Monday, May 20, 2013

Weird Times in Dinant Belgium

I was entirely prepared to enjoy Dinant.  It seemed to have all the ingredients for an interesting place.  History, things to see, seldom visited by Americans.  Great beer.

But our visit was a disappointment.  Some things you just can't factor in when planning a trip.  The weather was not good, intermittent squalls of cold rain.  There was a lot of road work.  And while there were no other Americans around....

We first went to a water garden north of town that was pretty interesting.  Rain does not bother you so much when looking at fountains and water falls.

In Dinant we had planned on taking a quick boat tour on the Meuse, but of course it had just departed.

So we ducked out of the latest drenching shower into a cute little bakery that made some sort of gingerbread unique to the city.  And the place was packed with Japanese tourists.  There were no locals, just us and about 20 chattering folks from the Far East.

We had a little time to kill before the next boat tour, an venture we were starting to question anyway.  We stepped into the cathedral.  The Japanese were there too.  I have to say, if I ever visit a Shinto shrine someplace I am going to be a bit more reverential just in case.

To escape this persistent pack we decided to take the cable car up to the Citadel which sits high above the city.  I mean, really high above.

Oh, and for some reason there was an anti-aircraft gun guarding a playground.

The Citadel actually was fairly interesting but I have to admit to being a little more into powder magazines and tunnels than most normal folks.  There was one very strange, slightly disturbing section that recreated a World War One trench and bunker system.  When you took steps down to the lower levels of it you lost all sense of horizon and found yourself leaning dangerously to one side in the dark, spooky passageways.  The sounds and even the vibrations of heavy artillery shells were being played and made the experience even creepier.  Then you turn a corner and see this.

What the hell?

It seems that there was an exhibition on in a section of the fortress.  Disney characters and scenes done in sand art.  See the Wall-E, the Woody and the Buzz Lightyear?  The exit to this exhibit joined up with the lower levels of the trench and bunker recreation!  Cheery calliope music clashed with the Great War sound effects.

Having by this point given up on the boat tour (the ticket guy cancelled one hourly run because we were the only interested parties.....he mentioned a group coming later and we feared it was our friends the Japanese!), we went into a grocery store for a few essentials.

Overseas grocery stores are always interesting.  Cheap, probably government subsidized wine always tempts.  Spouse had something catch her eye....a series of children's books.
These kids went through a lot.  Can you decipher the titles?

On the back was what seems to be the mantra of these tough as nails little Belgic tykes....

Near as I can tell they have an uncle in prison, a relative of some sort who uses drugs, and Zoe has divorcing parents.  And Lili is seeing the psychologist!
C'est la vie!
The complete trials and tribulations of Max and Lili, which run to 102 little volumes (!) are Here!


T.K. Tortch said...

I never once visited or transited Belgium when there weren't intermittent squalls of cold rain. Fortunately I had been living in Scotland for a while so I was used to doing things in downpours.

Sounds like you also got caught in one of those intermittent tourist twilight zones where nothing is timely, available, explicable, or comforting.

Maybe those books were a little tongue-in-cheek? Hopefully? They seem incongruously cheery and optimistic, sort of, even for a kid's book. Though I'm sure in the U.S. you can find something similar along the lines of the divorce edition.

Tacitus2 said...

You sound like a seasoned traveler...

I do not want to trash talk the Japanese tourists, but they sort of influence the ambience. Not at places you expect them...cough...Disneyland...but when you find them in very odd and out of the way places you get the sense that the "real" Europe is still farther into the back country.

I think those books were played straight.

Various other better and or more poignant ventures followed...