FOMO (fear of missing out)

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

So I made it. I survived the heat wave. Although I must say it was quite bad, or so I read and heard. The Belgian all time heat record has been beaten. It was more then 40C.

But I cheated. I went south, to more ‘normal’ temperatures, even though we also had peaks of 38c, we had lows of 13C.

We have done a bit of an unusual thing, at least for a Belgian. Instead of flying to our holiday destination, or driving straight to it, get there as fast as we can, we took as many detours as we could find, on winding mountain roads, just for the fun of it. Yes, we love driving! For us it is not a way to go from A to B. It’s the sport, the act of driving itself that we love. Our holiday starts as soon as we get into that car. Even though we try to avoid traffic jams, they don’t freak us out as they do to many people.

We did a mere 1000km extra on the most beautiful roads, we drove 5 days instead of the -normal- 13 hours. Driving long distances is something we learned while living in Argentina, and what we learned to love and appreciate. Stopping to visit and see things instead of speeding to be ASAP at the destination is so much more fun! We suffer from FOMO, fear of missing out. Pass by an interesting place without stopping, without finding out what it looks like, imagine!

Mountain roads, mountain passes, hairpin curves, in combination with amazing landscapes, high mountains and grand landscapes, driving uphill and then down again. That’s not what we Flemish, in our ‘plat pays’ (song by Jacques Brel describing our lands), are used to. Our country is flat. Our country is small. And still we think everything is far away. Dinner in Brussels (1h drive)? Too far!

Perception!

It’s all in the mind!

Grossglockner Panoramic Poad, Goldek Pass, Nockalmstraße in beautiful Austria, have you ever heard these names? And what about the even more spectacular Dolomite Road, Sella pass, Gardena pass and the Santa Maddalena road in Italy? I hadn’t, actually. Mr. Google introduced them to me. Truly amazing and spectacular views! Driving for the fun of driving? Well the Dolomites are definitely my favorite European roads. A place to go back to in other seasons, I guess it’s not for nothing UNESCO world heritage…

5 Days and 2300 km further and my holidays experience is at its height. It has t even started yet, but I’m ready…!

ps all images taken with my phone

Go South

Tags

, , , , ,

It’s cucumber time. You notice it when silly things, in which nobody is really interested, fills our news apps and fills the home screen of our smart phones.

So what else to do but talk about the weather? It might me an obvious subject to start a conversation in England, in Belgium it is one to be avoided.

I might have mentioned that Belgians are always complaining, and the weather is their favourite subject of complaint. It’s ‘too cold’, it’s ‘too warm’, even if it’s not too warm then they say it’s ‘too warm for the time of the year’. It’s either too wet or too dry. Any ‘too’ will do.

Now is the time of the so called ‘heat waves’ (5 consequent days with temperatures of +25C of which 3 are +30C). We have always had them, even though not often, but nowadays in the news they make it sound as if each time is the first time ‘ever’. The hottest, the longest, the earliest, the latest,…

It used to make us happy ; it’s the time of year to bring out small inflatable plastic pools for the kids to play in, to play with water hoses, kids putting out a tent and sleep in the garden, fun times with outside BBQ’s where -for once- you don’t need to wear long pants and woollen sweaters, go out to eat ice cream, ‘do a terrace’ as we say in Flemish (‘een terrasje doen‘, have a drink on a outside terrace of a bar…). Where did those fun times go??

Nowadays it’s considered a depressing period, if you believe the news. A lot of death (and they throw numbers in your face), you shouldn’t do this, you shouldn’t do that, “keep hydrated”, all of a sudden there is but danger all around you. As if all people are old, sick and fragile. Nowadays people -healthy young people- actually get scared of heatwaves.

It’s a little bit contradictory, if you know that Belgians are travelers.

