Final Count Down

This moment arrived earlier than expected, this is my/ours project’s last week, on the 15th of December I will be at home in Italy. I really enjoyed the time spent in DHR, these 6 months were really rich, I made so many new experiences, I learnt a lot during the workshops and activities. I met so many wonderful people here and I felt immediatly at home, meeting local and fellow ESC volunteers let me reflect a lot about myself, my life, past opportunities, time lost, dreams and ideas.

 I liked so much living here, i will miss the forest and its sounds. Before arriving here I didn’t know much about Belgium, even now after 6 month there is still much to know. Here I discovered again the pleasure of traveling, searching for destinations and events to go whenever you are free. I traveled a lot in Belgium, but not as much as I wanted, in the end I did’t have time to go in some places, but at least there is one more reason to come back.

I will miss the sweet smell of waffles you can feel while walking around in many city centers (I admit it is sometimes too much for me, but it is still something typical). Here is so easy to go around by bike, it will be strange once at home, but now I want to use it more like I did here.

I have many good memories in DHR, relaxing and reading on my favorite tree, laying down in the forest listening with eyes closed, counting falling stars during San Lorenzo/Saint Lawrence night, the first time I partecipated in every workshops… so it is difficult to think I will not be here from next week .

Every time I think or someone remembers me about the project’s end  I feel sad, I need to stop for a moment and take a deep breath.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”

I really needed this experience, it changed me and now I have some clear targets in my mind.

Bedankt DHR

Bedankt Allemaal

Dit is geen vaarwel maar een tot ziens

 

From Veronica’s writings…deel 6

“Veronica, het is niet een belgische naam”

He understood immediately that I am not Belgian.

So then, where do I come from?

Frankrijjk of Wallonie?”

Europe?“

Antwerpen?”

Bobbenjanland!!”

“Italië!”

Ja, Italy is the correct one, but also Europe, because I am a European volunteer, and today we will work together!

That’s how the outdoor activity with the new group of guys of the 3master school of Kasterlee started.

Every Wednesday morning during the school year, a group of special children arrives by bike at DHR.

We all meet in front of onthaal and then we go straight to a spot in the forest and we spend some hours working together cutting plants, in order to support the ecosystem of this environment.

But there is a lot more beyond this main aim, that indeed let me consider it as one of my favorite workshops.

I love their enthusiasm, the effort and concentration they put for every plant they have to cut. I like to have unusual discussions with them about Italian food, video games, tv programs, hobbies and much more.

I like to feel embarrassed when I realize that they speak better English then me and I appreciate so much when they try to understand what I explain in my bad Dutch.

I love to simply stop for a while and stand staring at them, at the way in which they behave towards each other and soon after realize I am gently smiling, because they are so unique, so authentic, so humans (both in the good an in the bad days).

Education, nature, team working, responsibility, respect and above all fun.

That’s the werkproject, that’s De Hoge Rielen.

Treasures in the Sand

On the 16th of September in Belgium, I could make a dream come true…

Sometimes happen to have free days one after another, so in these cases I try to organize small trip and sleep there for at least 1 night. After some researches, I decided to sleep 2 nights in Brugge (from the 15h to the 17th of September).

The 15th of September was the right choice to arrive in Brugge, it was a Sunday without cars, there were a lot of events all around the city. First stop wherever I go is the Tourisme point to get a map because my phone dies easily, there I found a booklet about the events of the day. Before going around the town I needed to leave my stuff at the hostel where I booked for 2 nights, I chose the route, on the way I stopped at the Begijnhof, I played a quiz game about how much 5 pots were filled, Langestraat became a  flea market and walking in the crowded street I arrived at the hostel. After settling down in my room, it was time to explore the city, windmill in Kruisvest, looking around in Markt, stopping in ‘t Zand to watch many activities (the flying bikes, go-kart race, children riding electric motorbikes with police officers, a young unicycle team).

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I went to Burg and there was a big stage in front of the town hall, there I could listen to the concert of “Lady Lynn and her Magnificent Bigband”. Last stop was Vismarkt, nice and funny concert until 23:00, but I missed the mustache contest in the afternoon. Monday evening I enjoyed 3 hours blues jam session and some beers in Comtoir des Arts. On Tuesday morning checkout and last tour of the city before going back in DHR.

