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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Assorted Adventures

Last weekend, we went to eat Turkish pizza with Brett's friend, Ilker, and his lovely wife.  Of course, they speak Turkish, Flemish, French and English.   There is a vibrant and busy Turkish neighborhood in Brussels. Ilker's extended family live in this neighborhood and they seem to know everyone.   I've always loved ethnic neighborhoods because it's like a vacation without taking a vacation and this neighborhood is an especially good example of that. 

Because Brussels is an officially bilingual city, street signs, most menus, and almost all store signs are in Flemish and French.  By the way, we found out from our cultural training teacher that Flemish and Dutch are the same language but are called by different names depending on where it is used.  There are some minor difference; the same as English in Georgia and English in California.  I always had my picture "taken" until I moved to Georgia where I had my picture "made."  Anyway, minor differences but essentially the same language.  But I digress.

In this neighborhood, stores signs, menus and everything else are only in Turkish and while stores close on Sunday in most of Brussels, stores are open on Sunday here because the population is largely Muslim.  The traffic which is always a little dodgy in Brussels is just plain crazy in these streets.  The medieval-built streets have parking on both sides and two-way traffic plus a tram and bus traffic.   We parked in an underground lot about half the size of our backyard in Lawrenceville with an incredibly narrow driveway.  I caught myself "sucking in" so the car would fit. 

  Turkish pizza is a long thin oval of very thin crust and different toppings (no pork, of course).  Mine was spinach and cheese.  It's served with shredded lettuce, onions and carrots and you top the pizza with the salad, fold it over and munch away.  There's also a hot sauce, a very hot sauce which Brett used and I didn't.  Then we went to a beautiful Turkish bakery for strong tea in beautiful little crystal glasses and assorted desserts--pistachio baklava and this amazing thing with sweet cheese, honey and shredded phylo all baked together.   Weight Watchers would not approve.

The French lessons are going pretty well.  It's tough to pull a language from the back of your brain  that you haven't used in 4 decades.  Brett seems to be picking it up effortlessly and everyone tells him what a beautiful French accent he has.  Nobody tells me that. 

But English is almost omnipresent.  We had to buy light fixtures for our house because they are not included.  After choosing some lights, we went to a counter to order them.  I said in French that I only spoke a little French when the cute and friendly salesman said "Any language you want." And then spoke to us in  very good English.  Polyglots everywhere.

It's so interesting to live someplace where everything is new.  We just found out that some beer and wine bottles should be returned for a refund instead of dropped into the "bottle silo".   Once we cracked the code, we found our local recycling place and took our returnable bottles, quite a number of them.  The bottle goes into a little port where it is spun around until the machine reads the codes and then whisks the bottle away.  The machine adds up the total and gives you a ticket to cash in for the refund.  Our garbage production is so minimal here--maybe half a bag per week--because the recycling system is so awesome.  Hey, USA, you listening??

This weekend, we are going to Berlin for 5 days.  Brett has meetings for 3 days so I get to stalk the many museums.  I've decided to put off any effort to diet until we return.  We have our tickets for our May trip to the United States. We'll be there the first two weeks in May.  We'll be in Scottsdale, Dallas and Lawrenceville and I can't wait to see everyone again.


  1. Your posts make me want to move back to Europe! I remember those pizzas and the tea and deserts you describe. Food is just so good there. What a great experience for you. I envy you. Kathy Nagy

  2. Thank you thank you thank you for the vicarious tour of the Turkish neighborhood in Brussels. Damn. I love this. Wish I was there. Can't wait till you come to Lawrenceville!