Friday, August 12, 2011

The beauty, the ugly and back to normal

Thursday, 11th of August. Leaving lovely Brugge while the sun is shining – I saw a swarm of doves just standing in the air and also flying backwards (caused through the heavy wind this day I think) – and cycling the first 25 kilometres along the very nice Kanaal Brugge-Oostende, which is mostly used by motor yachts. While I was cycling in direction north-west, the usual adverse wind caught me diagonal.
In Oostende I reached the sea. I love the sea. On the other hand the Belgium coast is pretty boring, but tries to stick up by being extremely stormy, Elise and Julien, my tonight's hosts, told me, the wind had 27–53 km/h, justifiably so you can say it was stormy (tomorrow it's probably better, it's said it will be 13–24 km/h). While I was still able to cycle around 20 km/h beneath the canal, I now had to slow down to 8 to 12 km/h, what I did for 20 kilometres from Oostende up to Westende (at the Albertkanaal it was 17 to 21 km/h). It was quite hard not to be blown away. At the end my face laced with grains of sand. The ugly houses, kind of high-riser with the charm of a building made with precast concrete slabs after all offered some wind protection.

I don't understand the Belgians. Like in Germany, too, they have places with caravans. In Germany there are many bowers within allotment garden, mostly placed at town border, often close to train tracks and also motor ways. But they are very green with much planting, a place for once own to relax. There are also places for static caravans, which are placed into the green, often into a recreation area. Usually nice places (if you are okay with the bourgeois middle-class character). But in Belgium they have places with static caravans, all of them same type, standing extremely close next to each other without any place for doing some personal arrangements. And they are usually placed beside the most highly frequented road. Why do they do this? Have they no sense for beauty and cosy settings?

The Belgian north looks shabby. It is reminiscent of Romania, where Klaus and I had been some years ago and also some parts in the North German Plain – uninteresting houses on a broken street with even worse bicycle paths. It turned to get better when I reached the Belgium/French frontier. Today's goal was Dunkerque, which I reached after 85 kilometres.

I had a warm welcome at Elise's and Julien's home. They are so friendly, relaxed and interested in a broad range. We had some dedicated talk about social and education system in France and Germany, including a side trip to politics, effective and useless development assistance in Third World Countries, being parents (I and their little one and a half year old son Simon immediately made friendship) and some more. They were so considerate, we had a great supper with an even better cake, Julien showed me the route to the harbour while moving the whole kilometres way on Google streetview… Elise and Julien, please come to visit me in Bamberg and make me able to be such a great host as you two are!

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