Now I can tell you wich dream came true, I have liked collecting stuff since I was a child, I started with shells, minerals, fossils and then rocks to use in a tumbling machine. I always liked the variety of colour and shapes of these things, you just need to stop and look closer than you can discover a lot. While searching for interesting sites to find samples I discovered a place, there I could find what I desired in a long time. The 16th of September My destination was Knokke, all this trip was organized only because I wanted to go there and I couldn’t wait anymore.

In half a day I could find 5 beautiful shark teeth, I missed a lot of them but I wasn’t used and I searched in the wrong places at the start. I still think I was lucky because I arrived with the low tide or I should not be able to find anything. They come from the erosion of old seabed, between 4 and 2.5 million years ago, probably the Scaldisian formation.

I am sure to go there again to find different kinds of shark teeth and to visit het Zwin Natuur Park, I already found many interesting geological sites but most of them are now closed to the public, so I need to find new sources for my researches. I am open to suggestions if you know some good places to visit just tell me, I am not scared to walk all-day to reach my destination.

Tot straks in De Hoge Rielen

Andrea

Belgium starts with B from Beer

I wanted to write on the blog but I did not know about what, that is why I will write about one of my favorite things in Belgium… yes, it is what all of you are thinking… BEER!!!

The history of the Belgium beer has its origins in the middle ages, before Belgium was even a country itself. The monasteries started to produce beer due to the low quality of the water and the difficulties of creating good wine, that is why monks started to produce beer, with the permission of the catholic church, and also as a way of financing the monasteries.

The brewer’s guild of Brugge was founded on 1308, in Liege in 1357 and in Brussels in 1365. The first trappist brewery (Westmalle) started working in 1836. From that moment on, the production of beer in Belgium has become an authentic art, even the UNESCO declared the belgium beer an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Beer is made traditionally with water, barley, hop and yeast. They can also add other types of cereals to stabilize the elaboration. Each brewery in Belgium has its own yeast that, with other different types of malts created a unique and exclusive beer.

There are like 4 types of fermentation: low, high, spontaneous and mixed. Low fermentation produces a soft beer like Pils or Lager. High fermentation is the result of a high temperature so they can produce beers like trappists, amber or white beers.

But, Belgium beers are usually mixed or spontaneous, they use wilder yeast to elaborate beer and the outcome is a beer with less gas.

Since I am here, I am trying to drink all kinds of beers and I can tell you that they are great!!! Between my favorite ones we can find: Westmalle tripel, Duvel, Orval, Chimay Blauw, Leffe blond, Gageller, Klokke Roland (a kind of beer that you can only try in Gent), La chouffe and more that I am unable to remember the name.

So, yep, one good reason to come to Belgium is definitely the beer. But there are too many! It is impossible to try them all in a single year, so I will have to come next year to keep trying the ones that I have not been able to taste!!!

And you, what are your favorite beers???

Groetjes!!!!

Toni

BIBLIOGRAFIA

https://www.lavanguardia.com/ocio/viajes/20170131/413839400977/ruta-cerveza-belgica.html

https://www.visitflanders.com/es/temas/desde-flandes-con-gastronomia/cervecerias-belgas-en-flandes/cervecerias-belgas-a-lo-largo-del-tiempo/

https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerveza_belga

Visiting Westmalle Trappist Brewery and Monastery

 

From Veronica’s writings…deel 5

It was winter when I started my volunteering project in Belgium and at that moment, I knew nothing about this land. So I immediately started to move around to get to know the surrounding area of the forest.
One of the first cities that I discovered was Turnhout, only ten km far from DHR, easy to reach by bike, train or bus, a big village with nice shops and cafés, a cultural center called De Warande, a vintage market on Sunday mornings and a Begijnhof.

I was walking in the city center when my attention was caught by an entrance door made by stone. I got closer and I was able to see two plaques, one saying ‘Begijnhof’ and another saying ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site’.
I was so curious, so I entered that ancient place dating back to the XIII century.

