juli 1831 dat Leopold I, de eerste Koning der Belgen, de grondwettelijke eed aflegde. The first King of the Belgian Leopold I took the constitutional oath on the 21st of july 1831. Belgium is a rather young kingdom. In 2031 will become 200years old... Funny! For us the Polish, it is unthinkable that our country would exist only 100 something years. What a short backward perspective!! Call us the nationalists but we are proud of our more then 1000years history as one nation and country. The first Polish king Boleslaw Chrobry was crowned in 1025 although he ruled the country as a Duke already since 992, after the death of his father, the first Duke of Poland Mieszko I. So, that's a hell of a history there!!

But coming back to Belgium, it's an artificial country. Artificial meaning, they took some people, they told them::
- From now on, these are the borders, this will be your king and you will be Belgium.
- But not all of us speak the same language! - they replied
- That's OK. There are two different nations here. We took a bit from the North and a bit from the south but it's not a problem. You will be living peacefully together. We want it like this and you shut up.
- OK. - they agreed and walked away.
That is not true, of course. The Belgian provinces separated from the Dutch ones because they didn't like the Dutch Orange Prince. They created their own state and wrote their very first own constitution. Found a candidate for a king and took off as a country. How difficult can it be?? The country holds two communities of different origins, the Flemings (descendants of the people of Flanders) to the north and the Walloons (Frankish descent) to the south. That's why they speak no belgian
around here but dutch as well as french. Some - more "as well as" then th others but, admit, it's confusing. Let's not be surprised. And its' amazing how two so very much different mentalities (one more north -dutch, the other more south-french) can exist within one country. Why haven't they split up yet? ...They do think they are one country... I guess. One wouldn't survive without another (at least one way). And the another feels responsible for the first one. They are like brother and sister; one takes care of the other one despite the age and intrests difference. They stick together.

Proceeding our biking trip, we stopped along the road, in the middle of the field to watch the parade of the belgian airforces. There were many military airplanes flying through above our heads, some F16's, some B52's, old airplanes, new ones, many of them. At a certain moment I thought I saw a fat lumpy boeing with a royal family on board passing by... but it could have been fatamorgana...we were standing on a cornfield afterall. And they were flying quite low so that one could have a good look. So far we asked three diffrent people about our biking route. We tried to follow the "schelderoute", however sometimes we "managed" to follow the "aspergesroute"... We came to one more forest and much bigger then the first one, with almost no traffic at all, a street we didn't recall,
the names we didn't know and the area we didn't remember - we got a bit suspicious. At that moment we might have thought that we were slightly LOST.

After biking a whole nice circle around the province (!!), asking two more people about the direction, visiting hundreds of local villages, we managed to reach the river bank. Schelde, halleluja!! This one we had to get!! BUT, we were too far. We still had to bike few more kilometers back along the river. Eventually, after 2,5hours, we got to our friend and his boat. And all that by following the bike paths. Amazing.

Ps.: We spent there the rest of our afternoon. Enjoyed the community BBQ organized at the local café, with music, beer, fish stright from the grill and local weirdo's. The way back was even more interesting, we left at around 8, and we got home at midninight. That's another long story. We didn't get lost. But went to a tapas-restaurant where they didn't want to serve us food (!!). We had a laugh, overworked thighs and soar bottoms. So we went for a pitta.

21 July, 2007

21 July

Het was op 21 juli 1831 dat Leopold I, de eerste Koning der Belgen, de grondwettelijke eed aflegde. The first King of the Belgian Leopold I took the constitutional oath on the 21st of july 1831. Belgium is a rather young kingdom. In 2031 will become 200years old... Funny! For us the Polish, it is unthinkable that our country would exist only 100 something years. What a short backward perspective!! Call us the nationalists but we are proud of our more then 1000years history as one nation and country. The first Polish king Boleslaw Chrobry was crowned in 1025 although he ruled the country as a Duke already since 992, after the death of his father, the first Duke of Poland Mieszko I. So, that's a hell of a history there!!

But coming back to Belgium, it's an artificial country. Artificial meaning, they took some people, they told them::
- From now on, these are the borders, this will be your king and you will be Belgium.
- But not all of us speak the same language! - they replied
- That's OK. There are two different nations here. We took a bit from the North and a bit from the south but it's not a problem. You will be living peacefully together. We want it like this and you shut up.
- OK. - they agreed and walked away.
That is not true, of course. The Belgian provinces separated from the Dutch ones because they didn't like the Dutch Orange Prince. They created their own state and wrote their very first own constitution. Found a candidate for a king and took off as a country. How difficult can it be?? The country holds two communities of different origins, the Flemings (descendants of the people of Flanders) to the north and the Walloons (Frankish descent) to the south. That's why they speak no belgian around here but dutch as well as french. Some - more "as well as" then th others but, admit, it's confusing. Let's not be surprised. And its' amazing how two so very much different mentalities (one more north -dutch, the other more south-french) can exist within one country. Why haven't they split up yet? ...They do think they are one country... I guess. One wouldn't survive without another (at least one way). And the another feels responsible for the first one. They are like brother and sister; one takes care of the other one despite the age and intrests difference. They stick together.

