In Flanders Fields hop bells sing and nature soothes…

Last weekend we found ourselves immersed in Flanders’ fields, in the green region that stretches out from the North Sea coast, over the Flemisch hills and all the way up to the French border. A region where the landscape is silent witness of its sad, loud and violent past, where poppies colour the fields and the wind gently rustles through the hop bells…welcome in the Westhoek!

We started off our two-day break at the newly opened Bar Bernard brewery St-Bernardus Watou offering a 360 degree view on the surrounding landscape and a range of heavenly bears of course.

Bar Bernard Watou Westhoek

As it was almost lunchtime, a little snack was allowed…

Bar Bernard Watou

Hop fields Watou brewery St-Bernardus

Next stop: Poperinge with at the time of our visit the culinary festival ‘Lekker Westhoeks’ to promote regional produce…hop all around of course!

City Hall Poperinge

Time to check out our place to stay for the night which we booked through Vlaanderen Vakantieland where to stay…Nicely tucked away in the fields of peaceful village Krombeke, part of Poperinge, lies ‘Ons Content’. A true gem: the room has everything to offer you could possibly need and more, the views are amazing, the hosts welcoming with a warm genuine smile and open heart, garden full of life and colours and the breakfast beats any breakfast I have ever had before! One of those places one would rather keep to themselves, so, shhh, not too much advertising 😉 Ons Content

We had a lovely dinner in local restaurant ‘t Hommelhof. Chef Stefaan Couttenye is one of Belgium’s pioniers when pairing beers to gastronomy and he proudly uses local produce whenever he can.‘tHommelhof

Farm raised chicken ‘vol-au-vent’ with sweetbread and Kapittel prior of the brewery we visited earlier

Time to lay feet up and head to rest,…

…You can’t stop birds from singing: I’m a morning person, even on weekend breaks…after a good night’s rest this early bird had a short morning walk, though long enough to watch sunrise and see some hares playfully chasing each other in the nearby fields.

sunrise

sunrise

Flanders fields Poperinge

Good thing I had that morning walk as, remember,  there was that 5-star breakfast waiting with a wide range of sweet and savoury goodies! Needless to say we took our time to enjoy to the fullest!

After our goodbyes, we’ll be backs (without a doubt) and some top tips from our hosts we set off to provincial park Palingbeek (near Ypres) and land-art installation ComingWorldRememberMe by Koen Vanmechelen. Tourism Ypres Palingbeek

During four years thousands of people spread over Flanders and the rest of the world joined forces and together made 600.000 sculptures out of clay. Each sculpture representing one of the 600.000 victims who lost their lives in Belgium due to WWI. There is a walkpath up to the Bluff and a viewpoint over No Man’s Land…you are standing on land representing some dark pages of history…This unique memorial installation can be visited until 11th of November. You can read more about the project and artist’s vision hereCMxRW

 

CMxRW Palingbeek Ypres

Palingweek Ypres

CWxRM Palingbeek Ypres

 

 

Almost noon and we decided to head to Ypres…our visit coincided with Flanders Fields Triathlon and  Car Free Sunday resulting in a very lively city. We went from cheering on the swimmers on the ramparts…TourismYpres

Ypres Triathlon ramparts

…to thumbs up for all those who biked their way to the top rewarding them with the best views on Ypres’ Lakenhalle and Market square.

car free Sunday Ypres

Ypres market square Flanders

Ypres Lakenhalle Flanders

No visit to Ypres without a walk on the ramparts and stop at the Menin gate…

Menin gate Ypres

Menin gate Ypres

Menin Gate Ypres

This memorial was placed here in 1927 and is inscribed with the names of over 54000 soldiers without a grave…they passed through this city entrance, where the gate now stands, never to return…makes one silent no? In remembrance of those men, the Last Post, by local buglers, sounds every evening at 20pm.

Making it time for our last stop on this weekend break and we are staying in the ‘quiet’ zone…Tyne Cot  which is the largest British war cemetary on mainland Europe with almost 12000 tombstones…

Tyne Cot Flanders Fields

Tyne Cot Cemetary Flanders Fields

 

The Westhoek left a great impression:  surrounding nature soothes what lies in its past, though never forgotten…

Flanders Fields: A place To Remember

 

Ingrid

xxx

Koch mal deutsch…#EnjoyGermanFood

Which foods and drinks come to your mind when you think of German food? Are Schnitzel, Wurst mit Sauerkraut, Glühwein and Schwarzwaldtorte on display before your eyes right now? Nothing wrong with that, however German cuisine is so much more than its clichés!

