Sunday, January 30, 2011

August 7 Warsaw to Saint Petersburg

We said goodbye to Jola and Natalie and headed to the airport in the
cab that Jola called for us. We didn’t see as much of Warsaw as there was to
see, nor did we get to Krakow, so Poland is definitely a return destination for
us. The airport was quite modern, although not large. Adjacent to the
terminal was the parking apron for the government’s official aircraft. These
were mostly old Russian planes sporting a nice paint scheme.

The flying machine in the ointment.

LOT Polish Airlines had more modern stuff and we flew to Saint
Petersburg in a Brazilian-made Embraer small jet. Nice flight. While
boarding, we met an Argentine couple who had come up against the same
Belorussian visa problem that we had. We passed through Saint Petersburg
airport’s passport control without any problem and after we got our tourist
entry document to be kept with the passports, we passed through the green
line at Customs and went out to the lobby. We got rubles from an ATM, and
directions from the Tourist Information Desk. We took a marshrutka (small
mini-van cab) to Metro Moskovskaya. Twenty-two RBL (rubles) per seat. Our
baggage took two seats so that cost us eighty-eight RBL in all. Fair enough.

Now we get to deal with the Cyrillic alphabet.  Somehow we got charged double for the Metro tickets, but we found the right direction on the #2 Blue Line. By counting the number of stops, we
made the change to the #3 Green Line at Nevsky Prospekt as required. One
more stop to Vasileostrovskaya and we were there. Needless to say, there
was a McDonald’s right opposite the Metro station. But we found our way
easily to the Shelfort Hotel. The reservation was all in order. We put our
bags in the room and went out to a “Japanese” restaurant. It was good food,
although it seemed very Russified. My chicken teriyaki was quite edible,
even if it did have lots of sesame seed on it.  An illustrated menu made it easier!

August 6 Warsaw

The house experienced a sewage backup. Our room, bathroom and
the Fays’ laundry room are all in a half-basement level. The recent heavy
rains may be at the root of this particular problem. Today was an easy day.
Penny rested in the morning, which means that she worked hard on her blog.
I went out walking, and went in the direction of the Wilanow Palace. My
mission was to buy post cards, and I did that. I walked around the
neighborhood a bit. An interesting juxtaposition. Some side streets were
unpaved. New construction apartment complexes across the road. Nice
houses with cars, but outbuildings in disrepair. That evening, we took Jola
and Natalie to dinner at the Pod Samsonem restaurant in Nove Miasto. It
had a few Jewish specialties and it is known for them. Not a kosher place
though. Sunset was late and we all walked around that section of town,
which we had not seen before.

August 3-5 Warsaw

Krzycie made a wonderful breakfast. Eric had already taken Jim to
the airport. Her sister Jolanta (pronounced “Yolanda”) calls, and says she is
a bit late. More get revealed at this point. The family is headed to Hungary
for a vacation in one of the wine regions. Not Tokay, but the other one
whose name escapes me just now. Jola, and “big” Natalie, the fifteen year-old
cousin who has also been visiting, are going to look after us.

We went to see different things in Warsaw on each of these days. We
walked around the Stare Miasto, the Old Town, which is a complete
reconstruction since the original was destroyed during the Second World

Warsaw's historic appearance has been recaptured through buildings that duplicate what went before.

On another day, Jolanta and Natalie went with us to Wilanow.
(Villanova) The palace and grounds there are like a small Versailles and
once belonged to King Jan III Sobieski. There must have been at least one
portrait of him in each room. After the dismemberment of Poland, the
palace fell into the hands of a noble family. The grounds contained an
interesting church with paintings from more recent Polish history. We also
stopped for chocolate. We had cold chocolate, as thick as Spanish hot
chocolate, with a small scoop of ice cream in the glass. Really good stuff.

Jolanta and Natalie.

Wilanow Palace gate.

Wilanow Palace.

On August 5, we went to the Warsaw Uprising Museum with Natalie.
This new museum is an excellent display, and one that never missed a
chance to point out Soviet duplicity in destroying the Home Army to
eliminate non-Communist leadership in postwar Poland. The Warsaw
Ghetto uprising is commemorated by a path and series of monuments in the
ghetto area. (Or more properly, where the Ghetto used to be.) Holocaust
sites are too emotional for Penny, and so out of consideration for her, we
will not be visiting the ghetto. Penny and I rode the tram across Most
Poniatowski down Avenue Waszyngtona into the Praga district, which looks
very Stalinist.

This was some good beer!

