Brussels

The good

Bruxelles for the French, Brussels for the English, this city is characterized by its ‘Burgundian’ people. Translating to something like ‘flamboyant’, it basically means that the Bruxellois eat, drink and party more than their neighbors in the Netherlands or France.

And it suits me fine. Not only could you literally go out for a year, each weekend, without going to the same place twice, but also are there so many different style restaurants, its too easy to get fat during your stay in Brussels. In fact, a year after I came to Brussels, I had gained 6 kg.

But its true. the number of restaurants, bars, cafes, pubs, clubs and discos in the center of town seems to be larger than the number of people living in that same area. Then again, the area needs to cater for an absurd amount of foreigners with shitloads of money. People working for the EU, NATO or one of the many international organizations having its HQ somewhere close to Brussels.

It is a fact that there are more foreigners living in the Brussels area than there are Belgians. Of course, with the large population of Moroccans living in a couple of the suburbs, its not only due to Eurocrats in town.

However, this is less a bad thing as it may seem. Loads of inexpensive – but good – inexpensive eateries exist because of this, making it possible for you not having to blow all your cash on nothing but a meal .

The veggie scene is a whole different ball game however. The number of restaurants that cater for the green-spirited can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Still, even they serve a good grub.

The bad

In a country where a convicted child rapist and killer can walk, unescorted, out of the palace of justice and be free, during the preparations of his trial. In a country where it takes a month for a major food contamination to be made public, after which almost every meat product is taken from the shelves. In a country that has three language regions and six governments. In such a country there must be something fundamentally wrong.

There is. It is something that is an integral part of every Belgian. Something not totally unlike schizophrenic behavior. Every Belgian is either Flemish (Dutch speaking) or Walloon (French speaking). And then, even some only speak German.

Brussels is the only officially bi-lingual part of Belgium. However, the language on the street is French. So it is very common for two Vlamingen to speak to each other in French, without even knowing the other to be Flemish (and Dutch speaking) as well. My landlord spoke French with one of his tenants for years, before finding out the tenant too, was Flemish.

Then there is bureaucracy. Pure madness. Although Belgium is squeezed in between France, the Netherlands and Germany, some consider Belgium to be the most northern Southern European or most western Eastern European country. The former state owned bank ASLK/CGER (everything here has two acronyms, a Dutch one and a French one) up to one year ago had one computer per subsidiary for internal, electronic, communication. I don’t even want to start on the process you have to go through when trying to register as a resident. I mean, the police where able to lose my application forms. Twice.

And the ugly

This heading had to follow, of course. But this one too, is applicable to Belgium.

Particularly the south-eastern part of Belgium, the Ardennes, is riddled with hills or (very) small mountains, resulting in, historically, people sticking to their own valley for the bigger part of their lives. Without reason, the best circumstances for in breeding. And yes, the result is some VERY ugly mother fuckers. But, as it can go as well with in breeding, some VERY beautiful specimens. Big eyed, friendly faced, slender beauties are generally the rule in stead of the exception. At least, in Brussels. Beware, when venturing into the hills.

Delft

Some 400 years ago, William of Orange, he who defied the Spanish and around whom the Dutch national anthem is centered, was shot in what is called the ‘Prinsenhof’ (the prince’s residence) in Delft. Two bullet holes in one of the walls still being a silent witness to what happened that long time ago. Since long a time a museum, the place has an exhibition on the former prince. For years, a cartoonist style representation of the shooting reconstructed the course of action on that black day in Dutch history. If you followed the pictures and reviewed the setting, the bullet holes should have been in the wall opposite to where they actually where. It took 12 years for the cartoon to be replaced.

A funny, but true, story for a town that is characterized by its relative large population of technical students. Of its 92.000 inhabitants, 12.000 study at the Technical University of Delft.

Student life is centered around the student organizations. You have to be a member to get in or join in their activities, resulting in some 45% of all students being a member of one of the societies. However, due to more pressure from the government (meaning less money for students), students have to study harder than before and the number of students being a member of one of the organizations is declining.

Forget having a good time in Delft for more than a couple of evenings, if you’re not a member of one of the organizations. Still, its a good thing that Rotterdam, Den Haag, Leiden and Amsterdam are all within short reach.

nice!

Nice Asian, nice
Pretty but stoned
One last picture, and time to return home
A city, only for people with a higher IQ
It makes you want to pee!
In Switzerland, the Geneva lake is a beauty
Joost tries to score. And fails.
Local beauty
A nice garden, close to the church where they keep the Turin shroud
Praying for Torino
Looking across Torino
In color
Breakdown
Would you like to pet my ferret?
Show offs!
Remember that commercial for the Pentium III?
Imagine bumping into this, late at night
To show off our cultural side, a museum
Joost for President!
Always something 2/2
More fountains…
A troop of Americans
In the old town
A city of fountains
Lunch at the seaside
Data enjoys the church
Church
Russian orthodox church
You'll laugh... you'll cry...
Joost cherishes the moment
Data is shocked
A lovely couple
The pose
Little fella. Or girl?
The locals make for an interesting spectacle
Hogo enjoys the sun
Up close and personal
Be cool
He eats
Me! Me! Me! Me!
Hogo tries to understand whether the floor is of good quality
Kiss and make up
Morning in Nice
Happy Data
Sent back
Julia
Snow in Brussels
Wet
Benno refuses to believe Joost failed. Again.
Some frolicky Dutch art
An emotional man
Sad Data

8 countries, 5 idiots, 4 days, 3 cities.

