Okay, so the bad thing about traveling is that I cannot properly write my blog. I see that my last one happened on February 23. Yes, I am a bad person, or as some Spaniards say, 'I'm a bad pawhson." Sorry world, sorry, I was having too much fun, going to far (not really), getting my medieval swag on, and eating...a lot.
I suppose the easiest thing to do is start with my "Meal of the Week." Yes I have eaten much, that is a given, but I must say that PIZZA has been my theme. Thick, thin, extra thin, and a Dutch pancake, because it really is a Napolitano pizza. Especially when you put cheese, bacon, ham, cucumber, and olives on it. Plus I had it in a "Snow White & the Seven Dwarves" themed restaurant surrounded by crying children. One who especially hid behind my corner seat and kicked me repeatedly. So for what I endured, the kicking, the screaming, the scary looking troll people watching me as I indulged, IF I CALL IT PIZZA, BY GOD IT'S A PANCAKE. But a boerenpannekoek was not the No.1 digestation of the period. Yes I had a nice pizza at an Italian place, however it took 2 hours to arrive. It was nice, but it wasn't this:
Yea. You can see them. Small discs that are half the thickness of a tortilla. Covered in not mozzarella, but gruyere cheese, with some anchovies, ham, obviously an egg, and the other has not burnt, but crispy and well done eggplant, scallops, and a some creme fraiche. Beautiful, simply beautiful. Can you eat the Mona Lisa? No, but you can and we did eat these. Because of their thinness, we didn't feel weighed down from them. That was good, because it was time to go to a very trendy university bar to have something called the Pink Elephant in a shaker bottle. Good thing it wasn't a long trip back! Could I have eaten more? Yes. However, it was so awesome, so pizza-life changing that I was on a pizza high and didn't get the name or picture of the place. That is the hallmark of a good restaurant menu, you never see the insignia, just the bible-length list of pizzas.
But now to my title. Medieval. Yes, for 3 out of 4 days I existed in some of the best preserved medieval cities around. Middelburg en Gent. Middelburg was fantastic. Back in the Netherlands for me! As soon as I passed the border I knew it was back in the big old NL. Bikes, clean trains, and of course, everyone is tall and blond and the guy on the train who sat next to me feasted on cold mashed potatoes and carrots. What a guy. One of the best parts of M'burg is the fact that you can literally walk through people's backyards. Because it is a medieval town, there are little entrances and by-ways, little doors and narrow streets that go sometimes to absolutely nowhere. I spent a good hour of my day being quite intrigued by these little guys. I suppose the tenants don't usually sun bathe naked, otherwise a tourist like I may just get more than just a glimpse of old churches and cobbled stone streets. For example, who could pass up the intrigue of this:
But M'burg is really too cool. A nice college town with boats and tons of old stuff. I mean to stand in the city square and to think that people may have had bubonic plague there. It really is inspiring. Plus it was a fortress town, so there were definitely knights of there at some point. Not the Knights of St. John's, who are a horrible basketball team, but real, touchable, "I'll cut you in half with my two-handed sword" type of people. Not too mention that at one point, way after dusk, I stopped in the middle square--the hub of town--and heard------NOTHING. Nothing but the silent peddling an occasional cackle of a loose bike chain. I am always one who believes that getting out of your current place gives you much respect for the new spot. Either because of the little things like hearing very little, or the that you know on your way home you'll be stopping in your favorite Belgian city (Antwerp) to drink at your favorite non-Amsterdam tavern (Da Vagant) and will be drinking classy jenevers (Pumpkin-Oude-Appel--I did). The only problem with M'burg wasn't the delicious haring, the huge pancake, the back alleys, overt Christianity (I was evangelised while trying to send a text), but the fact that on the day I was there with no map, thus wandering aimlessly, but always with intellectual purpose, the same silver clad girl kept trying to sell my gum. Please girl, I have stuff to see and things to eat no crappy gum to chew.
A funny little thing they do in M'burg. Besides putting their name on the door, they put little witty sayings, such as "De Zwarte Paar" (the black horse) "De Gouden Boothuis (The golden boathouse). But this one took the taart. "De Drie Monsterzakken" while to untrained english ears sounds like a horror movie in the making, it actually translates to "The Three Sample Bags." The bears don't quite make sense, but sometimes one doesn't question things. I don't know if that is what they were going for, but okay, I guess I am cool with it!
