Bacchus Fountain is one of my favorite statues along the Moselle of Luxembourg in Remich – the pearl of the Moselle indeed.
Bacchus Fountain is one of my favorite statues along the Moselle of Luxembourg in Remich – the pearl of the Moselle indeed.
Opening the gate to the rich culture and history of Belgium with Flemish regional delights as a key, is still a specific but overwhelming experience for me. ‘Paling in ’t Groen’ is one of Flemish dishes which attracted me first by its deep green color which suggests nature, environment, life, energy and plethora.
Actually, it’s not the first time deep green color either attracted me or surprised me like this. I remember discovering this particular green Crater Lake located in Ethiopia’s Rift Valley, carpeted with algae deep within a caldera, dotted with white and pink flamingos feasting on the green abundance, was the most soul brightening experience I had in the crater lakes heaven Debre Zeit (Bishoftu).
After pounding the cobblestones of Brugge, while immersing in a culture and working on an appetite, two attempts to discover the eel swimming in green sauce in one of the restaurants in Brugge memorably failed. The first attempt started with so much enthusiasm while discovering it on the menu and actually having it because not all or many restaurants serves this particular dish. I ordered it without any hesitation and waited with so much anticipation.
The pretty presentation of grilled eel on top of a drizzled bright green sauce with bit of golden brown butter oozed out of the sauce along with salad and Friet (Belgian Fries) gave me mix feeling as it was a surprise. Little bit disappointment sets in as I was looking forward the traditional way of eels in green sauce and maybe the waitress saw that little bit of a surprise on my face and asked if I need more green sauce. The eel was not well cooked so it was bit of struggle to separate it from its bone but I was rewarded with the green sauce which was delicious , which adds up even more curiosity to keep chasing the eel swimming in green river.
I don’t easily give up so in another trip to visit family in West Flanders and as always visiting Brugge, I made another attempt. After discovering the medieval postcard like city on foot from one museum to the other, admiring old buildings, visiting beautiful churches, shopping and stopping for hot chocolate and waffle or beer the day went by so quickly. We went to one of my husband’s favorite restaurant where locals frequent as the west Flanders being his home turf.
Beautifully set up, small wooden chairs and tables, the rustic feel with candle lights makes it so cozy, home like and romantic. The place is known for fondue and eel dishes so my choice was clear until the waitress told me so nicely unfortunately that they had everything but that on that day. We ordered another dish and had great time with good food and good wine which leads to a decision that I had to have this particular dish the classic Flemish way cooked by my Flanders husband at home with love.
My curiosity lead me to a little cook book with interesting title – Wat zit er in De Vlaamsche Pat (What’s in The Flemish Pot) – from my husband’s cook book collection. It is written in Dutch, so my husband had to translate, which is one of the opportunities everyday life presents to interracial couples to strengthening their bond I believe.
Love the story behind this dish even more than the recipe. Legend has it, this was one of the favorite dishes of Emperor Charles V. The very devout catholic Emperor insisted that 12 different kind of herbs being used in preparing the green sauce, 12 herbs representing each apostle – Mint, Parsley, springs of tarragon, Basil, Sage, Watercress, Chervil, Lemon balm, Sorrel, Bay leaf, Savory and Nettle (now replaced by Spinach).
It reminded me the sound of church bells which almost becomes a soundtrack for my traveling experience in European countries and everyday life while living in one. It also reminded me the scattered St. Mary statues accompanied with Jesus on the cross here and there almost in every village, typical Flanders house hold and even in vineyards in the Moselle region of Luxembourg.
Gathering the ingredients was a memorable experience by itself. Having great conversation about it during family visit in west Flanders with a family who loves cooking, laced the conversation with traditional tips and leads to the bountiful garden to collect the available herbs. A garden somewhere in west Flanders which is adorned with colorful flowers as well and one happens to be originally from Ethiopia like me.
Besides the herbs from the garden, as we always do every year we get to take home delicious apples, pears, berries and rhubarb with us. Every time we go back to visit family from neighboring country Luxembourg where we live, the return trip is usually with stuffed car from the trunk to the back seat with vegetables, fruits, homemade Flemish dishes, few things my husband strictly like to have from his home turf and of course things we couldn’t find in Luxembourg except Belgium.
The trip to the store and the shopping experience for the remaining herbs was not anything like grocery shopping as translating from Dutch to English either with my phone or my husband which is quite an experience by itself sometimes funny, frustrating but rewarding for an expat learning another culture. Finding eel was not that easy due to unavailability and being too expensive. We didn’t want to replace it with dogfish as it is becoming common thing to do these days so we went after frozen eels which turned out to be very good.
