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Archive for December, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

I hope all of you are enjoying a wonderful, warm, happy, white Christmas. Hugs and kisses to all! Merry Christmas!!!

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Xmas Miracles

While Lindsey’s been living it up with all of you back home, I was languishing in the oppressive beauty of Belgian Christmastime.

Here are some pictures of the prettiest damn snow I’ve seen in a long, long while.  Be warned–there are secret couples.

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What a beautiful snowfall—it’s what my Velda would call “Christmas Snow.”  The whole day (the second to last of the Kerstmarkt) was miraculous.  I’m having trouble forming sentences about it, so I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

And while we’re on the subject of miracles, here’s one for you: somehow, despite the entire nation of Belgium running out of de-icer, I’m currently on my way home.  Not enough miracle for you?  Here’s one more: I’m writing this post from the sky.

That’s right.  This is me, sitting in a chair, watching live cable television, writing a blog post, and enjoying a (complementary!) cocktail while being propelled through the air by a ton of carefully formed metal and wires.  Miraculous.  Oh yeah, and once upon a time, Jesus was born.  nbd.

 

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Leuvense Kerstmarkt

So I’ve arrived safe and sound back in Minnesota, as most of you already know. However, there’s one post that cannot be forgotten as we draw closer to Christmas, and that is the Leuvense Kerstmarkt.

So you are probably thinking, what is a kerstmarkt? Well my friends, it is a Christmas market, and it is possibly the best thing that ever happened to humanity/the holiday season. Christmas markets are kind of a big deal in Europe. I know they have them in Germany and Belgium for sure, however, I believe they exist all over. They are hosted by each city separately, and as a result, some Christmas markets are far superior to others.

You might be wondering what one does at such a market. Basically, you participate in all the merry-making of the holiday season in surroundings so beautifully decorated that it’s hard not to get excited about it. Examples of said merry-making include, but are not limited to: eating enormous, delicious bratwurst, bacon on a stick, pannekoeken, churros, champagne and oysters, tartiflette, and many other tasty treats, drinking mulled wine, taking pictures with St. Nick, and shopping for handmade wares.

It’s pretty much the best thing ever. The large open square by the Leuven library is transformed into a mini-festival with tents housing all of the above mentioned items. Night is the busiest time as it temporarily steals the spotlight from the beloved cafes and bars in the Old Market for 2 weeks a year. The lights sparkle in the library windows and all over the tents while people wander with hot Gluhwein in hand (mulled cider/wine) gazing at the artisan soaps and wooden childrens’ toys for sale.

If alcohol is not your thing, there are plenty of delicious alternative beverages as well. I recommend the hot chocolate, it is to die for since it is basically melted dark chocolate in cream. Really, how could you go wrong?

Each city has it’s own kerstmarkt like I mentioned above. The Brussels Kerstmarkt is held in the Grand Place (that gorgeous square with the gold trimmed buildings, dontcha know) and it’s said to be a very good one. I never got a chance to go to that one before I left, but I have heard from a friend that the Leuven Kerstmarkt is better. Yay!

Bruges also has a decent one, and we will always look back on it fondly for having the most unbelievably delicious bratwurst ever to have been created by man. Since then, no other brat can really compare. Even at our own precious Leuven market, we couldn’t find one quite so perfectly juicy, yet slightly charred on the outside with a superb topping of fried onions and mustard in a fresh bun. Just writing about it is making me salivate.

However good that brat was though, the Bruges market itself couldn’t really compare to the wonder of the Leuven one.

As we’ve stated several times in the past, Leuven really is amazing, and probably the best place we could have ended up in Belgium. I couldn’t imagine a more charming place at Christmas either. Everything is decorated and brilliantly lit up, however, the intense commercialism that categorizes the American version of the holiday is refreshingly absent from its Belgian counterpart. Yes, presents are important there as well, but being a Catholic country, the season seems to be more focused on general merry-making and celebrating the miracle of the birth of Christ and all that. It’s a nice change of pace from what we are used to back home which is what Trevor fondly calls “Atheist Kids Get Presents Day.”

