avec des cathédrales pour uniques montagnes
et de noirs clochers comme mâts de cocagne
où des diables en pierre décochent les nuages
avec le fil des jours pour unique voyage
et des chemins de pluie pour unique bonsoir
avec le vent d'ouest écoutez le vouloir
le plat pays qui est le mien
- jacques brel, le plat pays
unlike colin farrell who was afraid of having to spend eternity in bruges, the forces of destiny (or more precisely, my workload combined with the the occasional hiccups in the services of la société nationale des chemins de fer belges) seem to want to prevent me, not from the first time, from visiting bruges. so the eternal question of whether its a 'shithole' or a 'fucking fairytale' will have to remain unresolved for the time being.
so instead of wandering in the cobblestoned streets of bruges, sampling the gay beers or checking out the alcoves (not to mention some of the more extravagant activities apparently on offer there), i have been criss-crossing le plat pays by train, taking in the immense flatness of the landscape, the medieval villages huddled around medieval churches, the networks of canals, bridges and dykes, the lone monasteries and estate houses.
what i find striking especially in the netherlands, less so in laissez-faire belgium, is the stark geometricity which has been imposed on nature over the course of centuries and which also defines the parts of the cities which have been built since the war. clear lines, marked angles, monochrome colours. in the best cases, the result conveys a hyper-modernistic sense of transparency and lightness, in the worst cases its more like a bad acid trip in legoland.
speaking of bad acid trips, i was also hoping pay homage to the works of hieronymus bosch and pieter breughel the younger. alas, it was also not meant to be, but instead i did find an old statement by werner herzog which is highly appliccable to their works as well:
"es handelt sich hier um ungeheure, gültige metaphern. ich habe nur keine ahnung, wofür."