IT WAS WORTH A LIFE
Selfbiography by Bernhard Kauntz


Seven days in Belgium


So, I finally had decided to go to Belgium, on rather short notice. But Braem and Cere had been here in Västerås, Braem even twice, and I felt that it was time to see them again, and also many of the others, whom I knew. It had been five years, since I had left Belgium. Time really flies. It seemed to be about time, that I did some revisiting.
There are a couple of planes, which go between Brussels and Bromma in Stockholm every day. That is, why I could choose a flight about midday, so that I wouldn't have to get up in the middle of the night. I came to Zaventem just short of four o'clock. And I was lucky to get the connection with the bus almost immediately.
Braem had suggested to try an airbnb and that seemed a good idea. Not at least it was a solution, which was not too expensive. It was my first experience of airbnb, but it is always fun to do new things. I had gotten an address in Brusselse steenweg 49 in Meise. That was another advantage, because Wolvertem, where I had lived before, actually is part of Meise. That meant, that I knew the area quite well. I went to the right street and at the corner there was number 53. The next house was naturally 51 and the next ... no! It was not 49, it was 47! I asked a couple of people, coming out of house 51, but neither they had an idea, where 49 would be. As I had had to pay my stay in advance, I was starting wondering, if I had been taken for a ride and actually saw myself looking for an expensive hotelroom.
But I decided to also ask in the café on the other side of house 47. There was no housenumber on that building, but it was the right one. After a beer, to get rid of the shock, the landlady showed me the way up to a study, which I could dispose exactly as I liked. There was no kitchen. The only possibility was to make some tea or coffee. But there was a refrigerator, which was important, in order to cool some beer and to put in some necessities for breakfast. My study was on the top floor, exactly opposite the church. I actually like the bell ringing to tell the time, so I was not concerned. And the bell did not ring before eight in the morning either. But before each ringing, they played a jingle twice an hour, which eventually became much more annoying.
Braem came home from Paris that Tuesday. He hade taken holidays for all of the time of my vacation. All the others were at work. But I had chosen that week, because Thursday was a holiday and so maybe some even had Friday off. In the evening Braem, Cere and Greg met up. Most restaurants are closed on Tuesdays, but as I like the "fritjes", fries with different kinds of fast food, I convinced them, that this would be as good a solution. Even more so, because there was a place right over the street. We did a lot of catching up, during the meal and afterwards over some beer.
Cere had fixed a party in a WOK-restaurant for the next evening and had in the invitation made a big thing of me coming to Brussels. Before Greg and Cere left, we made up to meet at that restaurant on Wednesday. Braem had bought some more beer in the meantime and followed me home for another couple of hours of chatting. He lives just two streets away, so he could easily walk home.
He asked if I would like to see the extensions of the last version of Civilization, and of course I would. I have liked this game for about twenty years now. I just wish to have more time for it.
We talked about what to do the next day and Braem offered willingly to drive me around.
In fact, after the first busride from the airport, I never had to take any other bus, while in Belgium. And any time, when we were more than two in the car, the front seat was to be mine, in spite of me saying, that it did not matter to me, where I sat. Thanks a lot, Braem, Cere and Greg.

Next day I could get rid of some bad conscience. While I was playing darts in Belgium, I finally had found dartflights with "Austria" labelled on them. My dartsupplier, the owner of "Lucky Biljart", also a very nice man, had taken home flights that would last many years for me. And there were probably not many others interested i "Austria-flights". But soon thereafter I left Belgium. The days before were rather busy, so I had no chance to go there and pick up the flights. Now, finally, five years later, I could make up for his kindness. He told me, that it did not really matter, as he had more flights, that he probably wouldn't ever get rid of. But I took sixteen packages anyhow, and left ten (for years to come).
At the same time I got some other supplies for my darts. And my conscience feels a lot better after that.
After this successful operation, we felt, that we might need a beer. Braem knew a place, where we could play some billiard, so I lost a couple of games. Afterwards he got his laptop and we started a game of Civilization, until Greg came to fetch us, in order to go to the restaurant. It was the type of "eat and drink as much as you can". Cere had done well, as I like such places. There was much choice and we sat there and ate for more than three hours.
It was nice to meet Ann again and to see that she is well. She came together with her future husband, Didier.
It was also very nice to meet Yana, Braems girlfriend. We had met very shortly once before, but had barely had the chance to say more than a plain hello at that time. Braem and Yana have recently bought a house, where they will live together within a couple of weeks, when they may move in. Have my best wishes, both of you!
Robin had come too. He was a member of our dartclub and even as he has quit playing darts nowadays, it was nice to meet him. Ceres nephew, Willem was there, as well as Benjamin and Charlotte, a young couple, that I had never seen before. Charlotte was to have her birthday the week after and would give a party on Saturday, to which even I was invited. Of course I accepted happily.
Greg drove us home again and Braem and I continued our game until long past midnight.

