Winter

Winter has been slow arriving this year. In a lot of ways it is hard to complain. The warmer weather is easier on our energy bills and makes for an less stressful commute, especially as a transit strike since October still has me driving when I’d much rather be reading, listening to music, or doing a better job with my gumboot posts. But at the same time there are a lot of parts of winter that I’ve been looking forward to that as a result of the warmer weather I’ve put off. But in the last couple of weeks winter has shown up in Toronto, the air is crisp and there is snow on the ground. I want to share a few things that make the dark, cold, snowy (or rainy) months something for me to enjoy and hope you too find positivity in the months ahead.

Getting (and Sleeping) Outside.

I wasn’t always a fan of spending time outside in winter until I started running a few years ago and kept on running right through winter.  (Check out Jim’s past post on the lonely community of winter runners).  I then realized that being outside in winter makes those dark vitamin D deprived months a lot better. Sure there aren’t seemly endless hours of sunshine and instead there are layers of every type of clothing imaginable, but there also aren’t sunburns or mosquitoes.  This year, Jim and I are taking our quest to embrace winter a step further with our plan to complete a whole year of camping every month.  And after sleeping outside on Dec. 23 and Dec. 24, with temperature dipping close to -20C the first night and waking up to a white Christmas the next, I can say that I’m looking forward to more outside time in the months ahead.

Seasonal Hobbies (and hobbies that adapt to the season).

When I’m not outside in winter I enjoy being curled up on a coach with cat on my lap, watching TV, which I do way more of in the winter (I’m re-watching The Wire right now).  Two additional hobbies make this better, knitting and beer.  I’m a seasonal knitter and it wasn’t until last week that I picked up the needles again, which coincided with Toronto’s first substantial snowfall.  It means that when my tendency is more towards hibernation than outside, I end up with something cozy coincidentally makes winter better.  Beer, which I’ve recently started brewing, had to undergo some adaptations for winter, which we’re still working out.  The brewery has moved from friends’  backward to our apartment for the winter, where our back deck’s overhang and ground-level bathtub (for the beer chilling) means we can brew through the cold months.  And as long as we figure out how to adjust for the higher evaporation rate in winter we’ll keep ending up with amazing beer.

Tomatoes, Endings and Beginnings

And finally, what would one of my lists be without a reference to tomatoes.  I’ve just cooked my last fresh tomatoes a couple of days ago. That’s right, tomatoes that I grew on my back deck that have been slowly ripening wrapped in newspaper in the months since they’ve been picked in the fall.  They were delicious.  And while that should make me sad, it is only a mere month and a half until I plant tomato seeds again.  In the meantime, I have cans of crushed tomatoes, homemade salsa, pizza sauce, and ketchup for the down-time in mid-winter.

What makes you happy about winter? 

Vacation Planning – Community Style

As I write this I am between vacations. Yesterday I was basking in an unseasonably warm fall day in Algonquin Provincial Park. Tomorrow, I’m heading to Cape Cod and later in the week to Boston. It is my reward for a September void of days off, as work gobbled up every weekend between Labour Day and Thanksgiving.

Once the Lonely Planet or some other off the shelf travel guide was my only tool to plan trips. But increasingly, the paper books have given way to the Internet. Odds are by now you already know about the many travel websites offering deals and feedback from a community of previous vacationers. If not, you should look into it. This is increasingly the way most people I know make their travel decisions. But beyond the basics of the where to stay and what the key attractions are the Internet is offering way more. For Jim and I this means that we are getting to know and even starting to contribute to online communities around two of our current main vacation interests: canoeing and beer.

