Grimbergen at last!

Grimbergen


We finally made it to Grimbergen! We were always curious about the 12th century Abbey just 12 kms from Brussels and where the famous Grimbergen beer come from. It was the Norbertine monks who first brewed this ale which is now the biggest-selling Abbey beer in Europe.  Grimbergen beer is truly wholesome! A 0.2 liter glass served in a bar costs 2euros!

If you have driven to Brussels, you will no doubt have also cursed to high heavens what kind of street sign system they have in this country.  We firmly believe that they are not interested in tourism for they do not even have the slightest intention to make sure their expat-guests don’t keep losing their way. They are already earning huge amount of money in properties, I mean, by renting offices and apartments to expatriates whose numbers are increasing more and more each year because Belgium and The Netherlands are the next best countries in Europe (trailing the UK) to set up European offices because they speak English!

Anyway, THERE ARE NO PROPER STREET SIGNS IN BELGIUM which would make a stranger-driver always lose his way.  Driving in Brussels is like a guessing-game! You drive round and round and all you see are arrow, no-entry, right turn signs but nothing to make you guess which ground your car is cruising on at the moment.  It’s like,  this country is only for those who have been born, gotten married and died here for they are the only ones who know every turn of each street by heart.

We finally reached Grimbergen and how we feel sorry about the state of each Belgian town and village we have been, save for a few like Brugge, Tournai, Antwerp and Liège. The Belgians sure don’t know how to preserve their history and old architecture. They just mix and match for example, a gate of an Abbey with that of a car showroom and a 17th century church standing next to modern houses.  The town is even surrounded by factories, so many of them that you won’t really believe that you are about to enter the site of a 12th century Abbey!

But where is the Abbey? we walked and walked and saw only an Arc, cobbledstone streets, a magnificent church and a handful of tourists listening to their guide.

Honestly, the town is almost haunted! What a shame! To think that the place is supposed to be a tourist attraction! It reminds us of Waterloo. Have you heard of the famous Battle of Waterloo? That was where Napoleon Bonaparte met his defeat which had him exiled to the island of St Helena until he died.  Well, the famous Waterloo is just now a modern city riddled with supermarkets, gasoline stations, shops and no sign at all of the famous battle! That which H kept on insisting that had Napoleon won and Belgium is now part of France, this country’s historical and architectural past would have been better preserved.  

Anyway, went to a bar to have some coffee. There was a picture of the magnificent monastery on the table and we thought, that’s it! That’s where we want to go! So we asked the waiter and he said, it’s by the l’eglise (church).  But we saw the church and an arc, but no Abbey??  The waiter gave us a Tourist brochure and there we read that it had been destroyed by the French when that part of Belgium was still under French rule!

Meise
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The National Botanical Garden’s new home in Meise

Nothing much to see in Grimbergen so we drove to the next town of Meise.
The Greenhouse of the Botanical Garden is truly fascinating! It houses different sub-greenhouses featuring the different climates of the world and the kind of vegetation growing there.

Tournai

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Tournai, a city rich in Flemish architecturel! A must-visit!

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Rogier van der Weyden, (1399 -1464)
Tournai’s famous son, considered one of the greatest painters of the 15th century.
Seen here making a sketch of the Virgin Mary and Child, a subject close to his heart

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Photo from Wikipedia
Descent of Christ from the Cross, oil on an oak panel, 1435, one of van der Weyden’s famous painting

Bonn….contd

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The Rhine Promenade..a favorite of runners, walkers, cyclists and promenaders like ourselves …
A clichè on German walkers: A walking cane is a very important gadget, sometimes two, like this lady’s

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The Rhine is the busiest waterway in Europe. Seen in the background is a barge transporting gravel, or is it coal?

Raring to see a bit of village life, we exited Bonn and drove southwards, planning to stop by the nearest “castled” town.
On both sides of the highway, we noticed a proliferation of tall, modern-ish buildings. The Germans, despite their modern way of living,
still manage to come out with very stylish and nicely-designed buildings, unlike the boxed concrete
row of apartments you see in Belgium, Spain or even France.

We saw the signages of the Egyptian Museum…. Zoological Museum, then I realized, we were driving through the Museum Mile of Bonn.
Then there’s also the government buildings such as the Federal Republic of Germany, a reminder that this city with a “quaint-town-atmosphere” used to be the
capital of West Germany but after reunification in 1990, the capitalship went to Berlin, the largest city of the Fatherland.

Our target destination was Bad Godesburg, famous for its castle ruins, hoping to find an authentic German restaurant serving
authentic German food. We drove into a tunnel, missed the turn to Bad G. and were getting uneasy driving through the
seemingly unending dark and very confining underground highway so we took the next available exit we could find!

We found ourselves in some quaint but very wealthy village along the Rhine, where the houses are unmistakably costing several millions
of euros each, the size of 4-storey buildings and the style is a mix and match of Art Deco and half-timbered houses. It was lunchtime
and we were getting hungry. The only restaurant visible was a 4-star looking one that would no doubt make a dent of our visa card.
The hubby was quite willing to part with part of his fortune that moment, but luckily, it was closed.. well, it’s their lost not ours!

