It had been announced, snow …. By weathermen and snow-crazy correspondents alike. So expectations were high when I rode out on my bike in the morning.
The park seemed particularly still, the sky particularly grey & expectant. And yes, after a brief feint outbreak of the sun, the world suddenly grew dark and filled up with a mixture of sleet and snow. Ah – the exhilaration of it – being immersed in this dizzying and lacerating sleet.
Then, out of the park, back among the traffic, peering through misty glasses into a hazy world with twirling flocks, trailing red tail-lights, refracting yellow head lights. Around me, the swooshy sound of cars slowly driving through melting snow. Feeling cold water seeping into my shoes, trickling down my neck, mouth & nose watering from intrusive icy flocks.
I’m elated when I get home, feeling so very smug & cozy when I can change into dry clothes and bask in the domestic warmth.
And who knows why, around noon, I formed the firm & crazy resolve that on this fine day I would not take weather-proof public transport to go to that exhibition in the castle of Gaasbeek. Nope I would go there by bike – some 16 km into the country, in unknown territory, with weather forecasts unwaveringly bad.
So after lunch, with a childish sense of adventure, I gleefully set out on my bike, duly wrapped & buttoned up against the raging elements.
The hardest part was getting out of the city – pedaling through murky neighborhoods, along car-infested highways, through post-industrial nowhere areas….
But then at last hitting indeed a country road – aptly called “Postweg” . Riding through villages and along wet fields planted with mysterious crops. On some farm-houses there are handwritten posters with solemn announcements - “witloof uit diepe grond”/”chicory from deep out of the ground” – “aardappelen van ‘t veld”/”potatoes from the field” . And on and on I pedal – every once in a while checking maps at bus-stops to monitor my advance in the right direction.
After some hesitation on a crossroads, while it starts icely raining again – I firmly take a right turn, and lo & behold, there is the park surrounding the castle of Gaasbeek.
Obviously, on this fine November day, not too many visitors are thronging at the entry. The woman at the ticket-counter is solicitous & friendly – offering to take care of my helmet & other biking paraphernalia. Insisting that I take a reduced price entry ticket, even after having ascertained that I did not belong to any of the many reduction-qualifying groups.
The castle & the exhibition deserve better than a bantering post. Suffice it to say that the exhibit wanted to celebrate with contemporary art works the last lady of the castle, a scintillating woman of taste & smartness and with many fascinating personas (bourgeois, aristocratic, connoisseur & collectioneur, subversive, artistic, ...).
Suffice it also to say that I loved wandering through this labyrintic castle with both ancient cultural artifacts and startling, imaginative contemporary tributes to this headstrong woman.
And the last thing that it is sufficient to say is that this castle managed to play upon the whole range of childhood-castle associations: from shivering gloomy corridors over grand dining rooms to winding staircases up mysterious towers.
It’s getting dark when I get back at my bike in the court yard. The woman-of-the ticket-counter is standing outside, looking probingly to the sky. That’s a lot of snow coming this way, she remarks , pointing out heavy clouds at the horizon. You could wait here till that snow-storm has passed by.
Then she grins , but I guess you want to be in it.
How right she was, of course a snow storm had been part of the plan all along.