Ypres: An Emotional Journey Through Flanders Fields

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This very humbling journey, specifically took place in the west Flanders of Belgium, dotted with cemeteries and memorials – reminder of FIRST WORLD WAR. The obvious destination of this particular journey was Ypres, to be part of a humbling ceremony of the Last Post which has been sounded every evening since 1928 at the Menin memorial gate.

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The first stop was at Palingbeek Provincial Park to witness the temporary land art installation ComingWorldRememberMe by artist Koen Vanmechelen and curator Jan Moeyaert.

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The 600,000 small statues in the installation are a tribute to 600,000 victims of the FIRST WORLD WAR.  The art installation symbolizes the rebirth of a hopeful desire for a new and more peaceful world.

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The journey continued to Tyne Cot Memorial, which is the largest cemetery for common wealth force in the world. It’s the resting place of more than 11,900 soldiers of the British Empire from First World War in the Ypres Salient and memorial to the missing.

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It was one of those moments, when life presents a chance to stand on hallowed ground. It’s a moment of grace, which shines a light on the illusion of reality and reflects the ephemeral of life. It’s a moment which literally forces us to ask profound questions like who we really are and what really matters.

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“When death is denied, life loses its depth. The possibility of knowing who we are beyond names and form, the dimension of the transcendent, disappears from our lives because death is the opening into that dimension.”  Eckhart Tolle

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The last destination of this journey was Ieper (by its Flemish name).  It’s a beautiful medieval town, once the battle fields of Ypres Salient and now home to the eye grabbing Menin memorial gate.

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The gracious gate is a mausoleum that honors, by memorably inscribed names of 54,395 soldiers, who died in the Ypres Salient but whose bodies have never been found or identified on the wall.

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After visiting the main attractions of Ypres (Ieper), waiting patiently along with other visitors to attend the Last Post ceremony at 8 p.m. in one of the coffee shops around the gate probably a common and interesting scene to be witnessed at Ypres.

Once the reminiscent sound of the Last Post started, you cannot help experiencing a moment of grace freeing from the illusion of reality, to be aware of your own mortality, to be open enough to channel the energy of the healing power of redemptive death and to realize a cosmic urge of letting it guide your life on earth for a greater purpose.

At last, I would like to leave you once again with another profound quote from a book called Stillness Speaks  by Eckhart Tolle “To every accident and disaster there is a potentially redemptive dimension that we are usually unaware of.”

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Awareness and peace to the world.

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Grietfilet and Dame Blanche In West Flanders

food and memoir

The Dutch word Grietfilet which simply means Brill fillet but for me it’s a reminder of how living my life in different and interesting places can be a very humbling experience – from figuring out what’s on the menu to learning how to order food from a scratch because it’s different language and things work differently from place to place.

Food is an experience indeed and usually the meal we have comes with interesting stories which is going to turn into memories if we are present enough to honor the details and savor the meal.

künefe obviously reminds me Istanbul (Turkey) as Tiramisu can take me back to Venice (Italy). Well in Belgium I usually tend to go for La Dame Blanche as it’s a classic Belgian dessert which usually reminds me that I am in chocolate world because of its special warm chocolate sauce served with Vanilla ice cream and whipped cream to be drizzled up on.

On one sunny but chilly and windy Autumn Sunday afternoon, a family gathered in a local restaurant with private dining party rooms in Zuienkerke – the municipality of four villages in west Flanders – to celebrate 50th marriage anniversary. The home feel like cozy restaurant with big beautiful garden is where locals not only wine and dine but celebrate big occasions like marriage or birthday with family and friends and goes by the name of De Grote Stove (The Big Stove).

Besides children, grandchildren and in-laws, the Mayor of the municipality honored the ceremony by reading short overview of how these two souls meet somewhere a nearby Brugge (Bruges) and their journey together so far to reach this monumental golden year of marriage.

Obviously food is a powerful key to connect people, the family gather in one big dining table to share a meal in celebration of love somewhere in West Flanders and this is when Grietfilet happened to be on my table and forever to be remembered.

The flatfish with dark brown skin cooked to perfection to savor its white, creamy and sweet underside with a good bite of its firm texture. The savory sauce with hand peeled Belgian grey shrimps and mushroom takes this dish to the next level. The comforting and creamy mash potato definitely complemented this divine experience of this particular meal energized with beautiful memories and good times with family.

And this is a tribute to Food and Memories.

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Ethiopia: A Memorable Detail Of Addis Ababa

This is a photo essay, pictures picked from my Addis Ababa Home Turf album, under the theme

“Garment Making in Addis Ababa”.

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Addis Ababa – charismatic, colorful and full of surprises.

 

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Italy: Ethiopian Wanderer In Venice

Few days before the flooding in Venice happened, I was wandering around in this full of character and memorable city.  And this is how I remember Venezia (Venice).

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Veurne: The Beautiful Market Square Of Belgium

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It was lovey to discover one of the most beautiful market squares of Belgium in relaxed Veurne. The market square (Grote Markt in Flemish) is so captivating, as it is surrounded by impressive postcard like buildings.

Here besides church bells, the sound that comes from the Belfry imprint musical memories in the heart. The surrounding coffee shops and restaurants within beautiful buildings are so inviting to sit and admire the square while seeping hot chocolate or beer at the terrace.

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It was in the morning, so I ordered chocolate milk as I usually do in Belgium. I wanted to have hot chocolate with shot of coffee which I had in one of the cafe’s in Brugge (Bruges), absolutely loved it but slowly realize not all the cafe’s serve hot chocolate like that.

After having a conversation about my preference with the waitress, I finally decide to have the chocolate milk and espresso separately. I didn’t know what to expect besides the facts I learned that Veurne is the place for foodies, quality products and of course Chocolate and Belgium is a marriage made in heaven.

