we are in Romania now, our favorite country in the east, after having passed the Hungarian border we found a hotel. The last time we were in Romania was in 2015 when we visited all places linked to Vlad Tepes. As soon as we arrived in the hotel, we drank some Romanian beer and ate something. Soon we got the company of a very sweet cat, to be honest, both of use are dog lovers, but it was hard to say no to our feline companion
The second day a family party kept our kitty outside, the next day she was back, but it was time to say goodbye. More far horizons were awaiting us.
This is from some years ago. If you want to know more about this year’s edition, you better check this website. The authorities have come up with a lot of security measures, so you can visit the event in all safety, pandemic or not.
Anyway, some years ago, you could indeed ski at the Christmas market, at the Kunstberg/Mont des Arts:
One of the reasons to visit the Christmas market is the food and drinks, like the jenever (a popular strong drink)!
The Ferris Wheel is one of the classics of every edition.
Later this week, we will publish pictures of our last big trip, which took us to the Spanish Pyrenees!
And this is what a Spanish Christmas market looks like!
This cemetery was built in the 19th century and is known as the resting place of Hergé, the man who gave us Tintin. He is actually one of the last people buried here. Another reason why the cemetery is wort a visit are the beautiful monuments and the rich fauna and flora. Have a look for yourself!
This is not a movie location in the classic sense of the word, a location where a movie crew made a movie. Rather, this is a place that briefly pops up in an animated movie. The film I am referring to is The Adventures of Tintin and the location is the Brussels Flea Market. In Dutch, the square where it takes place is called Vossenplein, a reference to the nearby Vossenstraat. The French name is Place due jeu de Balle, referring to the ball games that used to take place here in the 19th century. At this market you will find vintage and second-hand stuff (clothing, photographs, decorative objects, books, …), in one word, old stuff, hence also the name ‘old market’.
The flea merket attracts interested buyers, tourists and visitors driven by curiosity. The place does have a unique vibe and is open every morning. It’s accessible via public transport, by bus (27, 48, stop Vossenplein), metro (lines 2 and 6, stop Hallepoort) and tram (3, 4, 51, 32 and 82, stop Lemonnier). You cannot buy food here but in the neighborhood, there are bars and restaurants, serving typical Belgian food.
The Flea Market of Brussels is an important place in the movie, because this is where Tintin finds the miniature ship that will lead him to a treasure hunt.
Ah, the Belgian weather! So unpredictable. And so popular as a conversation topic. You arrive at work and the first thing you do, is to complain about the weather. Too warm, too cold, too wet, too dry. There is always something to complain about.
But the problem is more complicated. When finally the sun shines, especially in spring and autumn, almost every Belgian feels the need to be at the coast. Unfortunately, that is quite a small part of our little country. This means a lot of traffic and crowded beaches.
This is especially true for the bigger coastal towns that have direct train connections with the other parts of the country (Blankenberge, Ostend, for example). Duinbergen may be a bit harder to reach, but you can still enjoy some peace and quiet here.
Duinbergen has been a popular destination since the early 20th century. You can still see some typical villas in the center of the town. Close to the sea all you see are high-rise buildings. Unfortunately, this is the case of most of the Belgian coastal towns.
Granted, there is something magical about those autumn days, when it feels that summer has returned, if only for a short while.
Did you know that Brussels is one of the greenest capitals in Europe and even in the world? Each municipality in the Region of Brussels has at least one park at its disposal. One of the most popular ones is the Bois de la Cambre, which belongs to the City of Brussels itself. It was laid out in 1861 and has a surface of more than 1 square kilometer.
The lake that you can see on the pictures is an artificial one. In the center, you can see the island, called Robinson Island. With a small boat, you can gain access to it.
The building you can see on the island is a bar-restaurant. The original building dated from 1877, but was destroyed in a fire in 1991. This one is from 2006.
As you can imagine, eating and drinking in an exclusive setting such as this one will not be a cheap experience! Have a look at their official website.
Let’s show you a map, so you can orientate yourself better:
Upon our arrival, Lars and I had a sneak peek; there were some lovely ladies awaiting us! We put on some overalls and boots and were asked not to put anything in our pockets, since some of the cows had the tendency to be a pickpocket…
Before embracing our new friends, the farmers gave us a tour.
