As most of my friends know I have a very low boredom threshold (oh and I don’t do small-talk). So after a year in Belgium I’m quickly running out of exceptional places to see or things to visit. In fact all that remains is the area around the Yzer valley where we would like to visit the most famous first world war sites. And the city of Bruges of course, which the whole world seems to have visited except us. Just our luck - now that we finally have time to visit Bruges, the city seems to be flooded by hordes of Chinese and Russian tourists, you have to elbow and kick them out of the way in the most famous areas. And every photo of a landmark takes two hours of post-processing to Photoshop the narcissistic-selfie-making hordes away.
If you’ve been living in far away countries where the only similarity with Belgium or the rest of the planet earth seems to be that the locals walk on their hind legs and wear shoes occasionally, or in a country as big as an entire continent - 560 times bigger than Belgium. Or a country which highest point (8.611 m) towers 12 times higher than the highest point in Belgium (694 m)… you’ll quickly find Belgium a microscopic - post-stamp sized - non-country. Belgium, originally, was just a small territory meant to serve as a buffer between France and Germany. A place where their respective armies could battle it out in the secure knowledge that they were far enough away from wifey and the kids but close enough not to have to travel for 5 years to reach the battlefield and war-hero status. And in those days almost nobody owned a smartphone. What happened in Belgium actually stayed in Belgium, the photo of daddy raiding a brothel and humping a local hooker couldn’t go viral yet!
Belgium a small island then? We lived in a country composed of no less than 7.641 islands…So yes, definitely “little” Belgium.
And Belgium is not only little in surface area. These days, as I’m sure you’re well aware, nobody in Belgium is allowed to die of anything other than of extreme old age. If by chance someone does dream up a new and unusual way of dying, such as boredom, overdosing on chocolate, or retiring beyond the age of 51, no expenses are spared in the headlong rush to make sure that it can never happen again.
When the floor of a shopping center is wet, we must have a sign telling people that the floor is actually wet. When it’s foggy outside we must have a sign telling us there is fog. And with severe weather warnings the Belgian Royal Meteorological Institute now treats an incoming low pressure system like the imminent arrival of a combined Russian/Chinese & North Korean invasion.
Drive your car at any speed faster than a French escargot and you’ll get punished more severely than your average serial killer.
At work I’m constantly shadowed by a “health and safety” officer who’s on hand to provide me with useful tips to prevent me from killing myself by tripping over my shoelaces or how to avoid accidentally slashing my throat with a sheet of paper. And I have my personal “Integrity and Confidence” officer who will come to my defense if my boss even considers rubbing me the wrong way or asking me to actually do my job.
Yes, definitely “little” Belgium.
So Sonja and I started fanning out into the neighboring countries, starting with Germany as we’re living in the east of Belgium. And what glorious discoveries we’ve made already!
Attention, spoiler alert!
Did you know there is no speed limit on most of the German highways-autobahn! I finally found out the top speed of my 245 HP BMW sports car and yes it’s more than 220 km/h :-)
The beers comes in giant 1 L “Masskrug” glasses and are served by superwomen-beermaids wearing a “dirndl” (something out of the brain of a fetishist) who can carry at least ten of these huge mugs. And don’t worry about your cholesterol any more, just looking at the Bratwurst with Bratkartoffeln or the Bauernfrühstuck will completely and irrevocably clog up your arteries.
I fell in love again - I want a posting in Berlin ! And me who thought the Allied bomber command pounded Germany back to the stone-age in 1944/45. Well, in the region we visited, per ten square miles there are more historical landmarks and beautifully restored quaint towns who safeguarded or restored their historic or original core than in the whole of Belgium.
But all kidding aside: just look at the spectacular and stunning places we already discovered in just a few days. So much so I forgive those Germans who nicked my grandfather’s bike to get back to Germany in 1945 and never returned the bloody thing.
On a first trip we stayed in Dodenburg (one street village) and toured the Volcanic Eifel. Made a day trip to some nice castles in the Rhine and Mosel Valley. With the unbelievable and must visit highlight: Eltz Castle in Wierschem. On our return trip we wanted to hike or bike around the Rurberg and Einruhr area and the Rur Lake but it seemed half of Aachen was over there (no Chinese or Russians however they were still in Bruges) so we hardly came out of our car and just headed back home.
On our second trip we wanted to visit a few villages of the northern part of the German Romantic Road and Heidelberg.
Unfortunately we discovered, much to our dismay, that that part of Germany is one giant construction site! Roadworks, giant new bridges, extra lanes on highways … what a disaster for traffic flow: getting from A to B took twice as long as normal.
Did Germany just win the lottery or is this Frau Merkel’s way to appease and distract the Germans from dissent for the more than 1.2 million muslim refugees she already allowed into the country and the several millions extra muslims who will come to Germany by way of family reunification and who will destabilize their communities for the foreseeable future and decades to come ?
Anyway, we spent the night in Lorchhausen - a small place in the middle of the vineyards, on the banks of the Rhine, close to Rüdesheim. Made a small cruise on the Rhine. And made it to Rothenburg ob der Tauber the next day but not to Heidelberg. Ah well next time.
But Rothenburg ob der Tauber was so pretty that just seeing that town was well worth the trip and I would warmly recommend any of you to visit the place if you’re in the neighborhood. Just look at the photos and I think you’ll agree.
And of course the photos of some of the most awesome medieval castles we've ever seen.