Flour coated pieces of silvery grey eels, slowly turning into golden brown while cooking in a butter. Adding finely cut shallot and then white wine and fish stock starts bringing out tantalizing aroma – the smell of cooking fish, caramelized onion, and bit of acidic smell from the wine. While the eels simmering slowly, pouching the greens in boiling water for seven minutes. Obviously, to retain the beautiful deep green color is important so putting the slightly cooked greens under cold water, adding Sorrel towards the end and replacing Nettle with spinach worked out perfectly.
Once the eels simmered down and cooked perfectly, seasoned with bit of salt and pepper, and adding the green sauce, drizzling lime and mixing it right before serving.
Experiencing subtle flavors from the green sauce – hint of grassy from parsley, freshness from the versatile mint, lemony from Sage, spicy from Basil, anise flavor from Chervil, peppery from Summer Savory and earthy from Spinach. Well citron and fish, fish and white wine, fish and green, fish and butter, green and butter makes up greenish, creamy, earthy and rich dish.
What makes it even more satisfying is the fact that it was spurred by memorable details emanated out of the process and of course Love!
A must-do experience!
I had a beautiful and heavenly experience at the Butterfly Garden in the Musel region of Luxembourg – Grevenmacher.
Here are the moments I am being able to capture through my lens.
Relish in nature!
My Ethiopian wanderlust takes me to Friet Museum (Belgian Fries), Beer and Chocolate museum in Brugge, Belgium and to Irish Whisky Museum in Dublin, Ireland – which interestingly leads to deep appreciation of every component that is making up the whole picture in history and culture of a particular country. And now the time has come to Wine. As a wine lover I grab the exiting opportunity life presents fanatically.
It’s a journey to honor a passion of tracing back to the source, to dive into culture and history, to caress the divine detail and to learn the art of life.
It’s a journey spurred from a cosmic urge of discovering Luxembourg via edible bucket list. The elegant dining scene of Luxembourg City presents from clear pale yellow to golden green mostly dry white wines – from direct flavor of Elbling to sweet Resiling. And the sparkling Crémant de Luxembourg – which I enjoy the most in one of the cafe’s around the atmospheric Place d’Armes – is the one which creates a unique and exciting experience of Luxembourg, with its crispy and refreshing sharpness which suggests summer and celebration.
The actualization of this wanderlust and to make it even more enjoyable I had to combine three of my favored leisure activities – walking, being in nature and of course traveling. Being one of my passions, I embarked up on an exciting adventure of discovering Luxembourg via different kinds of beautifully set up and well organized trails in different parts of the country.
Guide auto- pédestre Luxembourg 201 Circuits pédestres (201 circular walks) is the one I favored. For this particular thematic journey, I obviously picked the wine route (route du vie) in a region named after the river which cross through France, Germany and Luxembourg – Musel ( La Moselle in France).
Luxembourg’s Musel region is 20 k from Luxembourg City to southeast. The particular trail I picked is 5.3 Km – Short but Sweet – in Bech-Kleinmacher village near the Musel river of Luxembourg.
It’s a journey start at the tranquil, picturesque village – Bech – Kleinmacehr – on the banks of Luxembourg’s Musel valley, embraced by the impressive vineyard looking over the romantic Musel river of Luxembourg. The Gothic architecture of a church with noticeably pointed arch greets and paves the way to narrow allies of beautifully tranquil village which swiftly takes to the vineyards while admiring captivating winegrower’s houses.
Climbing the slope of Scheierbierg while rolling through the vineyard, is a thrilling experience as it is witnessing the art of farming and breathing soul cleansing sweet air. The orderly planted Grapevines is a symphony of order which inspires inner peace. I couldn’t help being able to contemplate and open my eyes to see the precious sweat, labor of love, dedication and patience put on the wide and endless it seem vineyard.
Deep green grape leaves and slowing ripening, bunch of hanging light green grapes suggests life, affluence, blessing, Jesus turning water to wine, good food, celebration and art of dining. The landscape created by human start to open the veils on every stage of the hill.Looking down the village through orderly standing grapevine plants leads to the pockets of scenes of the village. Looking up it leads the eyes straight to the blue sky on warm summer day of July. Getting higher while rolling through the vineyard, another impressive scenery presents itself – the pretty village being at the stage of the arena and the vineyard its spectators.
The trail includes two historical and cultural points of interest near the route. Gallo – Roman tomb is one of the vestiges of Roman Empire in Luxembourg.
This rebuilt funeral chamber of the roman was surrounded by different kinds of flowers and orchards. It takes climbing a stair to reach it and every step paved by the aroma of the flowers. The destination is as rewarding as it is topped with spectacular view over the village, Musel River and afar.