The traditional guides for canoeing in Ontario are park maps and a single prolific author on canoe routes, Kevin Callan.  These are still great resources to access, but choosing the right trip at the right time of year is the key challenge in planning a successful trip. Online paddling communities, such as Canadian Canoe Routes offer a forum to share trip routes, provide advice, and learn about seasonal differences in a region. Other sites like Virtual Algonquin and Algonquin Map provided more specific details on Algonquin for our trip planning this summer and fall. These resources have meant we were able to get off the beaten track in August when some parts of the park get booked to capacity and let us know when to check out the most popular lakes, like Canoe Lake, without being steamrolled by the crowds.  As new canoeists, it meant were were able to have multiple great vacations in our first year.

Travel guides for good beer seem to be few and far between in published form. But online there are thriving beer communities offering advice on the best places to get pints in whatever town you might be in.
My favourite is Beer Advocate – offering listings and user ratings for breweries, eateries, bars, retailers and u-brews. It offers a crash course in great craft beer no matter what city in North American you are in.  Another great resource is The Beer Mapping Project, helpful for thirsty travelers to get acquainted with the local beer landscape.  And there are what seems like countless more resources, recommendations, and reviews out there to guide the way to better beer rather than large scale commercial brews that I could just as easily find in the bar around the corner from where I live.

The Internet is now my main gateway to traveling. It lets me get closer to communities that share my interests and gain more intimate knowledge of a space that I will only be in for a short period of time. And very little of this knowledge, advice or tips would be available to me without the previous travelers or generous locals that took the time to share and document their experiences. Bon voyage!

Community on a European Vacation

As it turns out, the recipe for Community is very simple; Singing in public, beer, and a little dash of wild animal. Surprisingly, I am not talking about drunken nights of karaoke (exclusively). I recently spent 6 weeks studying in Copenhagen, Denmark and followed that up with a two week northern European Vacation. Below is a selection of the top five community building places and activities I encountered in my travels. These are the things that made me think, “Man oh man, I wish I could do this at home!”

 

1. Mauerpark Market and Bearpit Karaoke (Berlin)

Late on a Sunday morning we headed over to Mauerpark for the Berlin’s local favourite flea market. After several hours of exploring the winding stalls of the outdoor market, with several stops to rest in mini-manufactured-beach beer gardens, we had had our fill of bargain hunting and novel snacks. So, made our way over to Bearpit Karaoke just outside the market gates. We were lucky enough to arrive just in time to hear a rousing rendition of Frank Sinatra’s My Way performed by a bearded, German, older gentleman. I was not entirely surprised to find out that this was not his first time in the Bearpit. The only performer who gave him a run for his money was this little girl who made the crowd fall silent before we all joined in to clap along with her song. It was a gorgeous day and the hill over the stage was stacked with people of all ages and walks cheering on the performers. The organizers turned an umbrella, a wagon, a laptop, and some speakers into one of the best boundary breaking, community-building events I have been to.

 

2. Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Denmark)

This was my favorite museum and is a great example of how to make art an accessible and fun experience for a wide range of people. Before I made the trip myself I had heard from many people who couldn’t speak highly enough of the museum and one who said he took his kids there as often as possible. After spending several hours exploring the facility, all that I felt was missing was that feeling of backache that usually accompanies long walks on hard museum grounds. These grounds were not the usual museum grounds though and moved the visitor almost seamlessly between in and outdoor exhibits. There was even one point when we got to use a slide for transportation! (A transportation method that should be adopted on a much wider scale.)  Exploring the outdoors was a refreshing way to discover Louisiana’s impressive collection of sculptural works against a backdrop of the beautiful Øresund beach front and manicured hills that are perfect for a picnic on one side of the property and a beautiful lake nestled into a wooded area on the opposite side.

 

3. Midsummer’s Eve Celebrations (June 23, Copenhagen)

People go out en masse, not just to one spot but basically to any park, beach, or barge in town. They eat hogs, drink beer, and laugh and chat until someone lights a huge bonfire with a scarecrow/witch on top. That’s when they start singing in unison. Amazing.