Travel : to go from one place to another on a trip, usually over a long distance’ (Cambridge dictionary). In Belgium traveling usually means ‘leaving the country’ on a trip

Being a traveler -going abroad- isn’t hard for us, if you know that when you drive a car in Belgium in what ever direction, after 2 hours you actually are abroad. But particularly in summer they travel south, or to tropical parts of the world, in search of the sun and the heat, of nice weather, of what they call summer there but what they hate here. To places where it is warmer than 28C all the time, and where they are happy to bear +30C temperatures with no complaint.

But again, now it’s cucumber time. There isn’t a soul at home, reading the news, and yet another heat wave is coming. Nobody to complain, everyone is gone. And then, all of a sudden I see it appear, on my weather app, I almost fall off of my chair :

The warmest temperature EVER measured in Belgium is 36,2C and now 41C? Is this a hoax? Is there some miscalculation? Who can I complain to?

It’s definitely time to go south now, where it’s nice and cool, -which 30C is compared to 41- : it is the world upside down.

Global warming is -literally- hot!

PS I am off to inflate my outside pool

PS I will be back later if I survive this!

TDF (also known as Tour de France)

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

Disliking bike races in the way that I do, is probably a sign that I am no real Belgian. (I should have a serious talk with my mother about this.)

Much worse then what I called ‘Football Mania’ when I was living in Argentina, is this “Bike Mania” here in Belgium.

What a day this was indeed! The photographer in me thinks that maybe I should have gone to Brussels today, together with the 500.000 fans that have been counted to be present at the big start , the “grand départ”, of the Tour de France. Just like I went to the Grand Place last year to shoot the Red Devils who had made it to the world cup semi finals. But then again, no!

You read me well! The Tour de France, which literally translates into ‘tour of France’, in case you didn’t get that, the tour (race) on bicycles (bikes) around France has taken off in Brussels this year. For those people that are not so good at geography : Brussels, the Capital of Belgium, which, as far as I know, is still an independent country and certainly no part of France.

Every other minute some kind of newsflash vibrates on my watch. News alerts from both newspapers and tv stations alike, about the amount of people present, how the city of Brussels had become totally inaccessible, tips on how to get there if you happen to be desperate, an article on why it is important that it started in Brussels, an article on how it is the most polluting event on the world (this in an era of global climate awareness 🤔) and a couple of dozen other newsflashes that I didn’t even read. On the radio music and normal shows have been canceled for constant live covering. Even my husband -who wouldn’t even watch the world cup if it weren’t for me- sits next me watching the tour, live on his phone ;”They are sprinting” he tells me, apologetically.

It will not be missed, it can not be ignored. The tour 2019 is on again. I remember my astonishment when I was living in argentina, where they cover the complete race live on TV, in many -if not all- coffee shops and restaurants. At the time I thought that was insane, and we even googled the amount of people watching the tour in comparison to the -in my opinion- much more fun to watch and follow World Cup.

Well, if you google it you find out we were not the only one to wonder, a lot has been written about that. 3,3 Billion people seem to watch the tour, and a mere 3,5 billion watch the World Cup.

The amount of 3,3 billion viewers sounds insane, especially if you know there are only 11,5 million Belgians. Who else is watching?

In Belgium biking is big. We are supposed to have many good bikers, we have a biking tradition. Every Belgian man in his midlife crisis feels the need to bike up that “Mont Ventoux” in France (much better than getting a much young mistress I would say). And not to be forgotten : the best biker of all times was our own (Belgian) Eddy Merckx. He won the TDF 5 times (actually he won 11 “grand tours” to name but a few of his victories, but his list of accomplishments is too long to copy here), and the first time he did so was 50 years ago, so it’s in honour of this half god as we Belgians see him, that the tour started in our capital this year. 3,3 billion people have seen it. He deserved it.

The TDF will be omnipresent for the next 3 weeks.

I need some diversion. Maybe I can go biking somewhere? 😄 Any ideas?

PS photo was taken last year during the homecoming of our football team the red devils.