Unlike previous experience, this time I got little balls of dark chocolate, milk and whipped cream separately, and the espresso accompanied with little pastry filled with beautiful golden yellow Advocaat – a traditional Dutch alcoholic beverage. Besides being small, its eye grabbing color, the strong taste in spite of being creamy in combination with little crunchy pastry, it was strong enough to awaken the senses and I thought how traveling can be a very humbling experience while continue learning.

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Actually, the yellow smiley little pot with one of my favorite plants on the table also helped to brighten up the day and maybe that’s one of the reasons which influenced my decision to pick the cafe in the first place and it was worth it as I had great time making my own hot chocolate in one of the most beautiful market squares in Belgium with great views of impressive buildings and having the Belfry melody as a sound track of this beautiful experience.

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Admiring Veurne’s marvelous building and relish in architecture from old court of justice (Landhuis/Gerechtshof), belfry (Belfort), town hall to the 15th– century Spanish Pavilion. And visiting two beautiful churches like the magnificent and lavishly decorated Sint Walburga Church and the simply beautiful Sint-Niklaaskerk church  adds to the charm.

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On top of its very own culture and history, Veurne paves the way beautifully to charming villages nearby like Beauvoorde, Lo-Reninge and Alveringem.

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Since I wanted to continue with relishing in architecture and history, I Picked Beauvoorde as it is a home to Beauvoorde Castle.

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History, culture and beautiful architecture all to be enjoyed in Veurne.

 

 

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Yumm: Europe’s Culinary Food Festival

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Yumm Festival Kirchberg took place at the ultramodern side of Luxembourg on the plateau of Kirchberg. Place de l’Europe surrounded by trendy buildings of Kirchberg which houses, European Convention Center Luxembourg (ECCL) and the Philharmonie Luxembourg to name the few.

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Five food trucks was elected to participate on this event, to present the culinary culture and diversity of Europe – Kitchen box by so food unlimited from Luxembourg, L’échappée belle representing France, Bammm BQ & Rotisserie representing Germany, Nina Nina representing Belgium and Cravin Cajun’s representing Netherlands – giving a chance for people to eat and vote as they were competing for YUMM Festival Kirchberg Public Choice Award.

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Obviously food festival wouldn’t be complete without drink so the non-competing Birrabus from Italy providing crafts beer in an eye grabbing yellow truck and a wine bar little stall by La Table du Belvédère providing superb wins.

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My Ethiopian Gastronomic Journey

The colorful setting of L’échappée belle food truck representing France was inviting so I started my Europe’s culinary exploration there. As Raviolis was their specialty, I went for Royans Ravioli (Ravioli, Smoked trout, with walnut oil). The stuffed pasta with cheese and parsley was so tender while melting to a surprise of rich Parmesan cheese. The walnut oil gives it a rich nutty flavor and get the crunchiness from pieces of walnuts sprinkled on top along with the freshness of parsley. Burst of flavor and saltiness from the smoked trout.

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To add more character to this dining experience I paired it with Luxembourg’s Riesling white wine from the wine bar stall next to it and turned out to be a memorable European cuisine exploration. The light golden Riesling white wine besides being light and slightly sweet, it took me to on a memory lane of exploring endless vineyards of the Moselle region of Luxembourg. 

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Continued to the all-black food truck by the kitchen box of So Food Unlimited from Luxembourg. Burger was their specialty and I went for So Pepper which is 100% beef, emmental caves cheese, fried onion, arugula, ketchup and homemade pepper sauce. As an Ethiopian with so much tolerance of heat regarding food due to the culinary culture of Ethiopia – spicy, savory and earthy – I usually tend to go for hot and spicy and living in Europe this is one of the things I miss so much from home. Though from previous experiences, now I know what to expect regarding heat due to cultural difference but still the sound of So Pepper resonated with my soul.

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Living in Luxembourg and traveling to neighboring countries, my Ethiopian gastronomic journey is making me to see the influence of Belgium, France and Germany on its local cuisine. So the burger was hearty as a German dish would be. The mild homemade pepper sauce gives it little bit of kick and sweetness from the ketchup and fried onion. Loved the way my taste bud surprised by the fresh, herbaceous and peppery flavor of Arugula. Pared it with fresh fries with homemade mayonnaise a good reminder of Belgian Fries – perfectly crisp and richly flavorful.

Moving to food truck representing Belgium – Nina Nina. In spite of the fact I should go for the Burger as my little background research of this food truck suggested, rather I followed my guts and went for Noisettes de parmesan et sa mayonnaise Truffée (Parmesan Hazelnuts as the French word Noisette means hazelnut) – which is small balls of cheese size of a big nut, slightly fried pared with homemade truffle mayonnaise. The golden brown balls has a crunchy crust and a soft body of cheese which is savory and rich. The Truffle mayonnaise had distinctive flavor of slightly garlicky due to the black truffle which suggests autumn.

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Finally a food truck representing Germany – Bammm BQ & Rotisserie. I went for the Pulled Beef with traditional German potato pancake which reminded me Christmas market in Trier, Germany and Luxembourg and Schueberfouer in Luxembourg. The slow cooked shredded beef simply savory and melts away. Freshness comes from raw vegetable mix underneath. The crispy and savory potato pancake adds up for this hearty dish.

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Well this very interesting culinary journey through Europe via the Yumm food festival Kirchberg in Luxembourg City was being enhanced with good music as a memorable soundtrack for my experience and my Ethiopian gastronomic journey will continue as I believe Food is deliciously edible cultural experience.

 

 

 

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Nostalgia: Damera In The Neighborhood Of Addis Ababa

To commemorate beautiful memories of traditional celebrations in Ethiopia – Damera.

Happy Holiday!

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