The plane from Toronto landed at Brussels airport - it felt like sliding into home plate.
We had sprinted around the world these last few weeks, the dates and schedules that we had to touch like the bases on a baseball diamond. And all of it had to fit inside this fleeting European summer. So now we're back on our own timetable but we're still exhausted. Our time spent in Toronto was too brief and hectic and now there are all these places we want to see that will be covered in snow in a few short months. And we're spent already...
After a brief train and bus ride back to Leuven, we let ourselves into Thomas and Eva's apartment while they were still at work (we didn't break in, they gave us a key!) and I slept the whole day, trying to burn off the jetlag but still woke up like a zombie when our friends arrived from work that evening. So much harder flying east than going west! At least with a motorcycle, the time zone shifts are gradual...
We brought back some Canadian maple syrup so Thomas made us all some pancakes!
In Leuven, every Friday in July is Beleuvenissen!
Beleuvenissen is a musical and cultural festival in the streets of Leuven. I hadn't taken any pictures of any indigenous Belgian people, so Eva and Thomas thought this might be a best opportunity to find a few. We wandered through the crowded city streets listening to live music on several stages, stopping for ice cream and then found this mobile bandstand.
Yes! Blue collar workers.
On the weekend, we stopped by Thomas' sister's house to see if our bikes still ran. Unlike every other time we go visit Toronto, we were smart enough to disconnect the batteries this time before we left, which Thomas had diligently kept topped up in our absence. Hopefully, now we wouldn't have to rush around trying to find new batteries for our motorcycles...
Neda reinstalls her battery. A nervous push of the starter button and *VROOOM* IT'S ALIVE!!!! :)
We celebrated with a nice farewell dinner that Karolien and her husband Kristof cooked for us. They were so generous and friendly, we even got to meet Thomas and Karolien's mom, and we can see where they got it from!
Thank you Karolien and Kristof for letting our bikes sleep at your place!
We weren't really dressed for the cool Belgian evening and we were shivering on the ride back to Eva and Thomas' place, but inside we were feeling very warm and fuzzy from the all the helpfulness and hospitality we've received.
I had one goal to accomplish while we were in Belgium getting ready for the next leg of our trip: Overcome my jetlag. This I failed at spectacularly, regularly climbing into bed around the same time as when Eva and Thomas were waking up to go to work.
On the day that we were supposed to leave, I think I only got an hour or two of sleep. Our departure time slipped later and later. Thankfully the days are long and the sun sets fairly late...
It was a bit of a sad goodbye for us, riding away from our temporary home in Belgium, because we're not sure when we'll see our very good friends again. I hope sooner than later.
So a funny thing happened on the way to Germany...
We took the highway from Leuven to Northern Germany. Not very exciting, so no pictures. But my odometer did tick over 200,000 kms along the way! We've been through a lot together, this old girl and I. And also my motorcycle as well... :D
[Hides from Neda]
Bernd and Katharina invited us to stay with them in Germany
We're just hopping from host to host all over Europe! I'm getting more used to accepting the kindness of strangers. I was brought up to be very self-sufficient and not to rely too much on other people, but this trip has taught me that there is a benefit to staying in other people's houses for free and eating all of their food... :)
But honestly, we gain so much when spending time with the locals, not just having a tour guide but also getting an understanding of the national and regional differences in attitudes, customs and their unique perspectives ie. trash-talking all those Big City Know-It-All Bavarians in the south! :)
Bernd and Katharina live just outside of Bremen, so they drove us in one day for a tour
Walking around the historic centre of Bremen
This is Bremen's claim to fame, you can see the spots
where millions of tourists have rubbed the statue (ew)
Funny what a town can become well known for. The Town Musicians of Bremen are a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about four animals who outlive their usefulness and are cast out out of their home. They journey together to Bremen with the idea of becoming musicians. Along the way find a cottage being robbed by thieves. They surprise the robbers with a loud noise which makes them flee the cottage, but the next day, the thieves send one of them in to investigate. After being attacked by the animals, he later runs out of the cottage exclaiming:
"Ah, there is a horrible witch sitting in the house, who spat on me and scratched my face with her long claws (the cat). And by the door stands a man with a knife, who stabbed me in the leg (the dog). And in the yard there lies a black monster, who beat me with a wooden club (the donkey). And above, upon the roof, sits the judge, who called out (the rooster), bring the rogue here to me. So I got away as well as I could."
The robbers never return and the animals live happily ever after in the cottage.
What I find funny about the Town Musicians of Bremen is that in the story, they never actually become musicians. And also they never do make it to Bremen.
But there are statues everywhere in town dedicated to them...
The golden plaqued entrance to Böttcherstraße
Böttcherstraße is a narrow street in a part of the historic centre of Bremen
that is well known for its brick architecture
More narrow streets in Bremen in the Schnoor Quarter
The Schnoor Quarter is Bremen's oldest district, dating back to the 15th century
Lots of quaint stores and cafes in the cobblestoned alleyways of the Schnoor Quarter
Back at home, Bernd's friend Klaus and his partner Ela pay us a visit on their cool bikes
Bernd has a special fondness for Triumph motorcycles. In addition to Klaus and Ela's vintage-style Trumpets parked out front, our GSes shared garage space with Bernd's Tiger and Speed Triple.
We visit Klaus at his shop
Klaus and Bernd are planning an off-road motorcycle trip in Romania at the end of the summer. Klaus is preparing a Triumph Thruxton especially for this trip.
Bernd and Klaus go over the Thruxton build
Over dinner Bernd introduces us to his favorite German brew and that's when the deep conversations started!
At least they seemed pretty deep at the time... :)
Bernd is always quick with a smile and a joke! He really made us feel at home in his place and it was nice getting to know him and Katharina over the last few days.
Our hosts keep chickens in their yard, and Neda had fun feeding them! Or maybe she was in pain, can't really tell...
Thanks Bernd and Katharina for all the wonderful hospitality!
The open road is calling out to us! Time to ride!