 

4. A la Mort Subite (Brussels)

Founded in 1928, this was a stunningly beautiful Belgian bar whose name translates to  “At the Sudden Death”. Well if sudden death were to strike, there are plenty worse places you could be. Picture soaring ceilings, golden yellow walls and pillars, and locals enjoying a selection of Belgian beers so flavorful that it is probably impossible for anyone to claim they don’t like the taste of beer after trying these variations. This place had an incredible community atmosphere. We sat down at one of the long communal tables next to an older couple from Brussels who were only too happy to share with us the secret of the Brussels classic brew called Gueuze (it has to do with a reaction between the yeast and a bacteria that is only found in the air in Brussels) and their life long dream to travel to Canada. A perfect Belgian experience.

 

5. Elephants in the Park (Frederiksberg, Denmark)

Anyone who remembers when the Vancouver Zoo had a place in Stanley Park is not likely to have forgotten how awesome it was to go and watch the polar bears from the zoo’s outer confines. The Copenhagen Zoo has elephants that you can get within about 40 meters of from the surrounding park without paying the zoo’s hefty entrance fee. They play and throw dirt and swim and splash and break sticks and lift logs and sit on each other. Watching gigantic, beautiful, social creatures makes for easy conversation with the other observers and was a perfect place to chat with the very friendly Danes who always seem to out for a leisurely afternoon. The elephants were a mere five-minute walk from my apartment so I made a practice of visiting regularly.

If we can’t travel to Europe or have elephants in our backyards at least we can get together to drink some great craft brews and sing about it. Anyone got a karaoke machine?

 

 

 

 

First Batch

10 days ago we gathered around a large steaming pot in a backyard. The power was out from a fast moving thunderstorm an hour or so ago. Armed with thermometers, hydrometers, copper coils, vinyl tubing and a handful of books guiding us through the next few hours we started the recipe. Lining the pot with a bag, we stirred roasted and milled grains into the steaming water and left them steep for the first hour and a half. The resulting tea was then brought to a boil for the next hour adding green pellets at regular intervals. The boiling liquid was then cooled by dipping copper coils into the pot and running cold water through them. The cooled liquid was transferred from the pot to glass and a vile of beige paste added. By this time it was dark, the power eventually returned. A lid with a long vinyl tube and placed into a sanitizing solution created an airlock for the concoction. And then we waited. This was our first batch of home brew on it’s way to becoming beer.

Home brewing has been around for as long as beer. Like a lot of things it has really only been in the last couple of centuries or so that brewing started moving from homes into factories. And like a lot of things, mass production of beer resulted in consistent, efficient but also bland and boring products. But as already mentioned in a few previous posts, beer is seeing a revival started in the States but now quickly spreading north. Jim and I along with our friends Val and Rod, have been customers of a u-brew place for years, have been actively seeking out great ontario craft beers, and even went on a beercation to New York City at the end of last winter. Home brewing was something we’ve been talking about for a while, seeming a natural extension of our beer-education. (And a step closer to turning our running joke of a brewery-back-up-plan for the two academics into a reality if academic jobs don’t pan out).

The steps to home brewing are pretty straight forward. Below is a summary and some pictures of what we did. There are lots of resources out there to fill in the details, including the books Beer Craft that explains the steps to brewing really clearly and Radical Brewing that has amazing looking recipes.

Sanitation – it isn’t as much a single step as an ongoing process for the duration of the brewing and is critical for everything that the beer touches after the boil

Mash – this is soaking the malted and milled grains for at least an hour at warm temperature and is the first step to beer. We used the brew-in-a-bag method that is popular in Australia and cuts out the step of Sparging and some of the most expensive peices of home brewing equipment.

Boil – the mash is brought to a boil for an hour to concentrate the liquid and to add hops at at least 3 intervals for bitterness, flavour and aroma.

