A chronicle of movement aimed at synchronizing thoughts and keyboards with said movement.


Poperinge and the road to Westvleteren

We continued through Poperinge, bike-topping and in pursuit of something that we were sure was there. And the nice part about looking with Nils is that you'll generally find something.

We left the church, outside of which we had not chained our bikes because there was nothing to chain them to aside from a large tree or small dog. We chose the humanitarian approach, figuring Belgians would not steal a bike from outside a church, lest a nun come and fire excommunications at them.

We biked back into the center of town. It was noon. We were not yet hungry enough for food. So we toured more. And arrived on an ex-soldier retreat for the Brits in WWI. It probably doubled (hell, it probably singled) as a brothel, but was a big mansion-house with a bunch of different rooms devoted to giving the troops diversion from the blood and their guns just miles away. Some guys would tell the chaplain there stuff like 'I'll probably not make it back this way again, father, so pray for me.'

War sucks.

But museums about it don't.

Nils proves that he did not sneak into the museum with a ticket.

The opening room, a cavernous square, had all these different signs that showed the different correspondences to and from the battlefield and soldiers' hometowns.

Soldiers today, like Nils, make such better targets.

We sat, alone in a room, and watched a sepia video about soldiers watching Vaudeville-type actors dance about and make lilting jokes about the war while blue smoke crept to the ceiling.

We got lunch afterwards, eating at a cafe right around the street. Lambics and omelettes (much to the annoyance of the staff, the omelettes were) were had. Oh yeah, and St. Bernardus Tripel, regarded as the second-best beer in the world.

The best one would come soon, soon.

And later, so was Dr. Quinn, before our love-cookfest!

Belgian supermarket = Belgian beers. It hurt to leave.

Kids parading, again, for Carnivale, the European Mardis Gras. This happened all night long, a lot like high school homecoming parades, with flatbed trucks and high-schoolers dreaming of the golden and definite future.

This is sleep, now.

Yup, more racism.

On bikes, taking a picture of the town center before we embarked on THE VISION QUEST.

For beer enthusiasts, Westvleteren is mecca. There are six Trappist breweries in the world, all in Belgium. The trappists, a form of the Benedictine Order of monks, brew some of the top-regarded beers on planet Earth, in short because they spend their entire lives doing it. Beer is their service of God.

Refer to the postings on Rome for my views on religious mission.

But anyway, the town sits 5 km north of Poperinge, so we set off.

The cold felt like constantly being slapped with brooms covered in ice. Mucus dragged along cheeks, like plows on fields, eventually flying off if they didn't freeze to facial hair. Well, Nils' facial hair. Even after a week, my face still was Sammy Davis-smooth.

Sheep! Nils got very excited, for obvious reasons.

Finishing tomorrow!



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.

Three hours from now, on a train with broken bathrooms and bloated bladders, we made it to Poperinge, the town most west on the Belgian rail. We arrived at an almost entirely unlit train station, night and silence surrounding us and only pushing forward our quest. A kind man at the train station told us where we could find a hotel that would rent us bikes.
So we walked.

The Belgians think they're so smart. They can do math on billboards.

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')


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.


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.

And this is a hop field. The hops grow up on these big metal poles. Aha! Learning!

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.


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.

And the golden hawk agrees with him!

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



So sorry for the lapse. London had to receive my full attention this weekend, owing to the lady's presence here. There'll be pictures of that later, but the author's mind has now re-sharpened, alive with the burst that comes with having your girl next to you. And in reference to the delay in postings, since the internship started, the adventures have subsided a bit, stomped by a lack of desire to spend more time on the internet after spending all day researching football stats on Google.