The circular walk takes back to where it started and before the end of the trail back at Bech – Kelmacher village awaits the very interesting “A Possen” Folklore and wine museum for a perfect finish of this beautiful wine trail.
Time to dive in the culture and history of the village winegrower’s life within the 17th century building where folklore made visible.
From old collection of dolls to impressive details of wine making and viticulture of the region. The rooms with squeaky wooden floor and musty smell with thoughtfully displayed everyday life actually takes its visitors back in time.
“Learning the art of Life is a bit like learning the art of wine. One sip at a time.” Sarah Ban Breathnach Romancing The ordinary, a year of simple splendour.
Cheers to the art of life!
One of the five distinctive habitats of the Bale national park, Gaysay Grassland is a suitable home to one of the distinctive animals and only the land of Ethiopia can flaunt to the world – the Mountain Nyala. Traversed by the Dodola road, surrounded by clustered of hills, embracing a magnificent mountain and bonding the two major rivers of the Bale Mountains. Gaysay grassland is the paradise of exotically wild aromatic herbs and colorful everlasting wild flowers, which not only attracts wildlife but humans as well for soul replenishment.
MEDIATIONAL & PICTURESQUE.
Trekking Day 1
After spending the night and had breakfast the next morning at one of Bale’s small town Robe, we got picked by a blue and white minivan taxi from the guest house we were staying by our tour operator. Armaye is a young and an aspiring tour operator whom we have been planning our trip with via email few weeks before the actual trip.
Meeting with Armaye in person was a great pleasure as he was very welcoming and humble and of course actual human interaction is sacred in every way. While having getting to know each other and the overall brief picture of our seven days trekking in the Bale Mountains conversation, we drove back to Dinsho where the head quarter of the park located for formalities. The head quarter located in a very nice woodland covered with different kinds of beautiful trees and where we camped before continuing to the second day trekking.
We got introduced to our tour guide – Mohammed. He is born and raised in Bale, very passionate about his home turf, nature and conservation. We got introduce with our cook as well, Idris whom appeared to be introvert but someone whom might open up slowly along the way.
Right after the introduction, Idris asked us what we want to have for lunch even though the options were limited which we knew and prepared ourselves for. We agreed with one typical dish of trekking in wilderness in Ethiopia – Maccaroni with canned tuna cooked in tomato sauce.
As we planned, the first day of seven day trekking started by walking to the Gaysay Grassland, a 20 – minute walk from Dinsho head quarter. It was a walk on an asphalted road through the small montane village Dinsho characterize by white and blue tuk tuk and minivan taxis, little shops, eateries and coffee places along each side of the road enliven with people and with unique and beautiful trees as backdrop.
We had our intro conversation with our tour guide for the next seven days trekking in Bale Mountains. We learned that Mohamed speaks three languages –Amharic (My native language which is in sematic language group), English and French and Afaan Oromo (Cushitic language group) being his native language.
We picked right away that we were in treat of a very rich experience with him. This is one of interesting details of traveling in my own country, which is a melting pot of different ethnic group, which makes a very rich and interesting journey in Ethiopia even for a native traveler.
The first word Mohamed taught us was how to say hello to the local people and we were so happy to say it as it was not that difficult even for my Belgian husband. Akkam is the one word which was strong enough to spark a smile and an eye contact with the locals when every time they heard us saying it to them along the journey through the Bale Mountains for seven days.
After the paved road we stepped in Gaysay Grassland.
It’s a tract of grassland on upper land of an altitude range from 3000 m – 3500 m above sea level, near to timberline for a splendid panoramic view and experience.
Its wide open space colored with the flora and fauna of gleaming golden grass, silvery grey Gold Cape ( Helichrysum Splendidum) and greenish Artmesia Afra ( African Wormwood). It’s decorated with fringe of greenish hills dotted with red from the flower of Hagenia abyssinica (African redwood). It’s a procreative landscape to induce powerful energy to rise from within.
Walking in Gaysay Grassland induces an intense feeling of how much little space we occupy in this world as it was hard not to contemplate the vast space and the magnificent hills we were surrounded by. Gaysay Grassland is a home to mount Gaysay (3,543m).
The sound of our footsteps on dry grass and bushes, wind and stream were more intensified for our sense of hearing. Sense of smell heightened by the aroma of different kinds of everlasting wild flowers and herbs.
As it’s a December trip in Bale Mountains, the one seasonal thing which was missing was the spectacular scene of Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia) plant which flowers from March – November. Red Hot Poker plant is the colorful signature of Gaysay Grassland and Bale Mountain regarding wildflower.