The beauty of Barca

Eating chips
Mob
Julia reading up
Some chick
Quak
Julia shooting me
Shit happens
For bulls
Somewhere in Barcelona
Somewhere in Barcelona
Swati
Jacob and Swati
Julia
Somewhere in Barcelona
The Sagrada Familia
Park Guel
In Barcelona
In Barcelona
Barcelona at night
Jesus or ghost
Julia
The Sagrada Familia
The Sagrada Familia
The Sagrada Familia
Barcelona metro
In Barcelona
Getting married in Barcelona
Julia
Out of proportion
Jacob and Swati
Zwan
Jacob and Swati
Sitges beach
Colors in the sky
In Barcelona
Swati
In the Sagrada Familia
Barcelona at night
Somewhere in Barcelona
The sun is setting
Happily snapping
Goats
Old and new
Julia
Being fed
Performing
Sucking the nipple
Cutie and a man in hiding
Mammoth
Julia
In Sitges
In Barcelona
Park Guel
Sagrada Familia
Pretty colors
Somewhere in Barcelona
The Sagrada Familia
Lonely
Pets
Acting up

A two week trip to Barcelona and Sitges.

Midnight train to BXL

Bossman
That's breakfast for ya
Colleague
Almost there
Naptime
Switching trains
Outside the looking glass
Train station
Caught
Two
Waiting in Cologne
In Duesseldorf
Run!
Babak, just woken up
Getting a drink
Babak, sleepy?
In darkness
From below
SMS
Almost there
One quick call
Border or ticket control
Before the night
Out of the window
Three, with beer
Border control
Outside
Warsaw to Cologne
Back
Just waiting
Babak and a small beer
Still working
Chill
Open spaces
Chat
Double work
Getting ready
Smile
Work
From a distance
From above
Jockey
All together now
Close
Movement
That's everyone right there
Piercing
Intrigued
Face
Talk
In the doorway
From below
Relaxed
Taking up space
In the hallway, waiting
Waiting and drinking
Purple does it
Eyes closed
Drinks and cigarettes
On the run
Confused
In control of the drinks
A smoke
A laugh
Performance
Young
Narrow
A tongue lashing
Zombie attack
Young laugh
Nice eyes, wet nose
Punk is not dead
A crowd
Officials
Older gentleman
On the road for what?
Coming through
Together
Punkie
Faces
Almost not
Long
Long and down
Caught
Who?
Officials
Officials
What state?
Skirt
Bored?
One seat
Big smile
Grabtime
Ready to check
Two in bed
Just reading
Smiling
Lunchtime
Just there
A jockey
Controll
Babak
A jockey's girlfriend
Official
From the corner of my eye
Speedwagon
Under construction
Boys
Pretty it ain't
Colleague
Morning
Almost naptime
Three's company
Smile
Just checking
Cute chick with her mouth open
Hiding
Suave
Strange
Room
Monologue
Taking up the hallway
Very cool
Movement in arms
Already tucked in
Just in time

On one of my business trips for Procter & Gamble, in January 1999, to Warsaw, Poland, getting back to Brussels, the place where I lived, was prohibited by very bad weather all over Europe.
No planes were flying anywhere. Together with a couple of colleagues, we took a train all the way back to Belgium. This is the phototour of that trip.

Note (January 2008): I moved the photos to Flickr and this page to inside my blog. It's interesting to see that, in fact, this 'project' was something of a precursor to a later project of mine, Portreat.
Also, the camera which I used was the digital camera of a colleague of mine (also on the train). It ate batteries like cats eat fish. In order to get as many photos on the camera as possible, I shot at the lowest resolution (VGA) and the highest compression. Hence the crappy quality.

What I saw in Warsaw

Warsaw stairs
Hotel stairs
Warsaw skyline
Paintings
Palace of Science and Culture
Palace of Science and Culture
Palace of Science and Culture
Palace of Science and Culture
Palace of Science and Culture
Warsaw's old town
Somewhere in Warsaw
Somewhere in Warsaw
Warsaw opera
Warsaw
Warsaw at night
Warsaw at night
Warsaw at night
Warsaw at night
Somewhere in Warsaw
Icy
Palace
Ducks
A statue
On foot
Warsaw park
Palace of Science and Culture
Changing of the guard
Changing of the guard
Changing of the guard
Street in Warsaw
Somewhere in Warsaw
Somewhere in Warsaw
Play me a tune
Smoke
Hotel staircase
Somewhere in Warsaw
Palace of Science and Culture
Somewhere in Warsaw
A palace
King Lear

It was January 1999 and I had to spend a week of 'fun' in Warsaw, work related. I had gone there on a number of occasions, but this was the first time I was going to stay there longer than two nights. Not that it bothered me, not at all. I, generally, like business trips and this was no exception. It gave me a bit of time to relax, on the company's expense account. What more would you want?

