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Category: Bruges

“Il Silenzio” – Nini Rosso‏

the Yser Memorial - Nieuwpoort, Holland

the Yser Memorial

Nieuwpoort, Holland

___________

the year before last when my mom and I
were in Belgium, we stayed at a wonderful
bed and breakfast, Ter Brugge, in a place
called Jabbeke, a village near Bruges, our
intended sightseeing destination, cause
I’d read in the prospectus that they served
fresh eggs from their very own chickens in
the morning, and where there turned out to
be fresh fruit also from their very own
orchards

not to mention the hearty, convivial
welcome in the manner of the countryside –
the restaurant across the street, five stars
nevertheless, however improbable in so
nestled and remote an area, even let us
bring back cash instead of the unaccepted
credit card we were proffering, and wouldn’t
accept a compensatory tip when the next
day I returned to oblige

try that in your own urban back yard

more companionable still were our hosts,
Staf and Annemie, who’d faultlessly drive
us several kilometres away to the bus stop
every morning to the city, and pick us up
across the street there every night, so
we could spend, without impracticality,
each day in Bruges

and every morning we’d meet up with a
couple from England as we waited, who
were staying in a trailer park nearby,
and who’d trek to Ypres by bus to honour
their countrymen who’d died there

somehow we never thought, my mom
and I, of going to either Ypres or
Passchendaele, despite our, especially
her, particular interest

we learned from them that every day,
every day, however improbably, since
the end of the First World War, there is
a commemoration to honour the fallen
soldiers

today I learned that in a cemetery near
Maastricht in Holland, every single fallen
soldier there has been adopted by a family
who’ve been minding their graves ever
since

makes one wonder about our own
beloved

on Liberation Day each year, May 5th,
throughout Holland, there is a formal
commemoration at the end of which,
since 1965 when it was commissioned,
someone plays Il Silenzio

listen

Richard

 

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my Amsterdam, December 29, 2013‏

Amsterdam 071

The Amsterdam Canal Apartments

___________________

our trip from Bruges to Amsterdam was
circuitous, instead of a direct, unimpeded
journey, something that, incredibly I
thought, wasn’t even up for sale between
these two significant cities, we were made
to change trains in both Antwerp and
Rotterdam, with too long a wait at one,
and too short at the other, too brief to
tote comfortably our luggage there
such an inconvenient distance

I perspired, Mom worried about my heart,
not to mention my irascible impatience

Amsterdam Centraal was a replay of the
fall of Saigon, but with just a little bit more
order, a cab driver took our bags and crept
along the overflowing Friday night streets
and their contiguous, oddly moderating
canals, placid, constant, immutable, to
our, as they say in Europe, pied-à-terre

only a walk away from the train station,
I gathered, not carrying our luggage of
course, about the spot where the driver
dropped us off, the rest of the pertinent
city must be consequently nearby, I
supposed, as indeed it was

the driver put our bags on the
cobblestones, he’d driven up one
side of the canal, crossed a bridge
and returned along the one way
other, and stopped before our
own gingerbread house
, scrunched
up between several others, our host,
the owner’s representative, who’d
been waiting on the stoop later than
our proposed arrival hour was gentle,
gracious, efficient and helpful, but
spoke essentially maybe seven words
of English, just Spanish, being from
Venezuela, and Dutch

could we blame him

would we expect our host to speak
Dutch in Canada if we couldn’t speak
its English, I asked Mom, who’d, out
of surely the day’s distress, I decried,
was resorting to peevish indignation

I enunciated all of my concerns
throughout to our ever attentive squire,
repeated my words carefully, spoke
them ever louder, one by ardent one,
pointed, spread out my arms, became
a back-up act performing grandly my
own instructions

all, I commend, were met eventually
unimpeachably

let me help change the beds, I offered,
he’d had to set up for a mother and son
rather than the more connubial pair he’d
expected, no, he replied, or something
similar that I could comprehend, and
wouldn’t hear of it in any language

he gave us the keys, after which we
could rest, and did, until two days later,
not including nearby dinners, of course,
out

the place was what you would expect
of a gingerbread house, beams, uneven
corners, but spotless and ready to take
on our colours, long instead of wide, a
Dutch particularity, with all the up to the
minute conveniences

there was however no bath, but a
generous shower stall I could easily live
with, and gloriously did for that month

outside a few cars were parked by the
barges, homes some of them, along the
canal, another canal ran perpendicular
to it away from us between two rows of
houses lined each with their tree, also,
incidentally, their garbage, but that’s
another story

it was night already, everywhere street
lights twinkled, as did their glistening
reflections on the onyx water

on the quarter hour church bells rang

dreams, they tolled, and told over and
over again, were possible

Richard

my Bruges, December 24, 2013‏ (the Groeningemuseum)

Pieter Pourbus - Portrait of Jan Lopez Gallo and His Three Sons (1568)

“Portrait of Jan Lopez Gallo and His Three Sons” (1568)

