All tagged eurotrip

Even Bier Smokes

As perfect as a day can be was underway.  In periphery, I could see countryside blur: lime-green grass and spring vegetables cracking dirt mounds; shadowy hardwoods budding and tall conifers starting to yellow with pollen; clouds lightly wisping otherwise vacant sky.  The Kloster Michelsberg first signaled our approach towards Bamberg.

Three Tallies, Three Kölsch

Just inside the door, Köbes, Kölsch bartenders in Köln, accumulated in the stone lined sallyport leading to the beer garden.  They turned in unison beginning an exaggerated process of grouchy inspection, head-to-toe. Suffering mild humiliation in a similar Kölsch beer hall (Malzmühle) a few hours before, we walked confidently past the aproned guardians of Päffgen towards the beer garden, masking our anxiety with scowls and grunts of salutation.  

Cantillon: Musty Lemons, Cobwebs, and Coolships

Our more knowledgeable beer friends mention Cantillon in the hushed tones of children peering over the banister on Christmas morning: a place and product sprinkled in magical dust.  Cantillon produces the best Lambic beers in the world. Walking down an unkempt street in southwestern Brussels, a sharp morning gust whipped magazine clippings and dirty napkins up on cresting waves.  We turned right, leaving the haggard block behind; one hundred feet beyond the turn, bottles awaited on pallets behind the open cargo hull of a delivery truck. The recumbent, guzzling jester of Cantillon branded each bottle and hung from a sheet metal punch-out above the door. The place appeared closed but the door opened.

A Drink in Season

Spring written in bold, underlined, all-capped looks limp compared to European reality this year.  Pines bobbed and oaks shuddered with the passing wind, shaking yesterday’s rain; in amphibian metamorphosis, their buds grew visibly larger each passing day under the lengthening light of mid-Spring.  Afar, the blooming color powdered the landscape in an Impressionistic blur.  But up close, driving along hairpins and welcomed straightaways, the sun lucidly explained the detailed edges and specks and differences.  Like a solar eclipse, the leaves bent the ecclesiastic power of the sun and left nothing but a blindingly white, broken trace at its perimeter; that remaining light still managed to draw my moving penumbra against the asphalt winding the Walloon wilderness en route to Durbuy.

Breaking Rulles

Friday the 13th started with vegan breakfast and a morning read by the fire.  I reviewed the beer lineup and synopsis for La Rulles - the brewery visit for the day - between a few current events (or, more accurately, “The Real World: Real World Edition”).  Located in the Gaume region of Southeast Belgium, near the Semois River winding westward towards Bouillon and Godfrey’s castle, the brewery habituates a unique microclimate, always a few degrees Celsius warmer than the surrounding Ardennes hills.  The quaint Belgian countryside, eleven in the morning, left two American wanders in silence.

Nunnery to Brewery

Our second stop, Brasserie C, brought us south for the day in the first place.  At the base of the Montagne de Bueren, next to the stairs running up towards the old citadel, we saw a sign to the left and up a narrow alley for the brewpub.  All the buildings looked and felt very old in this section of town, aptly referred to as Old Town.  We eventually found the entrance after circumnavigating the building and breached a doorway requiring a slight duck to avoid a bruise and headache.  We walked indoors to a dark, empty bar and met with Kerian, their Public Relations & Beer Tour representative.  The building, a nunnery in 1611 and an architectural museum in the 1960’s, began with solid ecclesiastical bones and consolidated much of Liege’s iconic furniture, paneling, doors, and fireplaces under one roof.  

The Young Trappist

Only 45 minutes from from the youngest Trappist brewery in Belgium - and with the cleaning lady entertaining the dog as she chased around the house with vacuums and feathered dusters - we packed the car, opened the gate, and drove east towards the Dutch border.  Achelse Kluis straddled Holland and Belgium: a place built long before present borders existed (if you want to call the line on the ground between Belgium and Holland a border).  Wispy and remaining stubbornly sunny, the weather held out, but along with the rush of passing tractor-trailers, the gusts blew our tiny Opel hatchback.  The open, Low Country fields laid no barrier for the wind, evidenced by the countless windmills dotting the landscape.  We frequently crossed veins of canals redirecting water to the ocean, making the champaign habitable and above seasonal floods.  Between corrugated brown fields the road ran east: the bricked Abbey of Achelse Kluis rising before the fields of Holland picketed with barren trees.

A Belgian Blonde in Limburg

Comparing our arrival in Belgium to that in Mexico six months ago paints the canvas in black and white.  

In Mexico: we landed in Oaxaca at 10 PM, at an abandoned airport where everything and everyone lived in Spanish; Sara and I shared a seat on the bus (a van) burgeoning with bags and humans; we rode down dark dirt roads chasing stray dogs through the maze of wire fences and graffitied buildings; we bumped along for 1.5 hours to move 20 miles; last to leave the bus, we nervously walked with our 50 pound packs along a one light street searching for a red door and our home for the next month.  

In Belgium: we landed around noon; the airport, clean and streamlined, seemed designed for efficiency; our rental car was waiting, we purchased a SIM card next to the rental car office, and had the option to do it all in English, Dutch, or French; we drove down the Autobahn to Zutendaal for a week-long house-sit; at the drive-way, the gate opened and our hosts greeted us, showed us around and introduced us to a dog, two cats, and two horses; we walked the dog down narrow paths through the woods in the failing light, sat on the couch with wool socks and radiant heat building, made room for the dog by our feet, and looked out the window at a Whitetail bounding as the evening drizzle pattered on the skylights, sounding like static on a record.