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An enormous German house

Our attention was diverted to a boat , a wide open catamaran carrying people, bikes and cars. It was coming towards the pier where we stood.
It was the ferry taxi! We’ve seen it crossing the river backwards and forwards, disposing and picking up passengers and vehicles, non-stop.
We thought it would be exciting to try so we joined the queue of people, bikes and cars.
The fare was 90 centimes for a 5-minute crossing, but what an experience! There are no seats, you just stand, hold on to the railings and enjoy the 360degree view!

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Ferry taxi
It ferries people and their vehicles to the other side of the river, seen in the background.

We got off the opposite village called Niederdollendorf, and started scouting for a restaurant.

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The village of Niederdollendorf with its church
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The half-timbered houses of Niederdollendorf

What an excellent find! It was exactly what we wanted and we’ve done it!.. A village German restaurant. And there’s an added bonus…
that of being able to sit in a “no-smoking” room! A nice mural of the town is nicely painted in one of the walls, very charming!
The Elvis Presley voice-alike German singer was singing “Are you lonesome tonight?” over the radio.
Great! A reassurance that this place is indeed a family-run establishment and the food will be alright and the bill will be reasonable!
After few seconds, a family with a baby arrived, seemingly just came out of the church and having their traditional Sunday lunch in this restaurant.

The 99%German/1%English- speaking owner came to give us the menu card. In my slow English (so he understands), i asked him
which German cuisine he would recommend to us, and he described in half-gestures half-German what seemed to be an exciting food!

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After getting served an Entrée of soup which is a mixture of brussel sprouts, vermicelli, chicken shreds and baby carrots,
the Meal of the day was as follows:

Sauerbraten rheinische
Art mit rotkohl und Klössen…. 9.50euros

Translation: beef, boiled potato, sauce and a side dish of sauerkraut (shreds of cabbage marinated in vinegar)
The beef was marinated in red wine for 24 hours then stewed for hours… à la beef bourgignon!
This 2-course meal costs 9.50 euros!
And of course, we washed it down with the very satisfying Kölsch beer.

We thoroughly enjoyed the meal, except for the sour cabbage. I can compare it with our very own “atchara” but i also hate
this Filipino salad! The Germans do love their cabbages! it’s probably the only vegetable they could grow in the Fatherland ?

They didn’t have dessert except Eis Weit..(ice cream)
So we just had kaffee….

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You see a lot of game machines like this in the Fatherland.
What makes German gaming machines special is because they look very high-tech, whereas in Spain, Italy and France,
they are the more old-fashioned jukebox-looking machines

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This Arc, part of the Bonn University building serves as entrance to the old town

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Jewish memorial stone.
On this spot stood a synagogue, burned and destroyed during the Nazi regime

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Wigs!
Did you know that most wigs you see sold all over the world come from India?
There is a religious event in India where the devout go on pilgrimage – young and old, men and women – their heads shaved.
All these hairs, tons and tons of them, are then delivered to a factory where they are sorted out by length, by thickness, then washed and sold “wholesale” to hair businessmen who then dye them, turn them into wigs and sell them all over the world. Europe is the biggest market!

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 I know it’s crazy to eat Chinese or Japanese food in German soil but we just couldn’t resist it when we saw a sign saying
“All-you can eat Sushi and Asian food at 9 Euros!”

It was a lucky find! We have never eaten so much sushi in our life! Japanese restaurants in Europe are so expensive so we always avoided going into one.
That night, whereas we only had one plate of sushi each (rice is so filling!), the young German couple next to our table had three
platefuls! gosh, what a stomach! And yet there was still the Asian buffet table to attend to!

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Dont go to this cafe! 
A café-bar to avoid, located in Remigiosplatz. We went to this place twice and both times, two different waitresses never gave us the change!

Theme: Markets

Traditional markets, mini-markets, flea markets, food kiosks …these are all  places that are worth adding to your travel itinerary!

It’s not only the food, shopping and bric-a-bracs but they also represent the little folies and idiosyncracies of the community, hence, a very interesting theme for this week is Markets.

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Boqueria Market, Barcelona

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San Remo Market, Italy

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Spice shop, Dubai

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Dried fish market, Cebu, Philippines

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Village shop, Castelvittorio, Italy              

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Suffolk, England

Photos of the Day

Ludwig van Beethoven

One of the greatest musical genius of all time! Despite his deafness, he came out with such magnificent symphonies, sonatas and concertos!

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his house, the pink one on the left, is one of Bonn’s tourist attractions

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his face and name are being used in all forms such as this advertising on the same street where his house is.
There’s also a Beethoven Hotel, a Beethoven parking lot, Beethoven Boat….

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Images of Bonn’s famous sons and daughters are displayed on
Bonngasse road, on the walkway itself, probably to serve as night lighting or some form of
reminder to a first-time tourist that he/she is now treading on Beethoven grounds.
This is the road where our musical genius walked and played more than 200 years ago

Sex in the City

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advertising even in rubbish bins (sorry, i have to cover something..)

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this shop is actually in the center of Bonn’s old town! There was not even an attempt to hide those “gadgets”!