Yesterday I found myself among the lucky bloggers invited to taste our neighbouring country’s modern and versatile cuisine as Sound of C, Duitse Dienst voor Toerisme (Germany Travel) and Toeristische Dienst Nedersaksen (Niedersachsen-Tourism) joined forces to promote the culinary assets of Lower Saxony region.

Place of Venue: Antwerp’s de Serre

Mission: prepare a 5-course meal using the region’s and other German star produce

Partners in crime: guest chef Zora Koch Ma!, Saillart Catering and fellow bloggers and food lovers

 

 

After a warm welcome, short presentation of the region and touristic and culinary assets aprons were tied and knives sharpened…if we would like something to appear on those plates, we’d better get to work…last sip of wine, auf los geht’s los!

 

#EnjoyGermanFood

 

All cooks and wannabe’s 😉 were divided over kitchen isles to work in group on the different courses and this under the watchful and guiding eye of a head chef. I was at the first course isle, which was a butternut pumpkin-soup with surprising additions 😉 Saved me some arm fitness training there ’cause chopping pumpkin is serious business!

While bloggers mingled, dishes got their final touch by the chefs in charge before being presented in walking dinner formula, all occumpanied by a selection of excellent local wines of course.

 

 

 

 

#EnjoyGermanFood

 

 

If you want to see some more photos, make sure to check Sound of C fb page end of this week.

Got hungry for German cuisine and want to try yourself? Am allowed to throw a little giveaway, sorry, only for my Belgian followers here or on IG or FB, though no worries, Germany Tourism promotes through workshops in several countries so worthwile to check out the local office in your country 😉

Now, what’s to win?

  • a bottle Keth Spätburgunder, dry, 2016
  • a bottle opener (always handy, right)
  • two books: MERIAN live! Wine guide: Discover Germany’s Wine Region and KOCH!Duitse keuken anno nu

Took a little peek and the book has some wonderful recipes, like crunchy beer-battered salsify with a curry dip, duck breast with rhubarb, Schwarzwälder-kirsch muffins and the below pictured fried elderflower, yum!

 

Koch cook book Duitse keuken anno nu
One of the pages from the book…

How to win? In the village Burgdorf, close to Hannover, a 750 km (jawohl!) culinary trail starts…what delicacy am I talking about? It’s a well-known delicacy here in Belgium too, in doubt? You can find the answer here Vakantieland Nedersaksen

Tell me by 27th of Sept, follow me, that would be great of course 😉 and I’ll announce the winner on 28th.

Sad because you can’t join as non-Belgian? I noted down some great tips why Lower Saxony should be on your travel radar, so head over to Lower Saxony send me the answer and in return I’ll send over some top tourist tips, you may not get that bottle of wine but end up with some great ideas to plan a next trip, deal?

Bis nächstes Mal! (I’ll be back)

Ingrid

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#sharingiscaring #noodrem #1813 #ikleef

Today, September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day and maybe suicide is something you have never ever been confronted with, well, count your blessings then. However, the sad and realistic statistics show that we will all be confronted with it in one form or another…how do you recognise the signs? How do you respond when you see someone you care about or know struggle? What to say or do and what not to say?

On this special day, all over the world awareness is asked for prevention of suicide and mental health problems. Highly necessary, as is appears, only in Flanders Belgium, every day 3 persons decide to take their own lives (we have about 6,5mio inhabitants here). The number of attempts however is 10 times higher, meaning in Flanders each morning 30 persons will not make it till the next morning sunrise because they decide to end their life by suicide. These sad numbers place us very high on the European scoreboard and that is not something to be proud of. It also means at some point in time, in life, you yourself will be confronted with suicide in your direct environment. According to WHO every 40 seconds someone commits suicide…now doesn’t that deserve some of our attention and time?!

Last week, by chance, I got the opportunity to do my bit to put suicide prevention in the spotlight as Flemish comedian and singer Els de Schepper was recording a single and clip here in my hometown Aartselaar and they needed some extra people to fill up the background (little did we know at the time we actually had to sing along the chorus!!!)

noodrem 1813 ik leef zelfmoordlijn
Els de Schepper welcoming us and giving background info on the initiative

The song is called noodrem’, that’s Flemish/Dutch for ‘communication cord’, like in pulling the communication cord or emergency brake, and with it Els de Schepper and Centrum ter Preventie van Zelfdoding which is the organisation behind the call line Zelfmoordlijn wants to make this topic less heavy to talk about as it is still something that hides in the shadows, major taboo label on it. Over 30 Flemish celebrities joined forces with initiator Els and willingly participated. Kirsten Pauwels is the director of the Flemish Prevention Centre Centrum ter Preventie van Zelfdoding and she said (freely translated)”Through this song we can support people having suicidal thoughts and also their close environment; we let them know we care, giving them a message of hope and throwing them a lifeline, we won’t drop them.”