August 2 Warsaw

Well, this is interesting. It came out in conversation that María and
Marek are going somewhere next week. She did not seem at all upset when
I suggested that she must be angry with her neighbors for shutting down her
business. Krzycie seems to be her ready-service overflow person. As the
automobile left the train station area, Marek pointed out the Science and
Culture Building, a gift from the USSR. He called the style “Mongolian
Gothic.” We then arrived at the home of Eric and Krzycie, and their three
daughters, from five to twelve years of age. Veronica, Victoria, and Natalie
(Natalya?) Eric is from Berkeley, and first came to Warsaw in the 1980s
while studying Slavic languages. Judging from the English language
magazines in the house, he probably works for a bank or a multi-national
corporation. Fortune, The Economist, etc. Eric’s father was visiting, with
one day left before he flew home. Jim taught political science at Cal State
Hayward and is now the Vice President for Academics at the community
college in Ridgecrest.

Once the headquarters of the Communist Party of Poland, this is now a bank building!

In the afternoon, they drove us to the center of town. We got maps
and bus passes from the Tourist Information Office inside the train station
lobby. Actually we bought the bus tickets from the newsstand right next to
it. We walked around a bit and had pierogi for dinner. We then headed
back “home” to Truckawiecka Street. Construction detours along Jan
Sobieskaga caused us a bit of consternation, but it all worked out.
The Wilanow Post Office is an older building, but the Roman Catholic parish church (below) was built after the end of the Cold War.

The Fay family getting ready to leave for vacation in Hungary. Eric, Natalie, Victoria,
Krzycie, Veronica, and Krzycie’s sister Jolanta.

The Night Train to Warsaw

Yes, I know it sounds like the title to a thriller by Ken Follett or
Frederick Forsyth. What can I say? I couldn’t resist. The EN347 train
leaves Amsterdam Centraal at 1903 for points east. EN=Euro Night. It was
a fifteen car train. The Warsaw service has just been added, so the printed
schedule on Platform 11 shows only Moscow, Copenhagen, and Prague as
destinations. The electric sign did show Warszawa. We found our berth on
one of the very nice, very new Jan Kiepura sleeper cars were crewed by
Polish national rail personnel. This train had two cars that were Russian and
destined for Moscow, then one that Belarussian (and very plain looking)
destined for Minsk, the the two Polish cars, followed by a long string of
German cars with the Die Bahn logo. Quite a production! The mattresses
were very hard, but there was a thick comforter that somewhat made up for
it. We had brought on a stash of food, and so all in all, we had a comfortable
journey. We stopped for quite a long time in the Hannover Hbf, which may
be the reason that our train arrived one hour late in Warszawa Centralna.
We were met there by María and her husband, Marek, who drove us to Eric
and Krzystina’s home at Truskawiecka 23 where we would stay.

August 1 Last Day in Amsterdam

We packed up once again and moved our luggage downstairs. Peter
made pancakes for breakfast! They were great! I can’t remember how long
it has been since I ate pancakes. We headed out for our last day in
Amsterdam. As usual, we did not get out until about eleven, which cramped
our style. We had to choose between the Rijksmuseum and the Amsterdam
Historical Museum. The Rijksmuseum is of course the home of the works
of the Dutch masters, and there is only a small part of it currently open
because of ongoing renovations. So we went to the historical museum. It is
a nice display that included the archaeological methods used to restore the
medieval city. As European cities go, Amsterdam is fairly young because
the “dam” on the Amstel River was only founded some seven hundred years
ago. So there are no Roman ruins, let alone a throne room built for
Constantine. Not surprisingly, a large fraction of the two dozen rooms is
dedicated to seventeenth century topics and to Amsterdam’s role in the VOC.
We said our despedidas with Peter and Tomasz and set out again for
Amsterdam Centraal station.

July 30 and 31 Amsterdam

Boogard’s Bed and Breakfast is just lovely, and Peter and Tomasz are
great hosts. On the 30th, breakfast was not until 0930, at the request of
Dave and Renie, the American couple who had the other room on our
second floor. Peter’s cuisine is just phenomenal, and so breakfast was a
leisurely experience. Penny and I did not leave to go out until about 1100.
We went to the Jewish Historical Museum, traveling by foot. Being a
pedestrian in Amsterdam is its own great adventure. You have to across the
bicycle lane first to get to the curb to deal with the automobile lanes!

Boogard's Bed and Breakfast is a great place!