The Sorrow of Belgium

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The best thing about summer temperatures is that they are generally followed by thunderstorms. And that’s exactly my favourite kind of weather. As much as Belgians fear temperatures above 25 degrees, they also fear thunderstorms. The country even gets ‘codes’ when there might be thunderstorms coming. Code yellow, code orange, code red… depending on how ‘dangerous’ the coming storms might be.

Yesterday was code orange so I got my gear out and drove to Gent. I have been wanting to go up the belfry for a while now so I thought this was the right time.

This 90 meter high watchtower dating from the 14th century is a great place to see thunderstorms coming. It’s a not very comfortable narrow passageway, constantly ‘invaded’ by tourists, but nevertheless a great photographic spot.

Belfry

So I was waiting for the storm (that didn’t really come), watching the clouds, watching the tourists passing me. Brits, Americans, Dutch, Scandinavians, Germans, a lot of Spanish speaking and many many Chinese. The Chinese, probably the most avid selfie-takers.

Then a group of French speaking ‘cool guys’ came up. You know the type 16-something, impeccably dressed, loud, showing off… This one guy saw me and automatically said “Bonjour madame!”. I answer back in French and he said, startled, “Mais vous parlez français!”, you speak French! “Of course!” I told him, “I am Belgian!”. ‘Oh, where are you from then?’, he asked. Obviously expecting me to name some south Belgian city as he seemed genuinely surprised when he found out I’m Flemish. Without thinking I ask him the rhetorical question, “but you can speak Flemish, can’t you?” and to my surprise his answer was “oh no! I don’t!” And added an apologetic “but I am from Brussels”, as if to say ‘they don’t speak Flemish there’.

By then the group had moved on and our conversation ended as rapidly as it had started. I was a bit annoyed. Don’t they learn Flemish anymore in our bilingual Belgian capital? Are we (Flemish) the only ones who remember that Brussels is -officially- bilingual? Do they really expect us to speak French, all the time?

The usual Flemish thoughts.

I had nothing on my mind except thinking, as the clouds weren’t really coming, so started thinking about that particular delicate Belgian issue : 2 different people, the French speaking Walloons in the south and the Flemish speaking in the north, ‘stuck’ together in a country called Belgium. Both languages equal, theoretically, but practically it’s always the Flemish that must adapt to the French. Or so it feels to us.

As far as I remember it has always been an issue. Language was one of the reasons Belgium came to exist, it was an important issue in the desire for independency. Back then it was the French speaking elite who were afraid they would lose power to the Flemish ‘people’. It took the Flemish a long time to become ‘equal’ as a language, with the university of Leuven (Flemish town) changing from French to Flemish only in 1968!

When I was in school French was one of the main subjects, next to Maths and Flemish, and generally Flemish was taught in the Walloon schools. Nowadays English is more and more taking the place of Flemish/French as a second language in schools on both sides of the language border.

Thus making the language tensions no longer an issue. There are no longer losers in the battle between Flemish and Walloons on what language they will speak to each other. They just speak English. That’s what I usually do anyway.

So Mr. Cool Guy’s lack of knowledge of my native language is forgiven. -I do hope he speaks English though- ;-).

This is as bad as the clouds got …

“Verdriet van Belgie”, the sorrow of Belgium, a podcast on the Belgian independence by Johan Opdebeek. Only in Flemish I am afraid. Highly recommended.

The language battle I mention here is only in unofficial matters. In political matters and official matters what language is spoken is subject to many strict rules. The prime minister for example will give all speeches half in Flemish half in French.

The panorama photo is taken with my cell phone. The other photos with my camera. check out http://www.kattiborre.com for more of my work.

The experience is real!

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

As I mentioned in my previous post, should one embrace tourism or try to stop it?

Well, I guess what you will read here is kind of my answer to it!

You all know Gent, right? Ghent, Gand, Gante, or whatever you call it in your language?

It is a beautiful medeaval city, a lot (yes, a lot!) more beautiful than Brugge (Bruges, Brujas), believe me! It’s about half an hour drive from Brussels, and easily reachable by train, and when you are visiting Belgium, it is a place not to be missed. Small but vibrant, historical and modern. Good restaurants and bars. There are a thousand reasons to go to Gent, but now there is a new one :

playing with a fish eye lens

From now on you can book me for an “Airbnb experience” on a photographic tour through Gent!

As Airbnb states it so beautifully, Airbnb Experiences are “one of kind activities hosted by locals”. In this I am the local, using my love for the city and my photographic skills to assist the tourist, expat and local!

As a photographer I will guide you through the beautiful medeaval city of Gent, showing you a variety of photographic spots, and assisting you with your camera when needed.

traditional view

It will be an exceptional experience in an exceptional town where the camera and taking great pictures is the main goal. If that is not what you look for then this is not the right experience for you!

Apart from a camera all you will need are good walking shoes -we do everything on foot- !

So check it out! Gent, photografic tour, me, that’s the right combination!

Try me! Book me! Spread the news!! The experience is real!

Be sure to check my website and to follow the news regarding my photographic work

Back in the game…?

Tags

, , , , , ,

Has this blog become dormant? Maybe it looks like it, but well, it isn’t anymore! We are now 3 years further in the 21st century and here I am again. A tourist, no longer an expat and always a local. Yes guys, I guess I have officially moved out of Argentina!

For years I have been wondering, together with my readers, why I had moved to that beautiful country in the Southern Hemisphere, and being back in Europe I truly wonder why I didn’t stay there.

But well, I didn’t. Life changes.

A blog for tourists, expats and locals. Doesn’t that sound exciting? Who of the 3 are you? Where do you live? Where are you from? Where are you going to? Don’t we all wonder about that? Aren’t we all moving from and towards something (more or less) interesting?

I will now start to focus on life here in Europe. That continent more or less the same size of the USA, but with 740 million people living in 44 different countries and speaking 24 different languages. Where cultural differences are significant and which makes it all just more interesting. A continent that is so rich in history that it’s considered an open air museum to the rest of the world.

I will start exploring, together with you ! I have been away for a significant time (8 years) so this might become an interesting ride!

Like, tourism. Did you know that in 2018 Europe received 713 million international tourists, that’s about half of all the tourists in the world!? (source UNWTO)

Should we embrace tourism? Or try to stop it? If it weren’t for Ilja Leonard Pfeiffer ‘s book “Grand Hotel Europa”, I wouldn’t have thought much about it. Now I do. Think about it.

Check out my next post to find how I cooperate in tourism, and a lot lot more!

PS also check out my news section in my website to and follow what I do in relation to my work as a photographer

PS foto : Gent, Belgium, taken with my fish eye lens.

Pa

Spa-see-ba (thank you)

Tags

, , ,

The other day I had lunch with my mom, I don’t know how we got to this, but she mentioned that she thought St. Petersburg is the most beautiful city she has ever seen. And she has seen a lot. Of course, St. Petersburg has been on my ‘to see’ list since forever, just like Paris and London is on most peoples lists, but for one reason or another I never checked it out. Probably because it has always had the reputation of being very expensive. 
But nowadays our lives have changed. Information is at everyone’s reach and while waiting for the soup to boil, out of boredom, I started to check prices on my phone, and less then 24h later, pleasantly surprised by the what I had found, I had my trip booked. 
And then I was overwhelmed. 
I just couldn’t believe it. 
St. Petersburg, Russia, here I come!