Every moment is different indeed as it would have created a different vibe and color of its own. Even though I had a beautiful experience to witness this colorful and exotic plant at Guassa Grassland where hills can be completely covered with the Red Hot Poker plant with colorful blossom at a certain time of year.
The Bale Mountains National Park is beautifully supports five different kinds of habitats, thus more than 1,300 species of flowering plants have been excavated in which 160 being Ethiopian endemic species and 23 which are distinctive to the park. One of more than 10 species of everlasting flower found in Bale.
The aromatic Artmesia Afra and the silvery Cape Gold lead us to the very handsome and endemic animal as being staple for the Mountain Nyala.
Gaysay Grassland is suitable home to this distinctive and unfortunately endangered animal which was the last to be found in 1970. It’s a place which provides a close up look of Mountain Nyala as close as 50 m.
Calves with their beautiful mother nurturing and grazing, young male with growing horn and spine mane fighting, and an older male –with notable white side spots, fully grown gracious horns and spine mane –usually alone browsing, are mesmerizing scenes to be witnessed at Gaysay Grassland.
The Bale Mountains is home to different kinds of animals like the endemic Menelik’s Bushbuck, Grey Duiker, Serval and Common Jackal which all can be viewed in Gaysay Grassland and we were fortunate enough to spot other animals which also lives in Gaysay Grassland –Bohor reedbuck, Warthog, Herd of Olive Baboon and Spotted Hyena.
Gaysay Grassland not only meddle to bring human and nature, it bridges two Bale rivers – Web River (Weyib River) and Danka River –on an impressive landscape. Besides being an eye vista, it provides an unusual experience of fly fishing of Brown and Rainbow Trout which travelled with British and being stocked in Kenya in the early 1900s and later found another African habitat in Ethiopia by being stocked in three of the Bale Mountains National Park’s rivers in 1960.
Waterfalls and streams induced a conversation about the fact that The Bale Mountains being the source of existence for over 12 million of people in the southeast Ethiopia even crossing the border to Northern Kenya and Somalia by proving water which rises from the Bale massif. 40 rivers rise in the Bale Mountain National park which empties into major rivers like Wabi Shabeelle and Jubba.
The local people has special and intimate connection with Gaysay Grassland as they revere the wild flowers and herbs for their medicinal value and the natural remedial water springs locally named as Hora. As we learned local people travel a long way to come here so that their cattle have a seep for overall good health and milk production.
As it is a dry season trip in the Bale Mountains which is from November – February, the average temperature of Gaysay Grassland during the day is 20 C. It was a warm and sunny day with extremely beautiful clear blue sky, so it was picture perfect to start the seven day trekking in Bale Mountains.
While heading back, we witnessed the upper land pushing the timberline via strangely but beautiful trees appearing here and there.
Back to the head quarter which is part of another Bale Mountain Habitat the woodland we, decide to spend sometime in the forest. During dry season the animals move from the Grassland to the woodland, so we get the chance to see the same animals back in the woodland which provided another beautiful scene.
The grassy forest bed within the woodland pave the way with the warming herbal aroma of the fallen leaf of the Hagenia Abyssinica tree which is another signature of the Bale Mountains. We were in treat as December and January is when the red spray of flowers of the tree blooms. Locally known as Koso, a mixture of dried flower of the tree traditionally used as remedy to combat tapeworm as Ethiopians love to eat raw meat.
It’s in this woodland the indigenous African rose –Rosa Abyssinica –can be found but unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to witness as it was not the right time of year.
St. John’s worth (Hypericum Perforatum) with its beautiful yellow flowers, attracting wildlife and supporting traditional beehives for a delicious Bale’s Honey is a throughout the year scenery. The short but sweet Dinsho trail with in the woodland topped with spectacular view over the mountainous village of Dinsho, Gaysay Grassland from afar and cluster of hills.
First Day Camping On The Roof Of Africa
We set up our tent on a ground which rises 3000 m above sea level, in the woodland hugged with trees and enliven with animal visits.
The temperature in Bale Mountains varies as its different kinds of habitats. Spending the night on the roof of Africa is part of the adventure and it’s where the weather can be one of the eloquent details of the backdrop – Sleeping in the clouds during wet season (April – October).
The lowest temperature recorded in Dinsho is – 6 c. During dry season (November – March) the days are warm, sunny and with clear blue sky as we witnessed but it can be very cold at night in which temperature can drop to – 15 c and usually with frosty grounds above 3000 m.
When the sun start to set in, we felt we were traveling through seasons – from Summer to Winter – and the transition was instant.