The Jewish Historical Museum occupies the space of four Ashkenazi
synagogues located side by side, one of which is called the Grand
Synagogue. That contained Amsterdam Jewish history and relics up to
about 1900. It also explained some aspects of Judaism such as Shabat, the
Torah, the arrangement of the synagogue’s space, the variouis holidays,
celebrations of the life cycle including birth, coming of age, marriage, and
mourning the deceased. The displays were all in Dutch and in English, and
we also used the audio-guide in English. The New Synagogue displays
covered the twentieth century.

Afterward, Penny and I got lunch at the museum café. We came back
to the B and B, and stopped along the way at a supermarket to buy some
cheese, crackers, fruit, and Diet 7-Up. Our path back to the B and B took
us through the famous Red Light District, where two girls were already
working the window displays. One of them may not have been a woman at
all. The hype is that in Amsterdam, prostitution is a free-enterprise business
with free choice on all sides. Somehow I just don’t believe it. I would be
astonished if it turned out that there was no trafficking in Eastern European
women going on here. Not that the Dutch authorities would bother to do
anything about it. At any rate, the whole sex and drugs scene in central
Amsterdam seems somehow childish. Enough said. I will leave this topic
alone now.

Amsterdam is famous for its canals.

On July 31, it was just us and Peter for breakfast but it was just as
leisurely. Breakfast was at 0900, which was great because it helped us get
out earlier than yesterday. We made it out the door at 1050. How about that?
We made our way to the Canal Bus stop at the eastern side of Amsterdam
Centraal and we rode the blue line boat. Lots of stuff to see as we went by,
including the seventeenth century naval supply depot which now houses the
maritime museum. (Closed for renovation just now! ) We got off the
boat in the Plantage district, and went to the Dutch resistance museum. It
was very interesting, especially in its portrayals of quotidian life under the
occupation. (How’s that for a six-bit word?) A nationalist spin is evident,
but it is also clear to anyone who looks, that Dutch performance in the war
can be charitably called "dismal," and that “disgraceful” is more on the money.
The minority who did resist did their best. The Socialists and Communists
engineered a railway strike to protest the first deportations of Jews. The
resistance network, including clandestine radios, newspapers, etc., is shown
with artifacts from the time.

There were two special exhibitions. The first was an oral history of
Belgian resistance, displayed in “then-and-now” photographs of various
individual resisters. The first display contrasted the percentage of Dutch
Jews (almost all) who perish in the Holocaust versus that of Belgian Jews
(less than half). A very stark, in-your-face statement for any Dutch person
passing through this part of the museum. I also learned for the first time of
the only known attack by any group on a deportation train headed east.
Three young Belgian men stopped the train and managed to set free more
than two hundred of the doomed prisoners. One hundred fifty-five of them
were never recaptured. So I have raised my estimation of the Belgian people
a couple of notches.

Another display was about Hannie Schaft, a Dutch girl who became a
resistance operative. She was executed in 1945 after she was caught.
Apparently a movie called “The Girl with Red Hair” tells her story. Het
meisje met het rode haar. Schaft was part of a trio of young women who
generally worked as a team, but I can’t recall the other names and will have
to look them up.

I first saw “The Diary of Anne Frank” with Millie Perkins in 1964 or
1965 when I was a junior high school student in Duluth. It was on NBC’s
“Saturday Night at the Movies” one week. Our social studies teacher started
a discussion about it on the following Monday, although I don’t think that
we had been assigned to watch it. Most of the class had watched it, as I
recall. At any rate, an extensive discussion followed about Anne Frank
herself, as well as this film, which had a significant impact on the students,
myself included.

So this afternoon I went to Anne Frank Huis. Penny had gone in the
spring and so she did not go again. They had artifacts from the secret annex,
including the recently discovered post card with the signature of each
member of the Frank family. The rooms were empty because all of the
furniture was removed by the Gestapo when the Franks were arrested. There
was a scale model in doll-house size, and some videos with Miep Gies’s
reminiscences were made with furniture in place. It was eerie in a way and
unsettling. But I could in another way sense Anne’s presence as I looked at
the walls and blacked out windows, and at the sky through the small loft
window. I have wanted to go to this place for many years, and I am glad I
finally made it.

Otto Frank said in one of the videos that he never realized the depth of
Anne’s thoughts until he read her diary after the war. It made him wonder
whether parents ever really know their children. Hmmmm.

