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Since we first decided to come to Germany, Russ has been talking about visiting his collaborators in Denmark and Switzerland.  So, naturally, once we arrived he went about planning trips to Copenhagen and Geneve.  Since Geneve is so far from Hamburg, we decided to go there during the 'holiday' week following Pentecost - the university's equivalent of summer break.  As I was planning our route, Russ decided we must, by all means, stop in Bruges (in northern Belgium) so he could revisit the chocolate shops there.  Before long, we had a whole weekend planned in Belgium, visiting the capital of Brussel, Bruges , Oostende on the coast, and Leuven, where Russ hoped to catch up with another colleague.

Our plan was to drive most of Friday to Brussel, where we would spend the night.  Saturday morning we would go to Leuven and meet for lunch, and then have both Saturday afternoon and Sunday to explore Bruges and Oostende, where were staying.  We mostly held to that plan, with a bit of tweaking.  After an 'adventure in driving' around Brussel trying to find our hotel amid the one-way lanes, traffic circles, and detours (oh, yes, and the cross-streets aren't labeled, either) we eventually reached our destination.  Seeing a tour bus unloading, I sped into the hotel lobby to get our key.  Just one little problem, the receptionist said, 'the hotel is full'.  Looking around, I understood why - there were lots and lots of people waiting as their tour director sorted out their room details.  But our lovely receptionist was not quite finished: 'we've moved you to another hotel - a five-star hotel in the city center.  The Astoria.  Will that be okay?'  To top things off, she gave us a map - with street names!  I'm not sure which was more exciting...

We had a lovely day in Leuven - beautiful weather, blue skies, light breeze, flowers boxes bursting with color - spring in all its glory.  After a nice lunch, we then headed to Oostende to our hotel for the next two nights.  During lunch it occurred to me that (1) we were staying in a beach resort during wonderful weather, and (2) it was a holiday weekend, which both were likely to mean lots of people and lots of traffic.  What I didn't realize was that Oostende was having a street festival, and most of the town center was being torn up for road construction.  After an hour wandering through the same 12 blocks (and stopping at the Holiday Inn for directions), we eventually found our hotel (along with other guests who had spend hours trying to find the place, which made me feel a little better).  By this time, it was too late to head into Bruges , so we just called it a night.  The next morning, we headed out to the train station, only to come upon some sort of historic battle re-creation.  After a while, we hopped on the train and headed into Bruges under a cloudy sky.  Cloudy skies seem to be quite common in northern Europe, and may become our theme if the weather doesn't improve.  Russell's 'must-do' list was simple: Eat Chocolate. Dark Chocolate. More Chocolate.  Mine was slightly more complicated - I wanted to see Michelangelo's Madonna and Child (we saw it last time when the church was undergoing massive renovations) and find 'the spot' where I took a photo years ago.  It was one of my favorite black and white images, and I had put the negative aside, in a very safe place, to have an enlargement made.  Truly my mother's daughter, I forgot where my 'safe place' was and have never found it.  Russell, being the kind person he is, suggested we just walk around the canals until we found it.  Although I never recognized where "it" was, we did see a cormorant choking down an eel.

Brussel Leuven Oostende Bruges

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This site was last updated 06/16/04

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