Kristiaan is a special person in my life as his name inspired my Mother to spell my name as she did – Kristopher. My mother met Kristiaan as he was one of the 17 children in the host family that took her in as she did a semester abroad in Antwerp, Belgium while at SUNY Fredonia in the 1960s. Fredonia happens to be my alma mater as well J.
What have we learned in one day here? On the way from the airport in Brussels to Wakkerzeel (the village of his lovely home) he explained how the roads were commissioned in 1750 by the Empress of Belgium, Maria Terezia to be very straight and aligned from church steeple to church steeple. This was also the year that the first map of Belgium was completed – was a state secret as any army that obtained a copy could use it to invade – yet somehow Kristiaan has managed to obtain a copy of this map J Along the route home we stopped at “Bols” a wholesaler of mussels to buy 6 kilos of the delectibe shelfish . The young man scooping the mussels was quick to point out that the mussels we were about to enjoy originated in Holland. When he announced this Kristiaan seemed surprised yet we enjoyed the mussels in all their flavorful glory nonetheless.. We also crossed a canal which Kristian said was also commissioned in 1750 we followed the road along the canal to Wakkerzeel through Haacht and a town named Wespellar - “where the wasps go.” Here there is a huge walled grounds with a large arboretum that is opened once a year. This land is owned and operated by the family that originally owned Stella Artois. Kristiaan seemed to think the family was not involved with the brewing any longer. Speaking of brewing, while we passed through the town of Haacht we also observed a large and intricate set of new brick buildings – the Haacht Brewery.
When we arrived at the stand-alone row house of Kristiaan and Mieke we were greeted by Mieke who was busy with her daughter Saskia making preparations for the wedding of Kristiaan and Mieke on August 20th. Keep in mind that Kristiaan and Mieke are in their 60s and are getting married after 7 years living together as it will make things easier if anything were to happen to either one of them. A wedding is a wonderful excuse to send out a quorum call to a family of 17 siblings anyhow. I am surely getting excited to experience this wedding as it will be an all day event at the local “feast hall” here in Wakkerzeel.
Stay tuned for more stories from Flanders as they happen :) If you have any questions for this traveling disscussion please comment and I will query the Flemish perspectives.