These cows were kept separately, because they had just given birth.
The time that a lusty and busty maiden milked all the cows is definitely behind us: meet the robot that not only milks the cows (twice a day) but also keeps track of their milk production. Not only does the robot take a lot of work out of the farmers’ hands, but the latter can also quickly intervene when a cow produces less milk than usual.
Then came the cutest part of the tour: the calves!
We also had a quick look in the stable where a handful of bulls are kept. Now if you think that these bulls have access to a lot of hankypanky with the dozens of cows, I have two words for you: artificial insemination.
No wonder they look a bit sad…
Time for some cow hugging! The procedure is very simple. Be relaxed: indeed, that’s some hundreds of kg, but nothing can go wrong. Besides, if you are nervous, the cow will pick it up. Now, sit next to a cow and start caressing her head; when her ears point backward, it means she’s relaxed. Sit next to her with your head on her side and continue with the caressing. If you are lucky, she will turn her head towards you, and give you a nudge. And/or a lick.
Time for some practice!
What I remember vividly, is how soft and warm the cow’s skin was and how soothing it was to feel her breathing.
Time for the Viking’s encounter:
And the fun was over yet! Remember the “pickpocket” cow? I stood face to face with her. Cow number 36. She looked at me and then started swinging her head against my thigh. That’s 600kg against a lot less. It was quite hard to keep my balance. Then she moved to my hair and started chewing and licking it. Finally, she put her head on my shoulder and I embraced her for a long time…
In the 11 years that Lars and I have been traveling together, this is one of the most interesting, unusual and heartwarming experiences we have ever had.
The tour is in Dutch, but the farmer regularly interrupts her explanation for some English.
By the way, this is what the website of the BBC has to say about the benefits of cow hugging:
The cow’s warmer body temperature, slower heartbeat and mammoth size can make hugging them an incredibly soothing experience, and giving the animal a backrub, reclining against them or even getting licked is all part of the therapeutic encounter.
What about you? Have you ever hugged a cow? Or plan to?
The train station is not far from the historic center; you can easily reach it on foot. Bruges is one of the rare cities that has kept its medieval architecture and therefore belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Have a look at the belfry (13th century) and the Church of Our Lady (13th – 15th century). Take a boat tour on the canals. Or visit one of the museums. For more information, take a look at the official tourism website of Bruges.
But all this beauty comes at a price… Many tourists. Too many tourists. Way too many tourists. Rushing from one landmark to another. Gaping at the architecture. Tasting chocolates and/or beer. Photographing each other. Taking selfies.
The only month of the year when Bruges belongs to the locals (again) is January. Unfortunately, that’s also the period of the year when the weather can be awful, with low temperatures, wind, and rain or snow. Not really very comfortable.
But… there is a location in Bruges where you can find some peace and quiet. It’s called “Minnewater” and it’s roughly located between the train station and the center.
The website of VisitFlanders has this to say about the area:
In the south of Bruges is the Minnewater, a small rectangular lake surrounded by trees and the adjacent Minnewater park. The tragic love story of Minna and her beloved Stromberg resulted in a popular legend which tells us that eternal love will befall couples who cross the Minnewater Bridge. Its makes Minnewater a very romantic place. Enjoy the surroundings seen from the Minnewater Bridge, one of the benches along the lake or explore the peaceful Minnewater park.
Near the Canals
Lars and I both love waterscapes, so it was obvious that we spent some time near one of the canals as well.
Let’s cross the bridge and visit another picturesque landmark.
This is the only preserved beguinage in Bruges. Wikipedia explains what a beguinage is:
A beguinage, from the French term béguinage, is an architectural complex which was created to house beguines: lay religious women who lived in community without taking vows or retiring from the world.
This also belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Nowadays, the site serves as a Benedictine convent.
Surely, you have heard about Brussels and its magnificent Grand Place. Bruges and its romantic canals. Antwerp and its most beautiful train station in the world. But I bet you have never heard of Thuin and its hanging gardens… That’s right: hanging gardens.
Until some years ago, neither had Lars and I. Then, a travel program on Flemish television featured Thuin and its attractions. One day later, we were on the road to see it all… And photograph it, of course.