It was a very cold January and I was glad I had brought mittens and a cap to keep me a little bit warmer, during the time I could walkabout the city streets. One of the things I encountered was a changing of the guards at the war memorial in the center of Warsaw.

Besides the quite impressive 'Palace of Science and Culture', Warsaw is also well known for its parks. The city has two very large and impressive parks. Unfortunately, in winter, they're rather 'cold', but still very nice for the palaces that can be found in them.

As in many Eastern European cities, when rightly lit, the already impressive buildings that are littered around the city, become even more impressive at night. And specially the old town of Warsaw, which was totally bombed during world war 2, but also completely rebuilt afterwards is very nice to walk through, either during the day or during the night.

Some of the pictures are of the Palace of Science and Culture at night. Being the tallest building in Warsaw and, formerly, used by state bodies, it was famous for its suicides. During the day, in the building, employees would start drinking (vodka of course) and would, when disillusioned just a little bit more than regular, throw themselves of the top of the building at the end of the day.

The building, a gift from Stalin, in recognition of the hardships the Poles had to endure during the 'Great Patriotic War', is a 'relative' of the seven sisters in Moscow.

For some strange reason, one of the things that's easily begotten in Warsaw's old town is art. Yes art. Scattered all over the place are artists, or self proclaimed artists, selling everything from paintings to sculptures to drawings to… I always wonder what they do with the stuff when it rains. They simply can not keep everything dry, can they.

Paris with Christmas

Julia, flying high
Doing a Marilyn
Going... up?
Christmas in Paris
Le Sacre Coeur
On the streets
Stop! Thief!
Style
Julia posing
Cemetery statue
Grave
Dead and gone
Deadly
At Jim Morrison's grave
Dead?
Grave

It's December 1998. I had started working for Procter & Gamble half a year earlier and also had moved from Rotterdam to Brussels. My then-girlfriend even moved in with me shortly after I had set up shop in the capital of Europe.

To my surprise, this capital was a very pleasent surprise. A friendly and diverse nightlife, internationally oriented and French quality restaurants at affordable prices.

However, our Christmas was going to be spent in Paris. With quite a bit of luck, we still found a nicely priced hostel with terrible breakfast but reasonable beds. And the weather was bad. really bad.

I guess we had hoped for snow, or at least a winter 'atmosphere'. But instead, it was autumn, through and through. Then again, I guess Paris with Christmas is still worthwile. Mainly because, I guess, its always worthwile.

We didn't do any of the standard tourist attractions, though. We just chilled mostly. Drank coffee in small cafes, enjoyed French and foreign food in tiny restaurants, laughed at the tourists (looking in mirrors) and visited Jim Morrisons grave, where it was forbidden to take pictures.

At Versailles, we only visited the gardens since the line of people waiting to get in the palace was just tooo long.

Holy mount

A boat
Julia in front of Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel
Julia and the Ka
Inside Mont Saint-Michel
Julia
From Mont Saint-Michel
From Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel
From Mont Saint-Michel
Inside Mont Saint-Michel
Babak
Babe
Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel at sunset
Mont Saint-Michel at sunset
Inside Mont Saint-Michel
Somewhere in France
Babak
Julia
Emptyness
Inside Mont Saint-Michel
Julia sticking her tongue out
Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel at sunset
Mont Saint-Michel at sunset
Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel

The village on the mount is Le Mont Saint Michel and quite a tourist hotspot but, it has to be said, very impressive.

We visited a couple towns in the vicinity of the holy mount.

Wonderful weather, great villages, a relaxed weekend.

pictures of Egypt

Pyramids of Gizeh
Funky
Stairway to hea... no wait
And that's just for washing your hands
Cairo skyline
Innocence lost
The last Iranian king's grave
Through the door
Speedfreak
Sunset over Gizeh
Riding camels in Gizeh
Playing
Boys
Downtown Alexandria
You know it's bad when they plant a mosque in your backyard
Who's in?
Doing an aeroplane
Cairo's history museum
Imposing
Living in style
Potraits
Sailing home
Always believe in your soul
The brothers
Cairo's history museum
Stairs
The square
Women in Koptic Cairo
Simon
Stepped
Two brothers
What a group
To be trusted
Up
Pyramid
Entrance
Naptime
Look at the size of that thing
Pyramid
Relative size
Ain't he cool
Sphinx
Joost
Abstract
Shoes
The boys
The streets of Iskandria
Preparing a kibda sandwich
Shopping on the Mediterranean
How's that for size?
Behind bars
Cairo skyline
I missed the bus
Tutankhamen's mask
Tutankhamen's chair
Bugger!
Group shot
Naptime
Showing off
Cairo skyline
Contrast
Mosque

Just before I started working for Procter & Gamble, I went to Egypt together with a good friend of mine. Not only did we get mightily sick from drinking too many fruit juices, it also was a lot of fun.

We visited both Cairo and Iskandria, that is, Alexandria.