Thursday was a holiday, actually a holy day as well, as it was to remember Christ's Ascention to Heaven. As everybody was free from work, I met with Braem and Cere to visit another nostalgic place: 't Leireken is a café where I had spent rather many training hours of dart. Of course we played against each other as well. It is fascinating, that Braem can keep a rather good standard, as he more or less has quit playing darts. Cere and I won against him, but we were absolutely not demolishing him. Against me, Cere was checking out very well, even if I was ahead during countdown. As we two were going to play a double tournament on Sunday, we made up the tactics: I would throw the high points and he would check out.
In the evening there was something else to be happy about: the mussels' season had just started. There were mussles available in the Beiaard, a restaurant just across the street from my airbnb. I had eaten mussles there before and they were as nice as anticipated.
Greg joined us for the meal and went with Braem and me to my place.

We were to have a last beer and some chat. We discussed the political future of Europe, in what we thought a very civilized manner. But at half past one the landlady knocked onto the door and complained over us being too loud. That definitely cancelled our discussion. Therefore the future of Europe still is very unpredictible ...

On Friday morning I went shopping, some more beers, and breakfast for the rest of my stay. I am proud to say, that I only spoke Dutch, or maybe Flemish, to be exact. Not a word in English in either of the shops. It felt a little strange in the beginning, but after three days, it was no big problem any more. After lunch Braem came over to my study and we continued with the game, until Greg fetched us with the car. Braem hat gotten an invitation of Yana's stepfather to eat in a café, part of a riding school, where they served really nice spaghetti. And the Bolognese was actually absolutely top. It was nice weather during the week as well, so I enjoyed sitting outside in short-armed shirts even in the evenings.
We decided that we would go to the market in Mechelen the next day, in order to eat some "maatjes", which were recommendable.