When I got back to the B and B, Wilma had arrived and they were all
having dinner, Penny included. Tomasz arrived home from Den Haag, and
we bought some zlotys from him. He called María at Pension Jolie and
resolved the outstanding questions that we had. María had e-mailed that
there was a water-main break next door and that she had arranged with a
friend for us to stay at the latter’s bed and breakfast. Our Polish adventure
continues, and we haven’t even got there! It sounds okay, and we will use
this B and B instead of booking a hotel.
Amsterdam City Hall.

This parking structure,  by the central railway station, is for bicycles only.

July 29 Texel to Amsterdam

We left Texel on the ferry and then drove to Amsterdam. We turned
in the car and took the train (one stop) to Amsterdam Centraal station. It
was an easy walk to Peter and Tomasz’s bed and breakfast, where I finally
got to meet the nice chaps whose praises Penny has been singing for month
now. Also, of course, Peter’s mother, Wilma, who was just visiting.
The first impression that I got of central Amsterdam was that it is all it
is cracked up to be. (No pun intended!) That is to say, a beautiful old city,
full of people smoking tobacco/marijuana mixed cigarettes. And shops to
sustain that activity, along with adult toy stores and so on. I consider myself
to be a tolerant individual, but this was just skuzzy.

We did have a nice dinner in a Greek restaurant. Penny had souvlaki
and I had moussaka. We meant to go out later for ice cream, but we never
made it. Penny got caught up writing the blog, and I wrote this entry after
finishing Icon by Frederick Forsyth.

July 25 to July 28 Texel Island

These were laid back days on Texel. The Dutch are generally laid back anyway, but Texel goes above and beyond. There are several small villages around the island. Tourism seems to be the biggest industry, but
there are also dairy cows, lots of sheep, a brewery, and some fishing.

Hotel Rebecca.

Texel bike path.

A local denizen checks out the passers-by.

We used these bicycles to get to Oudeschild.

De Waal has a village museum with an extensive collection of vintage
farm implements, dairy churns and separators, and especially horse-drawn
wagons and sleds. One was a hearse. Most of the wagons dated from the
nineteenth century, and I could see but little difference between the one built
in 1820 and the one built in 1920. Also, there was a big display of the
uniforms and papers of Cornelius Witte. Along with several other Texel
men, Witte served in the military of the Papal State and fought against
Garibaldi’s forces. It certainly implies that Texel may at one time have been
a very Catholic island.

Penny and I walked on the foot and bike paths around De Waal where
we looked at sheep, which in turn looked back at us. We did some more of
that on another day when we rode bikes (rented from the hotel) five
kilometers to Oudeschild, which is a fishing port situated on Texel Roads
just inside the Frisian barrier to the North Sea. Back in the days of the VOC
(Dutch East India Company) before about 1800, Texel harbor was very busy
when the Indies fleets came in. It appears that the Dutch meant both to
unload the ships quickly and to protect the cargoes from the English.
We visited the Maritime and Beach Museum at Oudeschild. It has a
traditional-looking windmill that is connected by linkages and belts to a 100
kilowatt generator, but the machine was not then in operation. There was a
barn-sized diorama of Texel harbor servicing a VOC fleet. Many activities
were portrayed, including: arrival with a pilot, discharging cargo, careening
ship for bottom cleaning, mast-changing, just to name a few. There were
replicas of an early twentieth century blacksmith’s forge, a couple of
fishermen’s cottages, and a carpenter’s cottage. The hull of fishing boat
TX11 which sank in the early twentieth century had been recovered and was
on display. It was surprising how much wood was actually left! Another
barn contained items collected off the beach. Thousands of them. Shoes,
hard hats, life rings. Three television sets. A B-17 propeller and another
one from a Lancaster bomber. There was a V-12 aircraft engine with the
remains of a wooden propeller, but I could not find any label information. It
had what looked like a turbocharger in the back, so I assume it came from a

Traditional windmill operates a modern generator.

It includes an open air museum of various cottages.

Amazing what stuff drifts ashore!

This is one fascinating museum!

We had a nice lunch. Penny had mussels and I had a white fish called
haar (sp?). We rode back to De Waal, making it a six-mile ride for two
people who had not been on bicycles in nearly thirty years. (Not counting
the exercise kind, where you can’t make a wrong turn.)