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So those of you who read this blog regularly may be wondering why I haven’t posted in a while. You should also be aware, if you update yourself on our doings every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, that I am currently back in the YOU-Nited States of AMERICA!

I’ve had a rather exhausting week. Monday was spent hopping from Brussels to New York, and New York to Boston only to be followed by bouts of nasty stomach illness on Tuesday night, Wednesday, and a little bit yesterday.

But as of yesterday, I’m back in Minnesota, a veritable winter wonderland! After spending almost the entire afternoon napping, I ended up going to bed at 10pm and sleeping for a whopping 11 hours (silly jet-lag).

So, as you can imagine, I haven’t really been in the mood to post at all this week. What with the 5 airports I’ve been through and the almost ever-present nausea I’ve experienced in the past few days, I felt it necessary to take some time off from the blog. I will return next week, however, with many more unposted Belgian adventures to share. Stay tuned!

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Lone Adventure

If you’ve gotten to see her already, you know that Linds is back stateside.  And just like Linds, our little princess Whitley headed home this week (copycat) from her long stay in Chile.  Again, like us (copycat), Whit is by now a pretty accomplished adventurer.

I, however, am still in Belgium till Wednesday, when I finally get to head home for a much needed Christmas break.

Despite the non-Belgian locale in which my counterpart finds herself, there has been no shortage of adventure on either side of the Atlantic.  This is, after all, an (read: the) Adventure Blog, and we, it’s operators, pride ourselves on our adventuring.

Most of my adventures this week (I’ll let Linds update you on hers), though, have been as much adventures against Belgium as they have been adventures in Belgium.  What a difference a preposition can make. (more…)

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Making an Exit

Yesterday I witnessed one of the more amazing moments of my (now considerable) time in universities.  I’ve been present for some fantastic lectures over the years, heard some downright inspiring and heartfelt appeals from professors, and watched my share of public dressing downs of over-puffed pseudo-intellectual students, but I’m not sure anything compares to the simplicity and elegance of what happened yesterday in Philosophy of Religion.

It was the academic of equivalent of mic drop.  And it taught me a lot about the importance of being able to make an exit.

I should explain.  To understand what I just said, you first have to know the player.

His name is Ignace Verhack.  He’s a 60 something retired professor in the Institute of Philosophy here, and we were lucky enough to have him come back for this one class.  There he is to the right.

 

First, Verhack—like a lot of older, learned, Flemmish gentlemen— is a very serious dude.  The guy makes his living talking about “being” for goodness sake.  By that I mean that his job as a philosopher is on one level to find out whether or not we can prove that we actually exist, and on another level to decide how/whether that really matters.  To say the least, there are a lot of, “Did that just happen?” moments.  A lot of, “Where am I and what am I doing here,” once class is over.

Second, he—again, like a lot of learned, Flemish gentlemen—has no problem walking into a class 10 or even 15 minutes late.  Really, what are you gonna do without him?  He simply walks—not strides, not shuffles, just walks, as if he invented it as a mode of transportation—into a classroom full of 30 or so people, sets down his notes, and immediately begins lecturing.  His nonchalance upon entering a room, though, doesn’t even come close to rivaling the downright disregard for his audience he shows when he leaves.

He will, upon finishing a pivotal sentence, simply—silently—decide that it’s time for a break and walk out of the room.  And when he leaves, he leaves.  Most of the class stays near the classroom, heads for the coffee machine, or goes outside to smoke, but Verhack, without so much as a jacket over his patented tweed sportscoat-over-sweater combination, flat out disappears.  And I mean disappears.  I would say he magically drifts into the ether, but I’m not sure there’s ether that’s unsubstantial enough to follow or contain him.  My friend Chris said of Verhack, “Most people worry about making an entrance; he just makes an exit.” (more…)

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Where my posts at?

It’s Saturday.

