twenty – amsterdam – navigandum per hereditatem

Last day before Allegra’s departure! According to the plans we were supposed to go to Floriade, an international gardening exhibition held every ten years in the Netherlands in locations that change from edition to edition. Unfortunately, however, the plans were overturned by an unexpected setback. This morning Allegra woke up with a severe leg cramp and, after calling Gloria to her rescue, lost consciousness. The strangeness of the event startled us. Gloria immediately sought help by calling for help at the port. After we calmed down, we followed medical advice and went to the hospital.

In the emergency room, doctors did some assessment and concluded that it was syncope. Somewhat more reassured, we returned to the boat where we had a nice tomato pasta lunch. We then spent the afternoon quietly aboard Tethys and among Moses’ cuddles. We devoted ourselves to our creative project, listened to music and drank herbal teas. We relaxed and tried not to fret about what had happened in the morning.

It was a good time when we took stock of all the encounters, places, museums that filled our adventure. Here are some of our best memories!




nineteen – beemster – navigandum per hereditatem

The sky is blue, autumn is beginning to color the trees, and the sun is shining high. We could not have hoped for better weather for our rural adventure among the Beemster fields. We took a train with our bikes in order to ride back and forth. After few minutes cycling, we got in front of the old fort, which was once part of Amsterdam’s Defense Line. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been transformed into an eco-chic resort called Fort Resort Beemster. The former military building is now an oasis of hospitality and serenity, blending heritage with contemporary design.

The history of Beemster

We followed our cycle journey towards the information center where we found Jos Dings, former alderman at Beemster municipality. He kindly explained to us Beemster history and illustrated the changes in ancient maps. The Beemster polder represents unique landscapes, demonstrating the great skill of the Dutch in water management over the centuries. In the period before reclamation, water had broken many lives by destroying the dikes. Then a group of wealthy lords from the East India Company presented the plan to reclaim these territories. Historically a lake, the Beemster polder was first drained in 1609. The dam, however, did not withstand a storm surge. So land reclamation had to be resumed from the beginning. It was not completed until 1612, thanks to the use of 43 mills. Later water from the inner Schermeer Lake was also pumped and extracted. They employed 53 mills, resulting in the Schermer polder. Countryside at 3.5 m below sea level was transformed, cultivated and populated in the following centuries.The land, obtained by reclamation, was leased to farmers and cattle breeders. Wealthy merchants built imposing houses and country residences there. The project was architected in a geometric scheme. For a long time it was the windmills that had to ensure that the inhabitants did not run into danger and that the water levels were suitable for the cultivation of the land.


In the late 19th century the windmills were replaced by steam-powered pumping stations, and later still by diesel and electric pumps. Today the Beemster is divided into more than fifty sections, each with its own water level control. Farmers need a low water level under their land, while villagers want a high level to keep the piles under their houses from rotting. The ideal water level for livestock farmers is in the middle, while environmentalists have made their own demands. In the past, water was pumped out only to prevent flooding, but today, in times of drought, water is also pumped into the Beemster. This is possible because the IJsselmeer, the former Zuiderzee, now contains fresh quality water suitable for agriculture.
In 1999, the Beemster polder was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Currently, the Beemster does not consist solely of agricultural land. It includes pastures for dairy production, greenhouses for horticulture, orchards and 200 hectares reserved for tulip cultivation. Viewed from above, one notices the geometric pattern of pure squares of land, cut by canals.

Delicacies from Beemster

Not far from the information center was Beemster Church, where we found kind ladies who escorted us to the top of the steeple. From up there we admired a breathtaking view of such an unusually geometric passage. Once back down, we admired a hidden room in the church decorated with classic Dutch pottery with blue and white figures. The room contained the ancient footstools under which a small fire was placed to warm the bodies of the worshippers during winter prayers.
By now it was lunchtime and we gave in to the temptation to try the very famous beemster cheese. Beemster cheese is a hard cow’s milk cheese. Beemster is made in the same way as other hard cheeses such as Gouda. Beemster’s distinct flavor is due to the ingredients (milk from grass grown on sea-clay in a polder 4 meters below sea level), the fact that part of the production process (curd stirring) is done by hand, and the cheeses are ripened in changing conditions.