We visited most of the towns on Texel at one time or another. We
had lunch in Den Hoorn, which was adequate. The waiter uncannily
resembled George W. Bush. Poor guy! After walking around Den Hoorn
looking for the Rommelmarkt (flea market?), we learned it was just outside
of town. We finally located the entrance. It didn’t look very inviting, so we
just continued on to the beach. I got my feet wet in the North Sea, and then
we sat down to read for a bit. After fifteen minutes of heating up in the sun,
we came to our senses and went back to the car. We returned to the Hotel

Penny had earlier wetted her feet in the North Sea on the beach at De
Koog. That is a beachy, boardwalk village that is basically tacky. That is
probably why I like it. It has quite a few reasonably priced restaurants (for
the Netherlands) and we ate there twice. Both times, we ate in “Argentine”
restaurants where nobody spoke a word of Spanish. However, the meat was

We did all our laundry at a campground on Texel for seven euros, so
we left there with very little left to do. We may try to wait until Warsaw and
do everything just before we head to St. Petersburg.
As Americans, we ourselves were quite a curiosity on Texel. A few
Brits get there, but even fewer Americans do. The tourists were almost all
Dutch or Germans. I did see one Belgium license plate, which belonged to a
couple that also stayed at the Hotel Rebecca.

July 24 To Brussels and Texel Island

Today was a travel day. We checked out of the hotel and walked
across the street to the Luxembourg city train station. We caught the 0824
train to Brussels. Another fellow got on and took the corner two seats
opposite the one where we had stacked our luggage. He promptly lay down
so as not to be visible unless anyone was standing right next to him. The
conductor caught him, of course. The guy tried to pretend he was sleepy,
that he did not understand, etc., etc. All to no avail. At one of the
intermediate stops, three conductors suddenly appeared as the train slowed
to a halt. They ordered him off the train, and the stationmaster stood there as
the culprit descended the stairs and disappeared from my view. I don’t
know if he was detained at all. If not, what would stop him from just
working his way in the direction of his destination by just waiting until he
got thrown off of each train?

We changed trains at Brussels Noord and boarded a Dutch train
headed for Rotterdam. Once there, we picked up a Mitsubishi Colt that we
had reserved from Budget and set out for Texel. It actually felt kind of good
to be driving again. (Weird, I know.)

On the road again!

Holland is nothing if not flat.

Den Helder harbor scene.

Driving onto the Texel Island ferry.

The drive along the Dutch autoroute was easy. We had lunch at a
roadside service area and continued on to Den Helder where we boarded the
car ferry to Texel. The price convinced us that we would not be making any
day trips off the island. After about fifteen minutes, we were discharged
onto the island. A motorcycle cop with a radar gun got the message across
to all drivers that life was slow on Texel and they had better get with the
program. We proceeded by Den Burg (the “big” town) and on three more
kilometers to De Waal, where we had reservations at the Hotel Rebecca run
by Michel and Corinne. A gourmet restaurant is part of the establishment,
with Michel being the chef. We had a fantastic four-course meal, and
decided that we ought not to eat so much every day!

July 23 Trier, Germany

We took the morning train to Trier. What a fantastic place! It starts
with the large Porta Nigra (Italian for “Black Gate”) and only gets better.
The Hauptmarkt is an open square with lots of activity. Dolled up nice for
the tourists, to be sure, but still very pleasant. The remains of the small
Jewish quarter are there, but it is more the location since the space itself has
been in continuous use since Jews were expelled in the early fifteenth
century. We had gelato, and then walked up to the Roman amphitheater.
We walked under the wood floor of the arena, saw the holding area for
animals and gladiators, and went up to the rim of the upper seating area,
which is now grown over with soil and vegetation. We had a nice chat with
a young Air Force wife from Ramstein Air Base who was there with her two
small children and her sister who was visiting from the States. Her husband
is currently TDY (temporary duty) to Afghanistan, and we wished her all the
best. We walked back to town and had a nice lunch: salad and vegetarian
sandwiches!  Had to do something to make up for the gelato!
Main market street in Trier

The Prince Elector's palace and garden.

Roman amphitheater.

Moselle wines begin here.

We next went to the house where Karl Marx was born, which has
been turned into a very nice museum of his life and his words. One of the
messages was that the oppressive governments in the twentieth century
Communist states were not things of which Marx would have approved.
We walked farther on, returning in the direction of the Hauptmarkt,
and stopped for coffee and cake. Refreshed once again, we headed to the
Dom, or Trier Cathedral. There has been a church on that site since the
Edicts of Tolerance were passed in 313 CE. The current cathedral building
is Romanesque and about 1,000 years old. There are some Gothic additions,
and also a Baroque church that is adjacent to it. Very nice inside, but
interesting to see that there are no stained glass windows anywhere! Just
clear glass in a grill pattern. Tradition says that the cathedral is on the site of
a house donated for the original church by Saint Helen, mother of the
Emperor Constantine.
I forgot to mention that we visited a throne room built for the Emperor
Constantine, a building now in use as a Protestant church. I don’t know
which denomination.
This fellow in the Hauptmarkt was one of the best street acts we have ever seen.  He had several squirt nozzles to use on spectators, and those were welcome since it was a warm day.

