Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pleasures and proprieties

 Epen, February 28, 2012—

THIS HAS BEEN a particularly nice stay, the last couple or three days in our beloved Netherlands — as always, I look forward to leaving woth regrets. A lot has to do with the company, our even more beloved Elfrings. A lot has to do with the pleasures of rambling, too: but those will continue another week or so, as we make our way toward Luxembourg.

But a lot has to do with The Netherlands, a country that never fails to impress me with its improbable marriage of pleasures and proprieties. I wrote yesterday of a poem found in a pasture: I tried to include a photo with that  but the WiFi here failed: the only little disappointment here.

We drove across the border yesterday to check out Aubel, a Belgian town I'd thought might make a good first stop on our projected walk. It had seemed nice on the Internet, but proved bleak and heavy on our visit. The Belgian architecture is heavy and dour by contrast with the Dutch, as if to emphasize a temperamental difference suggesting the Belgians are withdrawn and individualists, the Dutch more open and communitarian. 

Today we walked across the border to the town of Teuven, where we had lunch — borrelhapjes (bits of cheeses and sausages, dipped into mustars or syrup) and beer. this was pleasant enough, and artisinal too: I think our walk will have its pleasures, especially in the countryside.

Hill and dale is what it is here, the dales descending to quick-moving streams, almost narrow enough to jump but rivieren nonethless, the Geul and the Gulp, the latter giving Limburg its Gulpener beer. Cattle and sheep; chickens; cornfields later, perhaps. The first snowbells and crocus are well up, the mists are soft and bracing. Tomorrow we take a bus to Maastricht, then a train to Spa. No definitive plans beyond that other than to shoulder our packs and walk toward Luxembourg, and that's how I like it.

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