Cool – dropping the temperature serves a couple of purposes, settling out the sediment and making sure it isn’t too hot for the yeast. It is pretty easy to make a chiller DIY with stuff from a hardware store

Fermentation – once the future beer is cool enough adding yeast will start the fermentation. Since it will produce carbon dioxide creating an airlock lets gases out without contaminating the beer with natural yeasts or anything else that might make the batch go off

We’ll be bottling in the next few days. To get carbonation in the bottles, we’ll reactivate the yeast with a bit of sugar and wait another week.

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Kreston’s Monastic Community of Beer

Hax’n, Rollbraten or Leberkäs? What would you answer to this question? This was the very question posed to me when I walked up to the cafeteria counter. I was in search of
something to satiate the hunger that had built in me while wondering the monastic grounds of a monest- dammit.

I was visiting what is said to be one of the most important monasteries in Bavaria, Andechs. It was everything that I thought a monastery would be: religious, old, and with a world class… Brewery! I started by doing the regular tourist stuff, such as taking pictures, which I will probably never look at, staring at (and pretending to understand) plaques written in German, and sitting completely silent in the church for a few minutes. The tourists and I filled the pews; all of us lost in our reverent thoughts (notice I don’t consider myself a tourist, I see myself as more of an adventurer like Indiana Jones, Laura Croft or Tin Tin). [Editor's note: Kreston is absolutely Tin Tin]. I was thinking what any man from a young western country thinks when confronted by the awesome wonder of an ancient cathedral that has the soul purpose of making you feel closer to God: “how the heck did they build this place hundreds of years ago using nothing more than elbow grease and what is considered primitive tools?” (Side note! If you want some good fiction on this subject, track down Ken Follett’s The Pillars of The Earth; Its all about building cathedrals. I worn you though its a big frickin book!)

Once I accomplished the required amount of touristing, it was time to get to the real business of why I was drawn to this site in the first place, which had to do with my almost religious worshipping of beer. Andechs boasts the best beer in Germany and when I heard this I came running. See, this wasn’t just a touristy day trip for me, it was a religious pilgrimage to the Good Beer Mecca. When I entered the hall my senses were overwhelmed by the sights and smells of the place. I stood for a minute just drinking it all in (pun intended). Like a father who first lays eyes on his new born child, I loved it instantly. [Editor's question: Kreston, how do you know what this feels like? What aren't you telling us, man?] The more that numerous Bavarians filled the place with their raucous laughter and deutsch conversation the thirstier I got. The crowd was seated at long oak tables that ran into other oak tables, giving the impression one might feel when they first gaze on the great hall at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I was mesmerized by the activity and all the different characters and, for a second, began searching for Waldo amongst all this chaos. A small part of my heart did break, however, when I realized that with all of these people crammed in here, I couldn’t spot one pair of leederhosen. It healed, rather quickly, when I saw the size of the beer steins everyone was drinking out of, and paused to calculate if I would even be able to lift one. I gathered a beer and some local eats, found myself a spot and prepared to slowly soak in the experience.

My late afternoon lunch was about to consist of one mighty pretzel, a plate of sauerkraut, one Swine Hax’n, a liter of Weissbier, and a liter of dark beer, which was so thick and black that if BP spilled it near the Mississippi Delta, environmentalists would be scraping it off birds.

Too soon?

[Editor's note: yes, but everyone has already forgotten about it, so I'm glad to remind the world of such things].

“Yes, yes” you are thinking impatiently, “but what is Hax’n?” Well my friend, it is the leg of a pig, slow cooked and looking extremely mid-evil. Eating haxen was like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, intense from the first page (bite), often I found my forehead sweating, and I couldn’t put it down until I was finished. Throughout my “Epic Meal Time” I sparked up a conversation with the couple beside me. We were soon close friends enjoying each others’ company as they explained to me some of the finer points of the food they were eating, which to me was simply a full trout on a plate. I must admit it was an amazing feeling, being a part of this community, even if just for a moment. I say community because of the difference of this drinking establishment and what I am used to, coming from North America. At home all serious drinking establishments are exclusive; with limits on the amount of booze they can serve you at one time, age restrictions on admittance, and tables far apart so each party can have their own island of independence. Here it is all about community. You are able to have as much booze as you can muscle back to your seat, people are allowed to have a picnic in the restaurant, plus children and dogs are welcome patrons.