After eight hours of walking, and having had a fantastic time, we went
back to the Hauptbahnhof and took the train back to Luxembourg.
Trier is top notch. Like Sevilla, or Venice! Wow!

July 21 and 22 Luxembourg

On the 21st, we walked around the old town. The large moat is now a
park and a residential neighborhood! BIG moat! There are a couple of high
viaduct bridges that reach across to the bluffs of the old city. This is a
formidable defense position, one that reminds us very much of Toledo in
Spain. It was overcast and windy, and because it was Monday, the city
museum was closed. I was not feeling very well anyway, and so we came
back to the hotel. I laid down and slept, and Penny went out to buy some
orange juice.

Luxembourg city is a curious combination of storybook architecture with financial center.

The next day went much better. It was still overcast and cool, so I
bought a couple of colored, long-sleeved, collar-less shirts on sale at the
C&A department store. Good old reliable C&A! The city museum was
open and we also had a nice lunch there. We looked over the famous Bock
Casements and then returned to the old town. There was a Pizza Hut with an
ad for feta cheese and olives. The feta cheese was cut to look like the
Parthenon! What a hoot! We did NOT eat at the Pizza Hut! Later on, we
continued our tradition of sampling the local beer. We went for a snack and
had a couple of pints of Diekirch lager. Another good one!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

July 20 Luxembourg

We walked through the Brussels grand market square and on to the
Gare Central, where we caught an afternoon train to Luxembourg. At times
there were quite a few passengers. Many of them were Scouts headed for
camping destinations in the Ardennes. It rained, off and on, all day. At
Marloie station, a disembarking passenger appeared to fall from the car
behind us. He landed flat and seemed to crack his head on the platform. We
could not get off to help because the train might leave at any moment.
Nobody on the platform lifted a finger to help him. Finally, an older woman
approached him as he rolled over. She picked up his empty beer can and
tossed it in the garbage can. She returned his full, unopened one to him with
a disdainful expression. He did indeed appear to be under the influence, but
I think he may have suffered a mild concussion. There were very few
passengers left on board when we crossed into Luxembourg and arrived
soon thereafter at the capital’s train station.

Our hotel is quite comfortable, but a bit noisy. It is directly across the
boulevard from the train station.  See above.  We have a fifth floor room, and since
Penny needs the window open to breathe at night, we will hear it all. The
airport is very close and the railway station is directly underneath the takeoff
pattern. But really, this is not a problem.

July 19 Ghent and Bruges

We left from Gare du Midi for Ghent and then Bruges. The choice of
order was arbitrary, but it turned out to be fortunate. We got off the train at
Gent-St. Pieters station and followed along the streetcar tracks to what we
guessed was the center of the old town. Of course, we did stop right away at
a patisserie where we enjoyed some really good hot chocolate and some very
fresh muesli bread. We continued along the way and arrived at the center of
town. It was set up for a festival!

Canals and streets of Ghent. Note the rather tasteful appearance of the McDonald’s
restaurant in the lower picture.

Penny pointed out the highlights of town because she remembered
them all from the riverboat cruise that she took in the spring with her mother.
After admiring the various markets and guild halls, we stopped in one of
them for some salami, pork, cheese, and Enaume beer. Refreshed once
again, we headed out into the streets which became more thronged by the
minute. It turned out that we had stumbled onto the annual Ghent Fair, and
we were there for the parade. There were all kinds of theater groups, dance
troupes, martial arts schools, children’s groups, etc. Marvelous! We made
our way through the crowd and headed back to the rail station on the

 Outdoor cafe in Ghent, and a beer hall below

Street parade scenes in Ghent.

We then went on to Bruges, which was every bit as cute as it is
cracked up to be. Very Sausalito-like, with upscale shops selling whatnots
that nobody really needs. We bought some chocolates and we wandered the
streets. Then we stopped for a waffle and some ice cream, and actually
somehow managed not to make a big mess. We caught the bus back to
Brugge station and returned to Brussels Gare du Midi on a rather crowded
train. It was the first time on the trip that we could not sit together.

Streets and canals of Bruges, or Brugge as it is called in Flemish. Everyone seems to
have gone to Ghent for the festival!