08 July, 2007

It's arrived!! It's Beau... and it's not the Jolais.


Who would have thought!!?!?!! It's there... It's arrived. The summer!! It's still colder than it should be but the weather is nice. The short-sleeve temeratures, the few puffed cumulusees on the post-card blue sky and the shinning sun will allow us to enjoy the day outdoors. And that's been a while now. So, this is the specifics of the outdoor leasures in Belgium. It's dictated by the weather. Just like everywhere else, I assume, however with this difference that whenever the sun shines in Belgium, Evereyone goes outside. It's the masses that go biking, skating, walking, jogging, crawling wherever they can. All pedestrians' paths get crowded. And you have to know, there's a lot of them in the country. The bike routes and the pedestrians' paths create a well organized network. You can get almost everywhere using them. So, when the weather allows, you have to go too. You must take benefits of the weather because it might start raing tomorrow and never stop for the next three months. Mind that!!



The sunday in this case is the worst day. If you have in mind a quiet, peacefull excursion, enjoying the nature on your own, the birds and the bees, the flowers and the trees, to avoid the sunday-afetrnoon crowd of walking families, with kids spreading everywhere, and the dogs barking on everything that passes by (you), I've got advice for you, start early in the morning... Although (!!!), even then you might get crashed by the passing super-trooper energetic 70yearolds in their expensive professional hiking boots, kneeshort-trouseres in masking colours, and waving with very long sticks. Try to enjoy.
If you're done with your sunny-sporty sunday, you will sit on a closest cosy sun-terrace of a café and enjoy your trappist with blocks of cheese or salami, watching the people passing by, talking or laughing at the weirdo's and being happy that
you didn't waist the day.

03 July, 2007

Subscription to Rain

That is the first thing that stroke me - the rain. It's incredible how much it rains in Belgium. You Belgian people maybe don't even realise it... The first two years I was so excited with my new life (in a new place, in a new world, with new people, new experiences, everything was wooohww!!!!) that I didn't even notice what was going on. Or maybe it were two exeptionally dry years...?? whatever. When I thought about it really well (I'm blond but I managed to do that without any breincomplications) I realised that most of the time it's grey and wet here. The sky is most of the time grey, as if the clouds are meant to cover this country with a thick leyer of compressed waterbubbles and only in times of very strong winds they get chased away.
And the rains are also very special here: they don't stop!!. Voilà, I said it. At least this is the general feeling I get sent into my brein from the perception organs. And I've got few of these.... Seriously, the rain just keeps on drizzling all day long.

So you say, what about an umbrella?? Sure, what about?? Isn't it that round, deep thing to put you groceries in????... only this stick in the middle gets in the way.... See, the altantic climat can get so cruel that you will be sorry that you even botherd to take that thing with you. It's no use because the wind will push the water drops all directions including the inside of your umbrella, your coat, your face, you hair.... And at the end you'll be struggling more with the umbrella then with the rain. Just like that:

The difference with Poland couldn't be bigger. I remember that when it was about to start raining everyone was kind of... how to describe it??? Anxious but delighted because you knew that the rain wouldn't take long and afterwards it would become a sunny rest of the day. Even when it was announced to be bad weather day you could forsee that it would rain heavily, it would storm like hell with thunder and lightening on a navy blue sky,... everyone would go outside on a balkony and watch the beautiful and overwhelming nature play... but it would STOP. Even if it took 2-3hours it would stop and suddenly this beautiful sun would come out from behind these powerful clouds and the sky would become so bright blue!!!! And you knew - the rainbow, of course, the most beautiful rainbow would appear, just amazing!!?!??!??!!

I miss it.

01 July, 2007

So, I come from Poland.

And I've got few different blogs already. All my blogs are about sth else. This one will be (notice: "be", he...? clever, he...?!?!?? ;) ) about Belgium (BE). It will help me place "Belgium", the country I've been living in for the past 10 years, in the right place in my consciousness and memory. And hopefully I will have said what I have to say.

So, I will tell you how I see the everyday life of an average Belgian. I never became a real Belgian, and that's gooood. I did it on purpose. Why should I? To keep my own national identity (at least a part of it, 'cos a huge part I've already lost; that's inevitable), I keep a distance. Not that I haven't adjusted to the Belgian life and customs...; actually I did it very wel. There was even a moment that I started thinking in Flemish (Oh, oh!!). That's scary, I can tell. You suddenly realise that you lost the touch with your own mother language. What's even worse, you have to look for words to say things, because you'd forgotten them... Aaaaaaaaaaaaa!!?!!??!!???

Now, I keep things in perspective.
That's a good way to survive. And that took me 10 years?? Yep. I'm a diesel. So, here you will find out what I think of one of the smallest but richest countries in Europe, Belgium.

Watch out, it might get interesting...