I have previously mentioned the name “Lange Wapper” twice now and delayed telling you the story, but because of massive peer pressure, I have to fill in the gaps. It seems that Lange Wapper (we pronounced it Longa Wappa) was a trickster that was able to change his size down to as small as a baby and up to the size of a giant who could place one foot on either side of a river. He was formidable as a giant and would frighten the drunks in the night, however he loved women and would do almost anything he could to get close to them, including sometimes masquerading as a baby so that nursing women would take pity and feed him with their milk. They would become surprised when he grew back to full size right in front of their eyes and during the feeding. This is a story, based on Belgium legend, that Tom told us in Antwerp. In Antwerp there was a girl who had four lovers. One evening she invited them one after another, but instead, it was the trickster Lange Wapper, that waited for them in disguise. He told the first one to prove his love by sitting for two hours on a giant cross in the cemetery. The second one had to prove his love by lying for two hours in a coffin under the cross. The third had to knock on the coffin until someone came to get him. The fourth had to walk around the cross with chains, but when he did that he found three dead bodies. The first one died from fear and fell from the cross when he saw the second one climb into the coffin. The second one died from fear when he heard someone knocking on his coffin. The third one died from fear when he heard the chains and thought the devil was there to fetch him. The fourth one was so terrified by the other 3 bodies that he jumped into the river but since he could not swim, he drowned. You gotta love Belgium, if only for their beer and stories. Maybe those both go together.
|Statue of Lange Wapper in Antwerp|
Today we would start and stop at the same location, Brugge. Brugge is a lovely city but today’s ride would take us on the north canal out of the city and towards the north sea coast. Everyone started out together and we stopped at one of the 4 windmills that adorned the canal. We were allowed to climb this one and view the sights from above. The outside stairs up a windmill are surprisingly steep and the way down seemed to be best done by turning around and going down backwards. The view from the top was worth the climb.
|Windmill we climbed|
We made our way towards Damme (pronounced Dam-may). In the town has its usual town square, canal and church. This church was different however. Some parts of the structure were structurally in trouble and there were some interesting statues on the grounds, including a modern piece with 3 heads all merged into 1 statue.
|Statue with 3 heads|
Next we went to a 13th century abbey at Ter Doest that was now a restaurant and special event grounds. On these grounds were many modern art pieces including the nude sister of another statue that we saw a few days earlier. The stones and bricks from the abbey were torn down and used to make the new facility.
|One of the statues on the grounds - I don't think the bicycle helmet is original|
Aila and 5 of the nurses had decided to cut the day short, in order to see some of the museums back in Brugge. I think they wanted a shorter day than they got, as they finally were able to head back at the 14.3 mile mark, making their shortened day a mere 24 miles. I think 15 total was more in their minds at the beginning. The rest of us headed towards the sea coast boardwalk and beach, although the clouds were looking a bit dark on the way. The week had been packed full of clear, sunny days with no signs of any dark clouds, until today. Our luck held however and only the threat of rain made its appearance.
|Smaller, older buildings sandwiched by larger, newer ones|
The boardwalk was what one would expect: every inch of shoreline built up. There were a few old buildings that hadn’t succumbed to the monetary offerings of the larger purses, squashed between the rest. On the sandy ocean side of the boardwalk was a different sight to behold: there were privately owned sheds that opened on either side that were used by people to place their lawn chairs in, to enjoy a day at the beach. These sheds were packed side to side and obscured most of the beach views. Some were actually for sale, indicating to me that at least their 10 square feet of sand was owned or leased somehow.
|I've got a deal for you! Private beach ... umm ... house for sale|
Sharon, Lisa, Meg and I shared 2 pots of moules and frites, which in English are mussels and french fries. If you are ever in Belgium, don’t miss out on this delightful dish. It’s worth it.
|Good food in Belgium|
After lunch we headed back towards the barge in a direct manor. Along the way we met a man who was out walking with his pet hawk. Sharon and Rita stopped to talk with him.
|Rita talking with a man and his hawk|
The evening activities included another great dinner, Katie doing a funny roast of Tom, another rounds of cards and mental preparations for the departure from newly found friends. Also, in a turn of good luck, it seems that Angela’s camera was lost in her cabin behind her and her sister’s suitcases. How it got there, I don’t know, but Angela was sure happy that it was found.
|Back in Brugge, a sight along the canal|
To sum up this trip, it was excellent. Both the Netherlands and Belgium are clean, friendly and beautiful countries to bicycle through and the people are in the highest respect of cyclists. The lesson learned for this trip is, ALWAYS use SPF lip balm on any long distance ride, or you will suffer the consequences and we mean suffer. Finally, if you cannot take “The Mistress” (my titanium bicycle) on vacation along with you and your wife, then a good alternative is for you and your wife to travel with 18 nurses and their friends. This group of people were funny, friendly and inviting. They included us in all of the activities. We had a great time. Thank you for accepting us.
I want to thank my wife Aila, for participating on this trip. She trained at home, either on the indoor trainer or outside on the rail trails, for 8 months in preparation. Her previous longest distance record was 20 miles in a single ride, but on this ride she broke the 30 mile mark several times. City style bikes are harder to push than road bikes are, so this mileage is even more impressive. Her total for the week was 155 miles. Well done Aila. Thanks for trying a long distance bike ride.
Let’s see what the next adventure brings.