In Andechs, in sight of the alps and framed by a backdrop of stained glass windows, it is all about the social.

Beercation!

The Clurnses just wrapped up our second annual February beercation (beer vacation). Last year we crossed the pond for British Real Ale and this year we headed to the Big Apple with our friends Val and Rod for a week of American Craft Beer.  The general format of our beercations are tourist by day, beer drinking by night. In this case we hit a lot of the big tourist destinations of New York City by day including the Museum of the City of New York, New York Transit Museum, MoMA, Museum of Sex, NBC Studio Tour and Top of the Rock, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, etc. And we also did some interesting walks, including a misadventure through a few Brooklyn neighbourhoods. By night we sought out bars and pubs that had at least a dozen American Craft Beer on tap, doing our best to never have the same beer twice.

As a Canadians I grew up with some pretty negative views of American beer and pretty confident that Canadian beer was both better tasting and higher alcohol. And maybe for Bud Light Lime this remains true. But the reality is American Craft Beer has us beat. There are over 1600 craft brewers in the States. We’re just beginning to play catch-up. And unlike a lot of places with stricter brewing traditions (sorry Germany), American craft brewers are willing to combine styles or make new ones in the quest for delicious beer. The alcohol content for beers I drank last week ranged from 3% to over 11%. And the flavours ranged from fruity, floral, citrus, smoky, chocolate, hoppy, sour, malty and more. And all this great beer has been brewed and supported by a dedicated community of beer lovers long before craft beer was the next hottest trend.

If you are lucky enough to head to NYC here are the bars and pubs we visited and a sampling of some of the daily beer menus we got to enjoy.  And if not, check out America’s Top 100 Beer Bars as a starting point before your next American vacation.

The Pony Bar

This was our local for the week (meaning it was the only bar that we went to more than once and was a short stumble from our hotel). It was dedicated to all-American Craft Beer with 20 beers on tap and 2 casks. And while it wasn’t the best selection we saw, it rotated regularly with new beers coming online all the time. Every beer was also $5 (the higher alcohol ones came in smaller glasses) which made it easier on the pocketbook than some of the other places we visited. And it had one of our favourite snacks of the vacation, deep-fried pickles. Get there early if you want a seat!  And check out the beer menus we had to choose from: Pony Bar Beer Lists and the one from my birthday: Pony Bar Birthday Beers.

Rattle N Hum
This place had a huge beer list, with 40 drafts. Check out the menu when we were there which is printed daily: side 1 & side 2.  It was a pretty casual place, fairly close to the Empire State Building. While the staff seemed to know the beer, they were stumped when I asked for more information on the upcoming cask event they were having that weekend. And if you like cheesy nachos this is the place to come. We’re pretty sure they put down a layer of cheese before chips.

Mugs Alehouse
This place had a local vibe and was where we landed after an under planned walk across Brooklyn. We loved the super warm heater and the yummy selection. And the staff was pretty great too, taking time to provide some great recommendations.

Barcade
Prepare to geek out! This bar has 35 classic arcade games lining the walls of an otherwise industrial large room with only a few tables. There were also 24 taps with 75% of the beer from the northeast. And it was a dog-friendly bar, just watch out for the occasional tinkle.

The Blind Tiger
It is hard to judge this bar because we came during a Vermont cheese and beer festival. Our first try getting in didn’t work. But our second try we not only got in, we were able to convince a very nice smartphone addict to share his table with us. The beer list was great, with 28 taps, 2 casks, and 1 gravity keg. And this was where I had one of my favorite beers, the Von Trapp Trosten (a black lager). The downfall was the obnoxious suits that were one table over that were/left a mess.