Els de Schepper herself lost two persons she cared very deeply about to suicide and strongly felt the need she had to do something, say something, step up…being a performer gives her the opportunity to raise awareness of this matter so close to her heart.

Why was my attention drawn? What’s my personal link to suicide prevention? Well, those of you who have been following this blog for a while know through some of my previous posts that I am a chronic back pain patient and this for over 35 years due to severe scoliosis. I have pain on three different levels with the acute pain attacks hitting randomly being the worst of the three. They vary from some hours to three days and needless to say I do not see the world as all wonderful and happy when undergoing a full attack. In fact I had an attack the evening after the recording ánd the day after. Luckily these heavier attacks disappear, to come back again, but at least it gives me some pause to recharge though it is often a very short break… I would be lying if I said that during such an attack I never thought: “Wouldn’t things be better if it all just ended?”, but I have never acted upon, in fact, those were millisecond thoughts, but still, they were there…it’s the pain you desperately want to end though, not your life, there is a, to me, very significant difference…I have a strong and loving  husband and son, a cat giving little licks as if he feels when I need to be cheered up, caring family and friends, I try to focus on the things that bring me joy and positivity and that keep my mind distracted. However, through what I experience myself on a daily basis I think I can somehow relate how someone who is in constant pain, physically and/or emotionally, every minute of the day and who does not have someone or something to fall back on decides that enough is enough…The lyrics of #noodrem are very powerful, taken from real life and they might help you understand what someone having suicidal or mental health issues is going through.

Tough subject, right?!, Yes, well…it is after all Monday today 😉

Let’s throw in some light: pull the communication cord and pause, that is after all the message in #noodrem…

For my English-speaking followers who kept reading till this far, on a post about a Flemish song, big thank you…will try to give you an idea of what the song is about, so you get a general feeling of what they sing about when you click on the link below.

Where the verses try to captivate the struggle, sadness, desperation, the pain, that feeling of losing control, feeling of isolation, not being understood:

living every single day with this intense pain…

sorry for me pulling the communication cord…

 

The bridge and chorus on the other hand emphasise the hope, the lifeline, that ray of light how small it may be and, most important, knowing that asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of:

I’m alive…

there’s someone who cares…

 

(Parts freely translated from #noodrem,  original Flemish lyrics ©Els de Schepper and Stefaan Fernande)

 

 

Above are some behind the scenes shots from last week’s recording day. We were welcomed and registered in by lovely Anneke, Els thanked us for our willingful participation and filled us in on the project, we got a glimpse of singer Barbara Dex and producer/director Dirk told us when it was a wrap 😉

Could not take pics inside the recording studio for obvious reasons, but studio and organisation kindly sent us all this group shot…for the curious ones, I am very hidden, on the second row, last one on the right side.

#noodrem #1813 #ikleef #zelfmoordlijn
Group shot, a big heart for those who need it

Now what you’ve all been waiting for, below is the song and clip. Feel free to share and if you’re thinking: “I don’t speak or understand Flemish, what’s the use?” Just remember: music is universal, caring about each other is universal, lending an ear, a hand, opening up your heart and giving a hug or some minutes of your time just might save someone’s life!

When sharing, and please do, please use #noodrem #ikleef (that means I’m alive) #1813 #zelfmoordlijn1813

When living in Flanders Belgium, thinking of suicide and in need of someone to talk to, you can find help with Zelfmoordlijn to be reached calling 1813 or through www.zelfmoord1813.be

 

(in Dutch that is)  Denk je aan zelfmoord en heb je nood aan een gesprek, dan kan je terecht bij de Zelfmoordlijn op het nummer 1813 of via www.zelfmoord1813.be

 

When living outside Belgium, please check out local initiatives as actions are held worldwide today and give them your support or check how you can lend a hand and you are of course very welcome to share this post!

Watch here:

 

 

#noodrem #ikleef #1813

Very warm hug and heart to all of you

Ingrid

Xxx

 

Zelfmoordlijn

Centrum ter Preventie van Zelfdoding

Els de Schepper

World Suicide Prevention Day

Werelddag Suïcidepreventie