We boarded a bus headed for the famous Geysir: from which all geysers worldwide get their name. It blew its top every eight minutes, as predicted. I could have watched it all day.
The prior night, we watched the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics and … wow! My favorite part is a tie between Mr. Bean playing Chariots of Fire and the Queen parachuting in with the new James Bond. In Reykjavik, we were glued to the screen. Every few minutes in the parade of nations a new group would cheer — that’s an Irish pub for you.
Eric and I cheered for every nation we’ve visited, of course, so people asked us first, “You’re Croatian?” Then, Ecuadorian? Then Fijian? I want every country we’ve visited to bring home the gold. Especially the places where we spent the most time, like Ecuador and India. Those are the favorites.
We spent a couple of days chasing down the Olympic torch in the south of England, barely missing it once in the port city of Weymouth and again in the itty-bitty hamlet of Puddletown. Our Spaceship finally caught up with the torch on Dorchester’s High Street, where we withstood the midsummer’s bitter rain alongside a hoard of jolly Brits who were only too glad to get we if it meant catching a glimpse of Olympic glory. The spot we’d chosen to hunker down at was within a few serendipitous yards of the actual torch hand-off.
We visited a Beguinage in the Flemish city of Leuven with Marie-Louise and George-Henri, Eric’s mother’s lifelong friends. This brickwork fairy-tale borough originated in the late middle ages, almost a thousand years ago when a women’s movement known as the Beguines arose in northern Europe. These women were not nuns, per se, but they lead a quasi-monastic life in closed communities, devoting themselves to prayer and labor. We had already visited a picturesque Beguinage in Bruges, but in terms of scope and serenity, the one in Leuven really took our breath away.
It turns out that you can still make a career as a gladiator. Roman reenactment is an industry in its own right, and the Germans seem to have a sizable market share with traveling troupes criss-crossing the former Empire. Whether the amphitheater is in Croatia or Germany, you can count on seeing some barbarians toss nets at each other.
Just a short walk from Halle Gate is ‘Art en Marge’, a marvelous little museum dedicated to my favorite kind of artists. “Outsider” is perhaps the most slippery and contentious label you can throw at an artist, but there is a meaningful use of the term and this museum does a wonderful job of doing it justice. Upstairs was a little room brimming with homespun carnival rides, and I played with them all.
The historical center of Brussels is always teeming with odd and cheeky street performances, but something strikes me as especially Belgian about this guy. It’s not just the fact that he’s dressed as Magritte. There’s something else to it, a je ne sais quoi that I lack the Flemish words to express. Like a spirit animal or something. He just seems at home here with Tintin, Mannequin Pis, and beer.
Our unscheduled stop in the Istrian city of Pula rewarded us with unexpected Roman goodness on a grand scale. The whole town was abuzz with an Imperial reenactment fair, and the streets teemed with ancient foods, ethereal choirs, and marching Legionaries in full regalia. This public square was occupied by a group of gladiators, preparing for bloodsport in the amphitheater later that evening.