Refreshed and rested, we resumed our bicycle route passing through crops, pastures, pumpkin vendors and wonderful sloping-roofed houses. The roof of these houses is typically made of thatch. A totally environmentally friendly material, thatch gives the roofs high thermal insulation power, protecting them from even the heaviest rains. Over time, moreover, straw loses its original golden color to take on an elegant gray hue.


An artistic surprise

Later, we reached De Rijp, which has been called ’Holland’s most beautiful village’. Herring fishing and whaling brought prosperity in the 17th century, resulting in the construction of beautiful town halls, warehouses, houses, and churches.  Our tour among the mills and cows continued until we happened upon the old elementary school recently purchased and renovated by Wil van Blokland. She is an extraordinary artist who works primarily with ceramics. In this wonderful space she decided to create her studio and exhibition space where she welcomes artists from all over the world. Wil showed us her artwork that we were so strongly attracted to that we purchased small pieces from the porcelain potatoes collection. 

Ecstatic with this day full of new historical, naturalistic, and artistic discoveries, we set off home for a warm dinner on board!


eighteen – amsterdam – navigandum per hereditatem

Luckily, Tetide gave some technical problems in the Dutch capital, which is always a pleasure to visit for a few more days. The day was divided into mechanical attempts at repair by Gloria, who thanks to her technical skills knows where to put her hands, and museums and neighborhoods outside the center for Allegra.

Christians and Protestants

The first daily destination was Our Lord in the Attic Museum, a rare and well-preserved 17th-century canal house. Narrow corridors and stairs lead to historically decorated living quarters, kitchens, and bedsteads, culminating in the museum’s literal highlight: a complete church in the attic. Jan Hartman, a wealthy Catholic merchant, commissioned the attic church, which was dedicated in 1663.
A Protestant city government is in power while Hartman and his family live in the canal house. It is illegal to practice the Catholic faith in public. Former Catholic churches and monasteries have been confiscated and converted to Protestant worship. Catholics must seek alternatives and celebrate Mass in hidden house churches from now on. The city government tolerates this because the principle of freedom of conscience applies in the Republic of the Netherlands! Everyone is free to think and believe whatever they want behind the front door. This created an unusually tolerant environment in which different religious groups could coexist and work together in the city. The attic church has a seating capacity of 150 people. Worshippers enter the church through a small alley door called Heintje Hoekssteeg. They then ascend the stairs to the church in the attic. The Baroque altar is the crowning achievement of the attic church. It is flanked by two marbled columns adorned with putti holding lilies. The wooden carvings from the eighteenth century are actually candleholders. The pedestal of the left altar column serves a dual purpose: it folds out to reveal a mahogany pulpit, saving space.
Visiting Our Lord in the Attic Museum was an interesting experience not only to immerse us into an ancient reality, but also to understand the practical consequences of religious schism in The Netherlands. 


De Pijp, a bohémien district

The second stop was Albert Cuyp market, Amsterdam’s most famous and busiest market. It is located in the heart of the De Pijp district. Everything is for sale! Cuyp’s open-air market has retained its original atmosphere and is a great place to sample specialties of Dutch cuisine, such as raw herring sandwiches or fries covered in tasty dips, and to receive a glimpse of the 170 peoples living in Amsterdam thanks to the exotic and rare products for sale. Opened in 1905, the Cuyp market is open Monday through Saturday. The stalls, which line one after the other on both sides of Albert Cuyp street, have the cheapest prices in Amsterdam. The walk continued in the neighborhood of De Pijp. One of Amsterdam’s most vibrant and cosmopolitan areas, located right in the southern part of the Dutch capital. Born as a working-class neighborhood to alleviate the overpopulation of the Joordan district, De Pijp is now a melting pot of different cultures and nationalities.


Round and round 

After eating a sandwich in park in the district, