Thursday, May 17, 2007

Damme: Belgium

Right, so after all that gorging (see previous post) it was time to burn off the calories with a tour-guided bike ride from Bruges to Damme (pronounced Dumma). Only 7km apart and all of it on flat land, it was hardly much exercise but we looked the part.

We cycled alongside a canal that used to freeze over in winter. We heard how people would go skating along it with a beer in one hand a waffle in another all the way from Bruges to Holland. Cycling just didn’t sound as much fun! By the way, although we do embellish a little every now and then, the beer part above is true. Public liability wasn't much of an issue back then.

As we cycled along the canal on a beautiful poplar-lined avenue, Jez felt it apt to have a little video stop. In the clip you are about to see, I try to explain that the Canadian poplars were planted after WW2 as gratitude to the Canadians for assisting to liberate the Dutch. You wont hear any of that though as Jez interrupted me with an excellent impersonation of a leering Dutch yobbo!

In Damme our guide pointed out the symbol of a dog on the town flag and scattered throughout the architecture of the city. Legend has it that many moons ago the dyke protecting the city sprung a leak. Every time the locals tried to repair the dyke, another leak would appear elsewhere. The situation was dire. As the town elders gathered for council, they noticed a ghostly dog following them. One of the dam-experts pointed out that the shape of the hole in the dam matched exactly the silhouette of the dog. And so the dog was captured and plugged into the rupture. Damme was saved and the dog sacrificed his life for enduring fame.

Bruges: Belgium

If you are after an unromantic place to lose a couple of pounds then we do not recommend going to Bruges. This quaint, gothic-style city offers some of the finest delights we've come across so far - all of which cater for a refined palate, an empty stomach and a giant-size sweet tooth. So Bruges was a clear choice for the JeTZ celebrating their first wedding anniversary.

The burning question though do you spell Bruges? And more over, how to you say it? The French spell it Bruges and pronounce it Brooge. The Dutch spell it Brugge and pronounce it Brucha. We say it like the French because our Dutch sounds utterly hideous!

Semantics out of the way, we were ready to stock up with chocolate! The only problem was, there were so many Belgium Chocolate shops. There was at least a couple on every street. So we went into the biggest one we could find. Time stood still as we gazed around salivating completely paralysed with the myriad choices.

We decided to get a box of mixed chocolates. We informed the lady behind the counter that we'd select a few ourselves and not just buy the pre-selected box she had on offer. She obliged.

"You will have a dark chocolate-coated caramel and hazelnut twist, the Marzipan apricot coated in brandy with a dark covature, the grand marnier solitaire, the piemont cherry soaked in cherry brandy liqueur and encased in fine dark chocolate
Jez interjected: "can we have a chilli chocolate?"
"No! That is from a separate range..."
Fräulein had spoken!
The next day I decided to take control of the situation and ensure I got to select my own chocolates. Click on the chocolate to the left to see the video...

After a day of gorging on delicious sweet things I developed a migrane. This was rather disconcerting considering it was only our first night here! But I'm a lot tougher than I look and the next day I was back in business off to taste another of Bruges sweet gifts: the famous Belgium waffle...

I ordered a chocolate one from a lovely alfresco restaurant, but Jez, on a strict wheat and hops diet restricted himself to a beer. As time went on Jez decided he was hungry after all. Another waiter came by and Jez asked him to throw some snaggers on the barbie.
The waiter looked at me but I told him I'd already ordered.
"Impossible!" he said.
"I ordered a waffle from the last waiter" I said assuming something had been lost in translation.
"No, that is impossible. I am the ONLY one who can take orders..."
We backed down.
The waiter came back with some cutlery and just as he was about to give me a knife and fork, he noticed I already had a set. He glared at us and turned tail. No one said anything, but we knew the Australians had won this round.

After thorough sampling of Belgium's fine beers we have established:
1. Hoegaarden beer is a lekker drop
2. Jez never tires of the joke ... "Im just going to get another Hoe".

Chips and mayonnaise on the other hand was not something we were sure we liked. Here you can see Jez playing up for the camera (what a tart!) but when the camera was off he confessed it was pretty revolting.

Belgium isn't renowned for its candy floss but since we had stumbled across a fair it had to be done. I can confirm that no matter where you are in the world, candy floss is candy floss and tastes like sugar-coated cotton wool - only it does that cool thing where it just disappears in your mouth in a way cotton wool would certainly not!

Click on the video to your left to get a 365 degree view of one of the main squares in Bruges. Be sure to watch until the end and put your speakers on so you can hear the background music...