Valhalla
We found this bar while still basking in our post-Colbert bliss. It was a random find (thanks Rod!) that had a wall full of taps and lots of beers that we hadn’t yet tried.

d.b.a.
This is one of the earlier bars that helped build the craft beer bandwagon that we found popping up all over the city. The selection was a mix of European and American beers and there was a resident cat that got our attention. While it wasn’t our favourite bar it was still well worth the visit.

The Dram Shop
This pub in the Park Slope neighbourhood of Brooklyn had a decent selection of beers but most importantly it had deep-fried mac and cheese. It had the feel of a local and very attentive staff.

Ginger Man
Another bar that was close to the Empire State Building (we went up it after finishing at the bar) and it had a few too many suits, but as the menu shows (side 1 and side 2) there was huge beer selection and despite how busy it was we were able to score a table and snack on cheese platter (the boys had charcuterie).

Other Room
This was a dark and intimate bar. Despite it’s small size it’s beer list still managed to keep us occupied for a couple of rounds and there was great music.

Waterfront Ale House
This bar was off the beaten track and definitely more of a casual vibe with friendly staff. While the food was average the sour beer was a highlight.

Healthy Communities Need Healthy Guys, Too!

According to Wikipedia, ‘gynecology’ is defined as “the medical practice dealing with the health of the female reproductive system.” There is a male counterpart to this field called Andrology, but, for the purposes of this article, I’d like to talk about ‘GUY-necology.’

GUY-necology is defined (by me) as “the study of why men wait until they are broken before doing something to fix it.”

In my dozen years in the healthcare field, I have noticed that most of my patients are women.  Admittedly, I work as a Massage Therapist, and many guys have hang ups about being touched by another guy (thank you Seinfeld), but I have worked with other healthcare practitioners for most of my career, and have noticed that women just tend to be better at health maintenance.  So I asked myself “why?”

Perhaps we can attest this phenomenon to the early days of man when the men of a tribe went out in search of big game. If you were regularly tackling mammoths and wooly rhinos, you wouldn’t expect to be alive for very long, so obviously self-care was a bit of a waste. Nowadays, the scariest thing in our day is usually our overflowing email inbox, and yet the apathy towards healthcare amongst males continues. Most men usually know more about their car, their computer, or their favorite sports team than they do about their own bodies and how to best take care of them.  Maybe it’s time to bring our healthcare thinking into the 21st century.

To begin, here are a few common health misconceptions that I’d like to clear up:

-Headaches are not a normal part of life

-Getting older doesn’t have to mean getting fatter

-Although fine in moderation, beer should not be used to hydrate

-Many ‘normal aches and pains’ are in fact not normal and can be prevented

So guys, here’s the challenge: build your own team of healthcare providers. Massage Therapy, Chiropractic, Naturopathic Medicine, Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine all have ways to improve your health and your life, both directly and through education. So take up the challenge because healthy communities need healthy guys and gals!

Craft-U-Brew

Beer retailing in Ontario is dominated by the Beer Store, a near monopoly, owned by the large breweries.  This set up has some positive aspects, as the employees are well paid and they recycle almost everything they sell.  However, for those of us more interested in craft beer than industrially

produced domestic or imported brands, the Beer Store limits options.  The other booze monopoly, the government owned LCBO, sells a wider selection of Ontario Craft Beers, but they only sell in single cans or six packs and the prices are prohibitively high.  Neither retailer provides a wide selection of craft beers from across Canada or the United States.  This leaves beer drinkers with few options aside from figuring out how to brew your own craft beer.

Thankfully Craft-U-Brewing is a growing trend.  If you have the time and space its possible to brew your own beer from scratch at home.   Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher is a good resource to learn more about home brewing. For those of us living in apartments, too poor/cheap to buy the equipment or to lazy to learn all the complicated steps in brewing high quality craft beer there are great Craft-U-Brew stores like Toronto’s Fermentations that make brewing easy.