So after that, it was back to good old, yet warm and cheery Brussels. As I always say, as I run around town in the cold, see about 15 people over the course of 2 hours, and wonder if I am missing a big party (I think I do, it is called the "We hate cold and are staying indoors party"). Once it got about 50degrees Fahrenheit people took clothing off, laid out on park benches, ate outside, and genuinely smiled. I guess Vitamin K deficiencies do exist!
But alas, on Thursday I had the time, and energy to go the Ghent, or Gent in Dutch, which I how I'll spell it because my right forefinger doesn't want to go left (now try typing without thinking about consciously typing that "H"--your're welcome, go home, your web browsing for the day is finished.)
To sum up, Gent is old--really old. It was once quite the powerful Flemish city, and is now home to way too many tourist trap restaurants, giant gothic cathedrals, a painting called 'The Lamb of God' which I paid 4 Euros to see, and like most of these hyped up paintings, thought the copy outside was just as fitting, and a lot, I mean a lot of small batch breweries. It was really how I planned my day. De Gruut, Het Bierhuis, De Trollekelder, Cafe de Turk--meaning I drank a bruinhuisbier, something called a "Makkelokker", a Trollebier (yes another freaky place, instead of Dwarves watching me, it was trolls), and a Gentse Strop, which was a hoppy blond beer, but drank in a cafe that had been around doing what it does since Anno 1228. I like to think a lot of people did the same as I did, for almost 800 years. Is our beer just as good? Yep (I had a medieval beer in Antwerp whose recipe has never changed since the 1200s, and guess what? No hops, but nothing different from a bruinbier).
I like old stuff. Dead saints, old graves, things that look like they are physically unsound, it is all in good fun and happy travels. Gent is the king of this. A Belfry, and 3 ancient churches all within 2 minutes walk. To this a drink to you Gent! You made my walking easy. It may have rained a bit, but that made it again an interesting scenario, that I was standing in the main square, fumbling with my cheap Polish umbrella, and someone, at sometime probably was at that spot in the 1300s, fumbling to stay alive because of bubonic plague. Now Gent has quite the history. CIA blacksites, where the government shipped people for questioning and "enhanced interrogation techniques" made popular by Kiefer Sutherland, look like nothing. Gent was the medieval torture capital of Europe. The big castle there, De Gravensteen (translate-the Grave stone....) holds a wonderful exhibit of things you were exposed to if you laughed at the king. Let me tell you, if a necklace of spikes being forced into you neck doesn't not sound like a good time,then it was definitely a "yes sir, no sir" type of society.
Did I mention the digestations? I mean the drink was great. The only "stadbrouwerij" or city brewery is De Gruut. Drinking in between them making beer? That is what I call knowing what you are drinking. But the Gent is home to the best Brussels-style waffles in, maybe, the world. To this I knew I must have sampled these beasts of the waffley world. Indeed, housed in an Art-Nouveau house overlooking a St. Baafcathedraal and some funky modern art version of a chapel, laid Establissement Max. With Frank Sinatra blaring, Dean Martin swaying, and a very many smiling old people, I ate THE BEST BRUSSELSE WAFEL EVER. It was crispy on the outside, but not burnt, as some make them, but the inside was not completely airy, but gooey and not quite cooked entirely. On top of that, I have the advocaatse wafel meaning whipped cream and advocaat, which is sugar, egg yolk, and cointreau mixed into a light syrup. Heaven on a dish? No, because I have had too many of those, but a damn good time in my mouth. Brussels, you have been duped by your Flemish counterpart and the old sweaty guy in the back.
Overall a splendid 6 days. Now it is off to pay homage to beer gods (literally, it is Trappist Monks we are talking about here). Then, I will have the most busy month of my life. I will be Hilary Clinton-lite. Luxembourg to Strasbourg to Rome. Then after that, it is still being finalised. So, look forward to a another inundation with stuff from 3 very different cities in 3 very different cities (I don't think Rome and Luxembourg City will be comparable) --this last adventure had the cities to be pretty homogenous). Cheers!