If you were checking yesterday, and if you were aware that yesterday’s today was Friday, and if you were aware that we traditionally write on Fridays, you might also have noticed that we owe you a post.  Sorry about that.  Fear not, your post is on the way.

The Christmas Market is in Leuven, and we’re working on a post (or two) covering it.

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So this post continues our series entitled “It’s Big in Belgium” where we make fun of ridiculous Belgian products. We begin by examining this amazing window display we found while roaming around lost in Liege.

We passed this vitrine on display in a pharmacy that was closed (I mean, it was Sunday), and we had to stop to get a better look. I wish the photo below did it justice.

As you can see, the tiered display of maxi pads helps one visualize just how absorbent these articles really are. In America, the common maxi pad comes in only 3 levels of absorbency: light, normal, and super. But Belgians seem to comprehend that not all of life’s needs fit perfectly into 3 prescribed boxes of small, medium, and large. One may have need for a slightly bigger, more uncomfortable looking, post-pregnancy like absorbency. This is where the fourth pad comes in. I imagine this tier could be called the “Uber-flow Pad.”

Now, I apologize if I offend anyone with my insensitivity, but that pad is enormous. I know it doesn’t look that impressive in the photo, but believe me, it was huge. What really got me though, besides its size, was the display itself. I mean, why do maxi pads need a tiered window display anyway?

This second product, while equally hilarious (in my opinion), is slightly more inappropriate…depending on your point of view I guess. I mean, we ARE in Europe, where standards of propriety are relaxed compared to America. But still, someone should have double checked this label before this product went into production.

Cock’s Fresh? First of all, the apostrophe is ambiguous. Is the cock in possession of this freshness, or is it a conjunction, “Cock is Fresh?” Either way, it makes no sense when looking at a package of filet of horse. That’s right, horse. They eat that here. And no, I have not tried it, and I don’t plan on it.

Putting the obvious innuendo aside, we didn’t see a single meat product with this moniker that actually contained any chicken. So…they should consider renaming something more appropriate like “Random Sliced Meat of Various Origin Wrapped in Plastic,” or something like that.

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It’s Christmas in Belgium!

Well, sorta.  Actually, it’s just the Feast of St. Nikolaas, which is, admittedly, a lot different from Christmas.  They still have regular Christmas on the 25th, but as you might have guessed from the name of the Feast, the 6th of December focuses on celebrating St. Nikolaas, who is the inspiration for our own Santa.  Even so, there are some distinct differences between Christmas and this mini-Christmas-before-Christmas.

For starters, Sinterklaas (or St. Nikolaas) isn’t exactly Santa Claus.  In fact, the first time I saw him, it was in this form.  That’s him made of chocolate on the left.

Mmmmmmmmmmm, candy Pope!

For about a week, I actually thought Sinterklaas was the Pope.  After all, Belgium is a Catholic country, and KU Leuven is pretty jazzed about Rome and the Pope in general.  But when I started to notice that this image kept popping up in children’s stores, I started to wonder.  Catholic or no, I’ve never met a kid who was clamoring for a Pope action figure.  If it comes down to a Ninja Turtle or the Pope, a Ninja Turtle is gonna win every time.  (This principle, I’m sure, holds true in the hearts of children and also for any scenario in which the Pope might actually get into a fight with a Ninja Turtle.) (more…)

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META Post: #2 Some mo a dat

I’m sorry, I couldn’t not post this.  It’s just … just … well, just look.


Admiral Ackbar still takes the top place, while our actual URL is bumped to the very bottom slot by searches for the “belt shaker exercise machine.”  You might remember that we posted a small link to a picture of a belt shaker exercise machine in our apartment workout plan, but we never realized that it would increase our viewership in a significant way.

Damn you, Google.  This blog was supposed to be hard to find!

How can I possibly write while the knowledge that my every word can be searched looms above my keyboard like some ethereal Googular wight?!

Is nothing safe?  What can I type?  Can I type “pantsuit wearing bears?”  Is that okay to type?  Seriously, if pantsuit wearing bears come up in our top searches tomorrow, I am gonna be mad.

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