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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Belgium trip - Leuven (Part 2)

For once, the weather gods took favor upon me during my travels. Although the forecasts were repeatedly calling for rain, for the most part we were blessed with beautiful weather during our time in Belgium. Still, it was surprising how often things changed during the course of the day, going from warm to cold to sunny to overcast and rainy and back to pleasant again. I would start out in short sleeves, before having to don a windbreaker and/or a sweater, then revert back to short sleeves only to bring out the sweater again for the evening walk back to my friend Jeff's apartment. Take our second full day in Leuven, for example. The morning began in a crisp and somewhat clear manner...:

...but it soon became overcast, and then started to rain. A good time to stay indoors and relax:

The rain showed so signs of abating, so eventually Amber, Jeff and I headed out to the area in front of Leuven's train station in search of lunch, not to mention the first beer of the day, in this case a Duvel:

I don't recall what we ate, but you'll notice the fries in the background. Fries are a national obsession in Belgium, transcending the linguistic divide between Flemish and Walloon as they are served at practically every meal (or at least the lunches and dinners we had). Amber quickly learned the Dutch word for them, frietjes:

Oh yeah, about that weather. While it poured during lunch, the rain had already stopped when we stepped outside following the meal, and soon after starting down the main road toward the central part of Leuven, it'd become so bright I had to put on my sunglasses. Our destination was the M Van Museum, a fascinating combination of art old and new, set in a modern building combined with an old mansion. Among the more traditional pieces are a couple of paintings by Rogier van der Weyden, Seven Sacraments...:

...and Holy Trinity. A close look at Christ's shoulder reveals a pair of bird's feet, the remains of a dove that van der Weyden had originally wanted to include in the work:

Also included in the museum's permanent collection are examples of old glassware, porcelain and silverware:

The more modern collections include examples of the light touch and subtlety so often employed by contemporary European artists:

 Brussels (yes, that's the title)

On the roof of the museum. The brick tower is the that of Katholieke Universiteit van Leuven's (KUL) library. KUL was founded in 1425 and is one of Europe's most prestigious institutions of higher learning:

Following Museum Leuven, Jeff and my daughter went off to meet our wives at a local pub, while I went to check out the Universiteitbibliotheek:

The university library was displaying some examples from its Asian collection:

On the way up to the top of the tower were exhibits on the tortured history of the library. It was destroyed by the invading Germans during the First World War who believed they were under fire by snipers in the tower. The library was rebuilt and restocked with donations from some 4000 American universities. During World War 2, the library was burned down, with most blaming the Germans (again), who apparently did not appreciate the anti-German inscriptions on the exterior of the building. The library was rebuilt and restocked yet again with American help, and the names of the U.S. institutions who contributed are inscribed on the outside walls:

 The views of Leuven from the top of the tower:

Of course, there were bells:

Back on solid ground, the carnival was going strong:

The beetle on a needle, a sculpture called Totem that was created in 2000 to celebrate KUL's 575th anniversary. It supposedly emphasizes the relationship between art and science, but it really is just a large bug skewered on a giant stick:

Rejoining family and friends at The Capital:

The menu boasts having the "Largest beer selection of the world" with over 2000 beers. I settled for a Bush Amber. With an alcohol content of 12%, it proved ideal for a late afternoon respite:

Our day ended with dinner at Troubadour, another restaurant specializing in Belgian delights. The house specialty is mussels, but who could pass up the chance to have filet of horse?:

The service left something to be desired at Troubadour (it took about 90 minutes from the time we were seated for our food to arrive at the table), but they have their own beer, so in the end all was right in the world:

Have I mentioned that I could get used to this lifestyle?

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