Pieter Pourbus

________

if Proust had his little patch of yellow wall
from Vermeer’s “View of Delft” to enchant
him, I’ve succumbed rather to blues that
I’ve found now in three paintings, van Eyck’s
Madonna and Child with Canon Joris van
der Paele
“, both of them, years ago at
London’s National Gallery the ultramarine
of the extraordinary Wilton Diptych, just
click, then again just click for a wonderful
presentation of it
, then the steel blue of the
one above, the “Portrait of Jan Lopez Gallo
and His Three Sons
” by Pieter Pourbus,
also like the van Eyck at the
Groeningemuseum in Bruges, a bargain
there therefore in unforgettable blues

the Groeningemuseum is Bruges’ most
impressive museum, despite both the
Picasso and the Dali nearby, though
nothing is very far in Bruges, except,
of course, the outskirts

we had wandered across the wrong
bridge our final day, confusing our
canals, and diligently marched forward
along a street perpendicular to our
purpose, heading out into what appeared
to be only countryside, though not
especially unduly cause we’d been
looking for Bruges’ famous windmills

but there were no windmills at all in
the distance, only open fields, and the
unending length of the wrong canal, it
transpired, had it been ever so
nevertheless idyllic

about a mile out a young man on a bike
passed us by with his dog and replied
when we asked that the windmills had
been all the time behind us, directly
to the left of our original bridge,
right there behind a tree which had
obstructed our view of the first of
them

that’s what you get maybe, I guessed,
for chasing, even famous, windmills

meanwhile back at the
Groeningemuseum, set along a path
along other medieval buildings, stone
instead of brick as later, then over a
bridge and beyond a small garden,
the door opens to especially early
Flemish art of very transcendental
qualifications, see again, for instance,
above, more profound than either the
brash Picasso, his fine though not
essential museum there, and the
flamboyant Dali, great fun however
ubiquitous ever, his museums seem
to pop up in countless cities

later, up the street, we ate at the
Maria van Bourgondië again, cause
nowhere could we find for Mom some
pasta, and where I could still savour
their Stroganoff sauce from the
previous night, and where, last but
not least, we could rest after a long
day our tired, tried indeed, feet

the Stroganoff was again sublime

so was their fireplace

Richard

my C***mas card‏

          Madonna and Child with Canon Joris van der Paele - Jan van Eyck

           Madonna and Child with Canon Joris van der Paele” 

                                                (1436)

                                          Jan van Eyck

                                                           _______

 
though I’ve long professed to not being
a Christian, having opted for the more
colourful pageant of Ancient Greece’s
Olympian divinities, and its attendant
metaphysical perspective, wherein
nature is honoured for its bounty
rather than saddled with the guilt of
Original – I ask you – Sin, I nevertheless
revere the spirit that spurred great
painters to such spectacular, even
exalted, heights  
 
in Bruges we saw van Eyck‘s Madonna
the blue of the prelate’s cape on the left
still reverberates in my subconscious
 
as though I’d discovered a new colour
 
 
the blue on the right on St George, the
patron saint of van der Paele, who
commissioned the painting, rendered
appropriately humble, even kneeling, 
in white, is only slightly less impressive
for being not less pungent but more pale,
noble yet understated, gold armour doing
the definitive rest
 
the ecclesiastic is St Donatian, patron
saint of Bruges, who knew how to
dress, apparently, for so vaunted an 
occasion  
 
 
merry C***mas
 
may your capes ever be as eloquent 
 
may your blues be ever as sublime   
 
 
Richard
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

my Bruges, December 1, 2013‏

though we were some distance away
from Bruges the journey back and forth
proved to be no inconvenience given
both that Staf and Annemie, our hosts,
were so accommodating, ensuring that
those treks would be seamless, and that
our stay with them would be warm
 
in fact, every one of our wishes became
their inviolable command, and that at no
less than our indiscriminate pleasure
  
 
at the door of their glorious country 
home at first, behind the wrought
iron gate, there were only the chickens
to greet us, pecking away at the front
yard – whose fresh eggs we had for
breakfast every morning, along with
fresh orange and apple juices from
the nearby orchards, bottomless pots
of hot coffee, tea, ham, cheese and
warm bread – but soon around the
corner from the back Annemie showed
up having returned from harvesting
apples, welcoming us like old friends,
then Staf, doing his avuncular same  
 
the rooms, named after Flemish
artists, were unique, spotless,
and heartfelt 
 
we stayed a week, and it remains
equal to very Bruges, a Gothic
wonderland, in our estimation 
 
5 unequivocal st * rs
 
 
Richard  
 
psst: there’s even a five-star restaurant
        across the street, inexplicably, which
        doesn’t however, be warned, take
        credit cards, as do neither Staf and
        Annemie, who, none of them, ever
        questioned our honour in that
        improbable, we thought, 
        circumstance, an Old World, we
        guessed, thing