cheese & beers; no rain & lots of rain.

steffi and me spent the last two weeks driving through the north-eastern part of france, the not-yet-split states of belgium, and the netherlands, in order to visit friends and formerly unknown people, cities and beaches, places where it looked nice “so we should just stop here and spend some time at this wonderful place”, belgian youth hostels, german bunkers and french parking lots. weather was good so we could even lie on the beach. we had lots of fun meeting with folks we hadn’t seen for some while now, drinking belgian beers and eating french cheese, and exploring the landscapes and beautiful cities. and driving through the city centre of brussels at rushhour was also… “impressive”.

1500 kilometres later i can say: sitting with pizza and wine at the beach at night, not knowing where you will be at the next day, is great. try that! you pay with the same currency everywhere, and there are no border controls – that is the part of the european idea that i really love. directly after passing the border to germany again we of course got stopped by civil policemen on the motorway, because the netherlands make it way too easy for germans to buy weapons and drugs that are illegal in germany, so they did a personal search on some of our bags and for example took a look under the foot mat beneath the driver’s seat (yeah, sure, if i smuggled drugs i’d definitely put them at the most obviously places, guys, next time i will put a paper there saying “no drugs and weapons at this place, please search somewhere else!”), but it only took about 10 minutes for them to realize that there’s nothing to hide (yes, this wasn’t the first time this happened to me :-).

after that incident i called my parents to announce that i planned to stay at their house for the upcoming night. i was told that a flooding warning for that area existed. my parents live near to a river that has an artificial lake and a dam a few kilometres up – this can be helpful, or pretty bad if the guy at the dam behaves like normal and “suddenly” realizes that the lake is full and has to emit a floodwave, like in 1998 (and sitting in a dark and cold room without light, telephone or a heating, after walking through water higher than your knees, makes you realize that your normal life is a gift). our house was flooded in 1946, 86 and 98. my 93yrs old grandmother told me that in 1946, it had been constantly raining for 8 days. they had brought the horses to a meadow up the hill early enough, and had had to put the pigs into the kitchen and the cattle on the corridor of our house. but though this time the amount of water was worse than in 86 or 98, things went different, because on our big meadow behind our house (and between our house and the river), a bypass road with a long tunnel is getting constructed, and the tunnel part is basically finished (i still wonder whether spending 70 million euros for a street in a town with 8000 habitants and 15000 cars a day makes sense, but anyway). it was a saturday afternoon, the situation was not yet critical, and (tip of the day:) if you ever want to start a war, then start it on a weekend, because nobody will be at any office. about 25 metres of the dam (protecting the construction site and a few houses like ours) were missing, because that’s the entrance area for the construction site. a few months back, we had been given three phone numbers by the construction company to call “in case of disaster or floodings”. of course in all cases, “the number you have called is temporarily not available”. the building authority of the city administration also wasn’t in the mood to act. so my parents called a friend who managed to organize two trucks filled with soil. then they broke into the construction site and set up a dam themselves. in the end, the tunnel was entirely flooded up to its ceiling” with all the equipment inside (like some dredgers), and parts of the town had to be evacuated because the big crane wasn’t considered to have a safe position anymore.

everytime someone had spoken to the construction company about potential floodings before, those smart asses knew(TM) that the tunnel is safe. so i cannot say that i don’t feel Schadenfreude – nothing happened to the house, and some folks have learned a lesson. (and it was impressive to walk around at the construction site at night, streaming water everywhere, and we had to yell to understand each other because of the watersound.)

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