Again it was Greg fetching us, rather early in the morning (considering my own time-rhythm). The streets in Mechelen were really crowded. But it was interesting, as the city was the seat of the governor of the Austrian Netherlands under Habsburg rule. Most famous was probably Margareta of Austria, living in the 16th century. There are still quite som similarities in the mentality (that is probably, why I like it so much there), as well as in the expressions of the language. The Austrian Netherlands had earlier been under the rule of the Spanish line. "I am hungry" would be "I have hunger" in Spanish. And so they have hunger in Flemish also, as well as in many parts of Austria. In Germany one would use the English equvivalent. This is just one example.
Talking about culture, we found time to visit the Sint-Romboutscathedral, with its marvellous pulpit from the early 18th century, built by Michel Vervoort. I wonder if we would be able to carve such a masterpiece in our days. If I ever get time enough, I shall write an article about the church and put it into my online-empire, the Werbeka Netshop.
I wanted to see, if I could find a present for Charlotte's birthday. And I found a rather nice stone on a necklace for her. For myself I found two unexpensive books, which I bought, so that I could keep my Flemish fluent.
And I found the biggest cherries, which I ever have seen. I had to get some. I wanted to save some of the half kilo I bought, until Sunday, but that was not to be. No wonder, as we can't get such nice fruit in Sweden. Then I tried the maatjes, and yes, I liked that kind of herring very much. It was a very sunny day, and as we sat in the sun a couple of hours, while eating, we all got a more or less hurting sunburn.
I was very satisfied with the day, and there was still Charlotte's party to come. It was held in a restaurant, where it was said, that they made very good spare ribs.
The spare ribs were not bad, even if I enjoyed the company of the others more. Laurent was there, together with his fiancée, Clara. They are getting married this summer. My best wishes to both of you. Jonathan was there as well, together with Katleen. Marlon and Sarah were other acquaintances from long ago. All of them, but Clara, were part of the gang, with whom we played games and did quizzes. It was very nice to see them again. They had become grown-ups in the meantime, but still none of them was half my age. And we talked together, and we laughed together, and age really didn't matter. When I mentioned that, Laurent commented that the age of the body was of no concern, it depended on the age of the mind. Thank you for a nice compliment! I couldn't help thinking of my own children, some of whom I haven't seen in years. It is a strange world, isn't it? ...
But I put those unhappy thoughts away and instead felt uplifted by looking at Charlotte, being celebrated with fireworks at the table. There was plenty of alcohol at those parties, but during this week I never saw anybody, who got drunk. That applies as well to the different cafés and even to the dartplayers. No stupid talking, no tumbling around. This is another difference to Sweden.
On Sunday morning I wanted to take it easy, to be fit at the darts in Ninove. Cere and I would play the local pairs' tournament. But then, on Sunday, the church bells rang every five minutes, it appeared to me. Anyhow, Cere came at lunchtime and a good half an hour later we checked in. And we did well! We won the games in the poolplay easily with 3-1 and 3-0. We played according to our plan. I hit some high points and Cere checked. Actually he checked out five times of our six, four of them with his first three darts! Our matches went quickly, so we were done first. It was nice weather. We went outside to enjoy the day, had some sausages and waited. Probably too long. Because when we were called up again, among the first, we had not warmed up. Our opponents opened with 140, I scored 17 ... Nothing worked any more, neither for Cere, nor for me. We went home with a steady 0-3 in our luggage. But it was not really discomforting, because we had played well in the pool - and that was the thing to remember. And maybe also not to take it too easy, while waiting.
Cere had invited Braem, Greg and me to do a barbecue at his place, where he shared the house together with his nephew Willem. The evening was still warm and it felt marvellous again, sitting outside while eating.
Willem is interested in rabbits and owned quite some, some of which ran freely in the secured garden. Willem's girlfriend, Eve, works in a center for "illegals" and it was interesting to hear about her experiences there.
There was very much food left, so Cere invited us even for Monday, to finish the rest.

Now I had only one point left on the agenda for that week. Braem wanted me to taste a Pho Bac Noodle soup, which is a vietnamese dish. We went to Brussels, to eat in the restaurant he knew.

The soup was served in a deep bowl, where the lower part consisted of the noodles, the upper part of different vegetables and spices. And the surprise - on top of it was diced raw meat. When you mixed altogether, the meat would be a little boiled by the hot water. It was simply delicious. By eating this, I found something else to do, next time I come to Brussels. There are many varieties of the soup, so it might take some visits ...
We had come to a very interesting part of our Civilization game, therefore I was keen on continuing for a while, to see what would happen. I had already packed most things in the morning, so there was not much else to do, before going once more to Cere's place.
Again it was nice to sit outside and enjoy nature. The garden is rather unattended, but even the nettles in a corner have their charm, just because it makes it look less sterile.
The ground was not entirely even either, but did that matter, as long as the table stood steady? I felt very much like in the garden of our summer cottage, when I was a boy.
And then it was time to say good bye. Braem would give me a lift to the airport next morning, but then I was already travelling.

Those were some of my best days since many years. Thank you all, for making me feel so good!

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PS: When I came home, I found a paper from our housing organisation in my letterbox. It said: "You, who are lucky to have some patio in connection to your appartment, must try to keep it tidy, else it is not a very pleasant sight, when the neighbours look down onto it from above. You, who have hedges, be sure to cut them regularly. Their maximum height may be 1.40 meters. Neighbouring hedges must have the same height."
I have no patio, as I live on the uppermost floor. But believe me, I remembered Cere's garden with awe.



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9.6.2019 by webmaster@werbeka.com