But at any rate, because of the fall, we had to bring an end to all discussions of returning to Cologne, instead choosing to forge forward, one great forward push toward the end of our Vision Quest. This meant we'd enter our final country, Belgium.
On Saturday, we'd take the train back to London from Brussels, but in the meantime, we had to find the mystical monastery where the best beer in the world is brewed. Of course, just as Matthew Modine had to realize in Vision Quest (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090270/), such a journey requires the willful submission of oneself to time, and the blind pursuit of a ghost.
In order to reach our outpost, Poperinge, we had to travel 6 hours from Amsterdam, connecting in Brussels.
We checked into our hotel, as the only inhabitants. The stares we got would have shamed Sinatra; people looked at us as if one of us had considerable skin on the left side of his face absent. But we checked into our hotel, which was run by a sweet and frenetic woman and her thorough and bearded husband, who sat in a half-lit corner with a friend, draining glass after glass of Poperinge Hommelbier (the local beer, hommel being Belgian for 'hop')
HISTORY LESSON BREAK.
Poperinge, about 5 miles from Ypres -- one of the major sites of WWI, blown to smithereens as we would have said back then -- used to be a retreat for British soldiers. Around since middle-aged times, it's now the hop capital of the world, where the hops that go into thousands of beers are grown.
BREAK IN!So we drifted off to sleep with visions of hoppy deliciousness floating around...
...and woke up to a market! Big market in the center of town (a small town with a large center) that's been going on since the 1200s! Almost non-stop, it's persisted.
We didn't buy any, but I'm sure over 800 years, someone's bought lingerie.
Instead, we continued our immensely fulfilling daily ritual, with some Belgian doughnuts because we knew they'd be nutritional and full of sugar and deliciousness, both important contents to fortify us against the oppressive cold that would meet us.
One of the most unfortunate parts about giving the British access to your town during World War I is that they take deserting soldiers (who were found to be deserting) and shoot them in your courtyards. Walking around town, we came to this really touching exhibit.
People come from all over to Poperinge, especially in summertime, and drop flowers and cards here. They're usually written in English.
All flowers & crosses, mainly 'you will never be forgotten.'
You know how black figures like this, ridiculing black people, are taboo in the states? Yeah, a big box of 'em got shipped off to our hotel. But these nice little figures bid us goodbye as we got on our bikes and prepared to cycle around town, a day before we'd head to Westvleteren.
Kind of an eery site at the entrance to town. It's a hop, inside of metal bars. I wasn't sure what they were there for at that point.
Having intended to bike to Ypres, the cold lapped too hard on our faces, so we pulled back and headed back into town for more exploration, leaving the broken WWI history for our next visit.
With great luck, we arrived on a church, which ended up being far cooler than we expected.We sauntered around the church for a bit. Pretty big for a small town.
BECAUSE IT HAS A RELIC.
According to legend, an unbaptised child died in town in the 1400s and his parents brought him to the altar here to pray to the Virgin Mary. They left him there, and a few days later, he was alive again. They baptised him immediately and an hour later he died.
Nils says he died because the water was too cold and he had just come back to life.
The big organ at the back of the church did not, though.
Now that I'm back to groovin', we'll get more posts a-coming. Goodbyyyeee