• Cindy Zampa

Week 50: Damme Gorgeous Portals

Acrylic painting of a paddleboat on canal in Damme, Belgium

We stayed in a lovely little Bed and Breakfast while visiting Bruges, Belgium. (See my last post, Week 49: Beautiful Bruges Portals.) The owner of the B&B made one of the best suggestions of the trip when he told us about a day trip we could take, by bike, from Bruges to Damme. Unlike the twists and turns of the cobbled lanes that caused us to become lost so many times in Bruges, the path to Damme is arrow straight. He reassured us, when he saw our skeptical faces upon hearing it is a 6 kilometre trek outside of Bruges, that it'd be an easy ride and it's impossible to get lost on the way.

He was right. Once outside of Bruges, the straight, flat path parallels the Damme Canal. Much of the trail passes through a fairy-tale like tunnel of trees, that seem to go on forever.

The tree-lined tunnel of trees along the Damme Canal

The countryside reminded us of the prairies in Canada, with its farmhouses, pastures, and wide-open spaces. Chunky cows and stocky horses cheered us on from the side-lines. We saw many swans on the sparkling, calm water in the canal, and we stopped several times to admire these gorgeous, graceful birds. A fully functioning windmill, that I later learned dates back to the year 1840, greeted us at the entrance to Damme. It was a magical, almost surreal experience.

A windmill greets visitors at the edge of Damme, Belgium

All of that came to a crashing halt, however, shortly after we crossed the bridge into Damme, from which I captured the idyllic image that you see in this week's painting.

I'd never seen a stork in real life before. I'd only seen pictures of them in storybooks I'd read to my children. Thus, when I saw a gigantic bird landing in its huge nest perched atop a chimney, I could not believe my eyes! I called out to my daughter, who was ahead of me, "Stop! Look at the size of that bird!" She stopped her bike but, because my eyes were still on the bird, I did not see how quickly she'd acted on my words. When I looked back at where I was headed, which was right into the back of my daughter's bike, I slammed on my brakes and swerved. This averted a collision, but resulted in catapulting my body over the handle bars of my bike. I landed, hard, onto the cobblestone sidewalk. From my position on the ground, I felt like I was passing through a dark, yet starry, tunnel. I shook my head, blinked hard, and the portal disappeared. I stayed still, while passersby gathered around me, peering down with concerned looks on their faces. Although I did require assistance to stand up, I was relatively unscathed, with just a few scrapes and bruises on my hands, wrists and one knee. It could have been so much worse, I realized, and was grateful to the kind people who'd stopped to help.

Quickly, I found my phone, relieved to see it was still intact after the crash. I began to take pictures of the bird, which I learned was a stork. It seemed to be watching the drama unfold below with a calm aloofness. As I was doing so, my husband and daughter replaced my bike chain. To be certain I was fully recovered and ready to continue our journey, we enjoyed a refreshing Belgian beer and shared some freshly made fries at the sidewalk cafe I'd fallen beside.

We began our return trip as the sun neared the horizon. It was just as beautiful as the trip out to Damme. All went smoothly, until we got lost in the heart of Bruges, trying to find our way back to our B&B..... but even that wasn't a problem, really. We just sat down at another sidewalk cafe and enjoyed yet another Belgian beer, while my daughter consulted her phone to find our way back.

Needless to say, we all slept soundly that night!

Stork in it's nest atop a chimney

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