Tuesday, July 7, 2009


That's what my daughter responded to her mom when she heard that we would be short-vacationing in Blankenberge, at the Belgian Northern Coast, having rent a friend's apartment for a week, located at the zeedijk (the promenade along the shore, facing the sea). If you consider yourself a respected Belgian who made it in life you've got to have a second (vacationing) residence like, either an apartment along the 60km long Belgian shore, or some place hidden in the Ardennes hills. Now, if you are really loaded you probably own both. The rest of us are lucky to own a single home to live, somewhere close to the place we work. Most of us aren't even that lucky, so, we are stuck in traffic jams for hours every single working day.

'Plattekes' in the local Antwerp (Flemish) dialect is a civil way to denote the bottom social demographic. A few minutes into watching pedestrians at the zeedijk were enough to find out what she meant. I haven't seen such a concentration of short, ugly, obese, freaky, mean, tattooed and pearced dudes and gals in swimwear in my entire miserable life. We felt like we were in the middle of a 19th century freak circus! OMG, where do these people come from? OMG, what have these people done to themselves?

Blankenberge itself is quite a nice and reasonably proper city. It's got a few centuries old pier, a casino, hundreds of restaurants, shops, supermarkets, the works. In the three nights we stayed there to this moment, the dining experience has been outstanding.

The city is located next to Zeebrugge (a couple miles walk), known for the second largest seaport in the country and one of the largest in Northern Europe. A few miles off the coast, in the middle of the North Sea, there's a group of six (renewable) energy windmills. An even bigger windmill farm can be found at the south east of the city too. Ships are coming and going to the Zeebrugge port, in all sizes and shapes. The city has also got a marina with hundreds of sailboats. Write it down folks, restaurants around the marina are outstanding. One of them, called the Craeyenest, is a typical seaman's restaurant decorated with thousands of attributes and artifacts one usually finds in old wooden boats. There we enjoyed our best 'rosbeef' ever! With four different sauces and vegetables! 20 euro a person. A giveaway!

The city is served by train and the Coastal Tram that runs along the entire 60 km of the Belgian coastline up and down all day. Between Blankenberge and Zeebrugge there is a wildlife park made of dunes with a number of artificial lakes created for amateur fishing. On the other side of the main coastal highway there's plenty of attractions like Sealife and Sand Sculptures! The strand between the dunes and the sea extends during low tides to almost half a mile wide. While an unusually warm weather with splendid blue skies this last weekend, attracting flocks of one-day beach vacationers in the millions, and no car parking available in sight, you could still find plenty of spots for yourself and friends, isolated from any unwanted intruders and enjoy the privacy you desired. Simply amazing!

Outside the Casino plenty of bars and dancing's for nightlife escapades, to your heart's desire. As we were walking outside one of them on Sunday evening we heard some German pop-hits of the late sixties and early seventies and saw some retired couples waltzing to the music. Freddy Breck and Udo Jurgens stuff, if you know what I mean! Where has the time gone? "We should be dancing too in there" the spouse sez... I'm like, "I rather jump into my death off the Acropolis rocks"... Anyways!

If you go vacationing to any given place on this planet that is claiming the three S's (Sun-Sea-Sex), it won't come as a surprise to you if I told you that life really starts past 9 or 10 pm (even that is pretty early for outgoing Greeks and Spaniards). Not in Blankenberge though. Life stops at 10:30pm. Zeedijk deserted, a few lost dudes walking here and there, most restaurants closed, and maybe some bar with some nightlife guests still open, but you got to use a GPS to spot it. I just don't get it. This is July and the weather is splendid, for a change. Schools are closed and the place is supposed to be packed and boiling. Good ol' Belgian vacationers... having dinner at 7pm, going for a walk to digest the goodies by nine, and by ten in front of a flat screen TV or in bed, for sleep! OMG again! I gotta say though. These second residence apartments rock! They hardly miss a thing; however, mine misses one thing nonetheless, a broadband Internet connection, that is. For the rest, I'd be able to live there for longer than a week. Maybe a lifetime...

Plattekes? Bizzaringly yes... the city deserves better! Worth a visit? Abso-f*ckin'-lutely! Resto-food? Outstanding! Dimensionally better than 'De Haan', a bon-chic-bon-genre town with plenty of Porche-driving dudes around, a few miles down the coastline, south west of Blankenberge!

Enjoy my Blankenberge shots of my first three days there... BTW, the dark clouds are real... we got soaking wet yesterday Monday and today Tuesday. This is the usual July in Belgium! What else?

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