We took a 10-mile bike tour through Rougge, Belgium. We learned that Belgium is a fairly new country — 19th century — and prior to this was owned and influenced by other countries who appreciated its ideal location as a port. In fact, according to our guide it was the busiest port in Europe for centuries. The country has three languages, including French, German and Dutch, and was also influenced by Vikings (who founded it as a port) and the Spaniards, who introduced Beglians to Chocolate. Sister K learned on her tour that a massive port was built in 1912 then destroyed 2 years later in WW1, then rebuilt in 1937 and destroyed again in World War 2. But now the port is the most important industry for the area…
We started out in the timeless, quaint city before riding along the canals, stopping at a windmill, then riding out into the farmlands. We rode over a stone bridge, then stopped in a pub, where we consumed a delicious ale and were told that beer was important for safety reasons because in years past the water was not safe to drink. Brougge is int he process of constructing an underground pipe that will delivery — wooo!! — fresh beer along a several kilometer line.
We could see the different types of architecture along the city, and could also see in the country how that part of the land had been reclaimed from the sea (what used to be the beach now lies several kilometers from the water through reclaimed land — a common theme in several of our stops, including The Netherlands.
On the way, our guide asked why I was taking so many photos — was I a journalist? No, I said, I loved Belgium so wanted to capture the moment. Why? He asked. Because it seems low stress, I said. But, like so many Europeans I talked to on this trip, he said quality of life today is not as great as it would seem, that his daughter commutes 1.5 hours to work each way, struggles to find time to spend time with her kids between work and business of life, and that the department he retired from now has 3 people doing the work that 5 once did. I am starting to think that demanding more with less and ofr less is a common theme not just in the US, but across the world, and that people as a whole are reaching a breaking point, what with all this inequality spread throughout the world (the top 1% having so much and the rest of the people having to work so hard over so little with very little security or time to enjoy life).
All that said, I loved Belgium. It was peaceful, charming and scenic.