I walked along the cobbled street, I stared with wondered eyes at those detached houses and kept asking myself, what is a Begijnhof?

I googled it and found out some interesting things:
The term begijnhof comes from the French béguinage and it’s an architectural complex created to house beguines, religious woman who lived in community without taking vows.
These types of communities spread in the Low Countries, especially in the region of Flanders in the first decades of the XIII century. One characteristic is that they are all different but at the same time they have points in common that let recognize them: a large court consisted in several houses for beguines built around a central chapel and with also functional buildings included such as a brewery, a bakery, a hospital and farm buildings. It has been the answer to the woman’s social and economic needs, offering them a religious life coupled with personal independence, which was such a difficult thing for a woman.

In Flanders thirteen of them have been listed by Unesco as World Heritage Site.

After my first discovery in Turnhout I’ve started a real schattenjacht in search for all of them.
Every time that I visit a new one a get impressed by the architecture and the amazing distinctiveness of this type of site.
A must-seen spot for everyone who comes to Flandres and wants to understand the origins of this modest and beautiful region.

I still have to visit some of them, do you think I will be able to do it?

In a blink Summer ended

Autumn equinox (23 September) is near, the zomerbar ended and summer will end soon. Before coming in Belgium I never worked in a Bar/Café, but it was a new and interesting experience.
After I became used with the job probably I started to show off a bit 😅, going around with two trays full of glasses/bottles at a time, but it was funny to see the reactions and to hear the comments of the customers.

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Note: one day we found this crazy creation

Also without the café, September can be a busy month, a lot of schools of different grade are coming in De Hoge Rielen to follow workshop and to do group activities, there will be busy days. The restaurant is often full and so I could realize how many people are here now, I forget sometimes the reception capacity of DHR because the forest il almost always quiet.

I did a small  holiday in Italy (from the 6th to the 11th of september),  I met my family and some friend, everyone told me I lost too much weight (8 kg in 3 months), I feel good and I just changed my diet, but thanks to my mom I gained back 3 Kg in these days.

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They were 5 full days, in the end I was looking for coming back to DHR and relax a bit 🤣

It is time to go back to work

Tot stracks in De Hoge Rielen

Andrea

From Veronica’s writings…deel 4

I need no music, because this forest is music.

Finally, I found the reason why I almost never listen to music at DHR.

This morning I was awaken by the whisper of the wind and the sound produced by the leeves dancing just outside the window of my bedroom.
And how many times I woke up with the songs of the birds that were saying “hoi Veronica, vandaag is het zonnig”.
And what about the lullaby of the rain in the evening. Why counting the sheeps to get asleep when you can count the drops falling from the Belgian sky.

Then, when I hear someone opening the door of the onthaal, I know that the day starts.

It’s time to go outside, listen to the children playing and running and having fun around the domein, or sometimes be scared on klimbos.
It’s time to go to the end of the big zipline above the lake and listen to the concert made by the frogs.
It’s time to make the fire for the Survival workshop, and the crackle and spark are just amazing.
It’s time to go to study Nederlands at the café bib at the library and listening to people who babbelen.
It’s time to ride my bike that lets me discover castles, villages, canals but that at every ride makes a strange noise that keeps me smiling and guessing if I will be able to come back home.
It’s time to open the ears, because here people speak a different language of mine and every word, every sentence can remain a mystery or have a meaning.
It’s time to kill the mosquitos, that in summer invade our gebouw so…sbaam sbaam sbaam…in the house echoes the sound of the fight against them.
It’s time to have a walk or going running and be surprised of every noise coming from under the trees and be happy to see een konijn of een ree of duizend duiven or from above the trees een specht of een eekhoorn.

But from these special trees comes the most beautiful sound of the world (voor mij).
It was winter, almost spring when I discovered it.
I was spending most of the days climbing and hugging trees from the platforms of the parcours of klimbos during the rescue training. Everything was still and due to my privileged position, I could hear something that I had never heard before.
The pine cones were opening. More than a sound, a poem.

And have you ever thought of which is your favorite sound? Let youself be amazed by the beautiful sounds of the world.