Russia has always been present in European history. The tsars. Peter the great. Catherine the great. Alexander II and Napoleon. World War I and II. L’hermitage. Tolstoy and Dostojevski. Communism. Lenin and Stalin. St. Petersburg, Petrograd, Leningrad and then again St. Petersburg. RASPUTIN! Winter palace. Cold. Snow. East front. Cold War. Faberge eggs. Alexander III. Anastasia. Did she survive or didn’t she? Russia speaks to our imagination. It always has and always will. 
We know a lot and at the same time we know nothing. I had 10 days -the time needed to get a visa- to get informed and I decided on reading Montefeori’s ‘the romanovs’, which had been on my to read list for a while. 300 years of history and I don’t know how many tsars in only 700 pages. I should have known it would leave me with my hunger. 
So I am still overwhelmed. There is too much to know, about Russia in general and St. Petersburg in particular, and I know so little. 
Our first quick walk through town, through a beautiful street with an unpronounceable name, overwhelmed me even more. My gosh it is beautiful! Never did I see such beautiful Christmas decoration, such a beautifully illuminated city. So European and still so foreign. 
So I started learning, at the bottom, starting with the basics, like a silly tourist, by asking the waiter how you say ‘thank you’ in Russia. Repeating it 10 times, only to realize that when he brought the next glass of wine, I had already forgotten it. I feel silly speaking English. 
St. Petersburg. I am overwhelmed. I need to get to know you. I already know now that I won’t have enough time and I know I will have to come back. 
St. Petersburg. I love you already. 

Every King wears a Crown

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

As we all know, every king wears a crown… Although I do know it has become a bit out of fashion ; apart from maybe the British Queen, who still wears one?  I have never seen our king with a crown, and I even wonder if he has one. But still, the Belgians have an official Coronation Feast, even though it has nothing to do with our Royals, and everything with Saints. For this you must go to the city of Tongeren, Limburg, every 7 years.

_KTI7441

So that is what I did. I drove down into the deep Limburg, close to the boarder with Wallonia (our French part), close to the German Belgian part (yes, we do have a German part in Belgium, and German is an official Belgian language), and the Netherlands. It is so far away from where I am staying (close to Bruges and Ghent), that is seems like another country. The language spoken is a strong Limburg dialect that sounds so odd to me that I was doubting wether they were speaking Flemish or German, and I had to constantly ask people to repeat what they said as I didn’t get it the first time. It is about 150km from where I am staying. A mere 1:30h drive. This is Belgium. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Tongeren is small town in the south east of Flanders, with an oversized basilica (build in the 13th C and UNESCO heretage). It has played an important role in history. We have all heard of Ambiorix and the Eburones, who angered Ceasar by ambushing his army and thus killing about 9000 of his men. This Caesar, enraged and humiliated, then extinguished the whole tribe and gave another Germanic tribe, the Tungri, permission to settle in the area, and thus Tongeren was created.

Because of its strategic position it got the status of Municipium and Civitas, but the glory didn’t last. After the Roman era it came into decline and although importance went up and down over the centuries, it never returned to its former Roman status of importance. Today it is known for its Gallo-roman museum, for its statue of Ambiorix, and for the septennial Coronations Feasts.

From the 14th century on, every 7 years for the duration of 2 weeks, the relics of the church were put on view for the pelgrims to see, until it was abolished by the French in 1790. It wasn’t until 1890 that the Coronations Feast, with procession like we know it today, came to life, after the bishopric of Luik received permission for a Canonical Coronation of ‘Our Lady Mary Cause of our Joy‘, by pope Leo XIII.

Unless there was a war going on, it has taken place every 7 years ever since, and is today at his 18th edition. People from Tongeren date events from before or after a Coronation, and tell each other which one was the last one they saw. It is an important event in which 3000 of the 30,000 inhabitants, from newborn babies to elderly in wheelchairs, and all ages in between, participate in the procession. The others helping behind the scenes or standing in the streets watching the story telling procession pass. It shows several events in Marys life, and of course the statue of Mary herself joins the walk through the town. And afterwards, just to get a good view on things, you can see the whole story replayed during an evening open air play.