I know that many of you hear U-Brew and think about cheap kit-beer that taste terrible and allow hangovers to start while you are still drinking.  This is true of many of the cheaper U-Brew options that substitute corn sugar for barley to keep the price down.  Thankfully, it is now possible to buy micro-brewed wort (unfermented beer) made with barley malt, water and hops (you add the yeast yourself to make the process legal).  By adding more malt, hops, fruit, spices or coffee you can transform the base wort into almost any style of beer.  Fermentation have a wide selection of beers on their regular list (here are just a few):

  • Danforth Lager
  • Dutch Lager
  • Hoffbrauhaus
  • Czech Pilsner
  • Fuggles Pale Ale
  • Bavarian Bock
  • Newcastle Brown
  • Oatmeal Stout
  • Hefeweizen
  • Belgian Wit
  • Trappist Dubbel

However, what makes this U-Brew special is their ability to emulate just about any beer you have ever tried or read about.  My friend Val tried a Hefeweizen  in Colorado Springs with a really pronounced banana flavour.  Scott, one of the two employs that work with Charles the owner, thought it thorough and choose a yeast strain that would bring out the banana in their wheat wort.  The resulting beer was amazing and that batch did not last very long.  Over the past years we’ve experimented with beer style from around the world.  earthy Peat Smoked Scotch Ales, bitterly hoppy West Cost IPAs, danerously strong imperial coffee stouts (8-9%) and traditionally lagered double bocks. Continue reading

Philosophical Observations in Belgian

Editor’s Note: in our ongoing attempt to share with you, our loyal fans/critics, ideas from everywhere, it is my pleasure to deliver some observations of one of our Guest Correspondents, Elise Frketich. Ms. Frketich is currently studying philosophy in Belgium and, well, made my heart smile with some interestingly quirky comments about the country that she will call home for the next year. I mean, what do we really know about Belgium? It is the headquarters of the European Union. It has some language-like politics similar to Quebec and Canada. Delicious beer lives in Belgium. It twice played the role of “back door” for German invasions of France (way to learn from the past, Maginot Line creators). Recently, the country is invaded by Brits more than Germans, though. And their waffles have been making people happy for centuries. But, clearly, there must be more to this up-and-coming European nation. Thankully, one of our global correspondents is on the case!

Belgium is located close to the "downtown" area of Europe

Belgium is located close to the "downtown" area of Europe

Quoting Elise:

“Here are some bits from my adventures in Belgium:

- I get random things that I didn’t order with my food in restaurants; with breakfast today, I got a shot of amaretto and with lunch I got a little cup of chocolate chips.

- I walked back and forth across this town about five times today, but continue to get lost.

- During my meanderings, I wandered into an incredible rose garden because the gate was open.

- Yoghurt here is as thick as jam, delicious!  The more fat the better!

- Everyone rides a bike and no one wears a helmet.

- Beer is the same price as soft drinks.

- Sometimes Belgians dress up the statues they have all over town – Sunday ritual?

- Outside the Museum of art and history in Brussels, next to the trash bins, were cubes of old statues – European trash is much different than Canadian trash!

- One of the EU buildings is a crazy fortress.

- I found a lot of cool stuff to see today, but I didn’t find the one piece of art that prompted me to go to Brussels in the first place – okay, just read online that the Horta Temple housing the relief “Human Passions” is closed all except one hour a day (not including Mondays), so I missed the hour.  Researching after the fact, so me;)

- When one orders a cappuccino in Belgium it is topped with whipped cream instead of frothy milk.

- A marching band just went past my window – What?

So there it is. From beer to EU fortresses to random marching bands. Now we know just a little more about Belgium. Personally, I will endeavour to put whipped cream on more things in an effort to build community. Surely, nothing bad can come of this idea.

Thanks for the observations, Elise. Good luck with your studies and feel free to share some stories every now and then.

- JCH as told (and inspired) by Elise Frketich