13 November 2008

Belgium *...shudder...*

I am hesitant to write anything at all about this place. No, not because I hardy spend 12 hours there but because of its crappyness. I've been to Brussels before, or Bruxelles. Fine, I could also go to Berlin-Wilmersdorf or Steglitz instead and I wouldn't notice much of a difference. For the Belgian coast, I've seen my part. To be precise, I've seen all of it, every centimeter – I've suffered through it.

Look at this!!! You come from France where you find sandy beaches with lush scrub vegetation and where you lose yourself in endless dunes that fade into empty beaches... In the Netherlands the dunes are criss crossed with cycle paths winding up and down, left and right. Then you have the occasional overcrowded beach resort with ice cream stands and beer stalls. But here in Belgium? They raped their entire coast with high rise buildings!!! Believe me – for kilometers you will fail to find a single plant here (not even a potted one!) - who are these mindless people, aaaarrrrgggGGGGGGHHHH! Ok, there is a beach, a white one and a wide one. It ends into a kind of high dam made from concrete that rises at a – say - 45 degree angle to a height of 5 meters (for the American audience that would be 200 inches, degrees are the same in your country...). On top of that dam is a wide platform, at least 10 meters wide and the come – yes, high rise buildings. Each with a shop in the basement that sells either ice cream, crap souvenirs, waffles or other sweets. Some rent out bicycles where several people can ride at the same time. The maximum number I observed was 7. Adults that is – I guess Belgian adults enjoy doing things like riding on a cement beach in big groups, who knows? Now for the buildings itself. You would find this kind of architecture in books with the title: „What went wrong in the 60s?“ or „Old people's homes on a budget“ or „How to achieve more balcony space with less investment?“. Horrid. Disgusting. Shame on whoever participated in this widespread commercial coastal rape here. Investors as well as architects as well as city planners and politicians.

Frustrated, I turned to what frustrated people do: eat. Belgium is famous for its „frittes“ (French fries) and for its waffles – abroad this type of waffle is called „Belgian waffle“.
The frittes: I ask around where to find a good shop for frittes and several locals recommend this one shop where I then ride to. I go inside and the comforting smell of sizzling vegetable oil embraces me – a good sign. There are lots of containers of sauces on the counter (they all have different labels) – another good sign. I order a large frittes with... what does it say here on the labels? „Ranch sauce“, „American barbeque“, „Thousand island“, „Spicy Masala“? Uh, uh! I go for plain mayonese and the guy behind the counter splashes a blob of sauce on top of my fries of a size that should ring an alarm bell even in the most obese of brains. Alright, I am not here to judge but to taste. The fries are good. But what is this weird looking long deep fried something that everybody else here eats with their fries? I ask around and learn that it is called „Frikandel“. A Frikandel is about 20 centimeters long and 4 thick and it seems to consist of some kind of processed meat. I go back to the counter and ask the guy what the ingredients of this thing are that looks like it suffers through the last stage of leprosy. He shruggs and doesn't know. I go outside and ask the lady sitting nextt to me. She doesn't know either. On the next table everybody smiles politely but nobody comes forward with an answer until a 13 year old girl finally says: „Trash. It is made of trash.“

Waffles: I finish my frittes (my appetite for Frikandel wasn't that big anyway) and look for a waffle baker. Lots of people waiting in line – a good sign for quality. My waffle has the size of my hand and is about 3 centimeters thick. It is fresh and warm and comes with chocolate sauce on top (Belgian chocolate is also famous so they say). I take a good bite and only finish the thing because I need enough calories to keep cycling: too sweet and it sticks not only between the teeth but even on top of them. Phew!
Belgium, you had your chance. The fact that during my whole stay I don't see one single person that either qualified as „beautiful“ or that genuinely smiles finishes it off.
For a change - here is a good thing about Belgium: If you sleep in France right at the border to Belgium (as I did) and you start your trip early in the morning (as I did) and you keep on cycling with just a short lunch break (bring some bread, cheese and tomatoes from France) then you make it all the way through Belgium in one day (as I did) and you can sleep in the beautiful dunes of Holland.
When I cross the border between Belgium and the Netherlands I let go a small sigh of relief... and then I start looking for a place to pitch up my tent.

... So whoever is frustrated about our EU delegates in Brussels earning half a million Euros per year... let them have a whole million for the mental torments that they must be going through every day. I swear you could give me five millions and it wouldn't keep me here...

1 comment:

  1. ...my words, my words! Did the same trip once, by car though; had planned to spend some nice days on a nice belgian coast - and found myself escaping to Netherlands as fast as I could when I realised this immense bleakness in the merciless belgian morning sun. There is really no excuse, architects and planners!