It is a 1 week event, with 4 processions, followed by an evening play and other events; including an photo exhibition. So now that I have put Tongeren, Limburg on the map, hop in your car and drive over. There are 2 more processions on the way (Friday the 8th and Sunday the 10th of this month), and hurry up, if you miss it you must wait another 7 years to get another chance. It is a nice area, and a cosy little town. Make it a day trip, and visit the photo exhibition and the Teseum. You can either reserve a ticket for the procession or take your own chair and sit where ever alongside the roads, but you will need to buy a ticket if you want to see the open air play which, unfortunately, is sold out.

For more details, check their website.

 

 

 

 

The Red Light City

Tags

, , , , ,

Patience is what I thought I have already learned. When you live in Argentina, patience is what you need. To wait in line at the bank, to wait in line for the bus, to wait in line for the supermarket, only patience can save you. And I thought I had quite enough to face the world’s challenges.

Until I started traveling in Europe and ended up in Zurich, Switzerland. A beautiful little city on the lake with the same name ; very, very picturesque, cobble stoned streets full of nice restaurants and shops. It has international vibes, let’s say I heard more English spoken than German. Suisse German I must say. Although my German is quite rusty, I do understand most of what a German says, where as I can’t figure out anything these Suisse are saying. Fortunately (for me) the Suisse are true polyglots.

But what struck me most when coming here, is the amount of red lights. It seems the huge amounts of traffic lights are all set on red. For cars as well as for pedestrians.

Wait. Wait. Wait.

So stressful I decided to take out my chronometer. Probably the first time I ever used that thing on my phone. 1 Minute until it switches to green, long enough to let 6 cars or so pass. If you can’t pass through the first green, add another minute or so to your schedule.

Or more.

Same for the pedestrians, 2 to 3 red lights -or even more- to get to the other side. Compared to this, crossing the 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires feels like a breeze.

But I am not complaining. Today I will leave the car where it is, in the parking lot of our hotel just outside the old city center, and try out the public transport. And as a pedestrian, I am bad, I cross the streets when the light is red and there are no cars. What is normal in Buenos Aires, is not done in Switzerland, but well. If that is as bad as I will be today, we shouldn’t worry too much, should we?

Sí se puede!! (yes we can)

Tags

, ,

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Today was the big day, the day we have all been hoping and waiting for, not just for weeks, but for years. The day that the melagomane, populist, demagogue that Cristina was, would be replaced by a normal, intelligent president. How she could talk! Wrap everyone around her fingers saying whatever. Letting her tears roll abundantly when it suited her. As we have seen, for the last time, yesterday.

She managed to leave the country in a complete mess, making sure, during the last few weeks, to make the mess as big as possible. She doesn’t care about the country’s sake, only about how she can make it hard on her successor.

Those days are now gone, and today history was made. At last Argentines felt that their votes had (literally) been counted, that their opinion mattered, that they can make a change towards their new future. And that is what I saw today.

You can read about it, you can watch it on TV, but nothing beats being present when the Argentines let their emotions go and flow. They were not only celebrating the new era, the new president. They were also celebrating hope, finally there is hope of improvements, of economic growth and more security. Hope to finally see some transparency instead of reading and seeing only corruption. Hope to get a better life with a president who works for the country instead for his own pocket and that of his companions. But they were also celebrating democracy, which was undoubtedly, the theme of the day.

It literally gave me goose bumps, and made us all emotional. The joy was powerful, the passion contagious, when the new president and his crew drove through the crowds, and even long after that, people kept on celebrating.

The streets were crowded, the people were chanting and singing. “sí se puede” (yes we can), “Argentina! Argentina!” and many more. Not even the steamy heat, nor the blazing sun, could keep them quiet. The security measures were unseen. Cops, prefecture and soldiers made a line, all the way between the Congreso and the Casa Rosada, to make sure that no opposition could spoil the fun of the celebrators.

It was an historic day. And I was part of it. So proud.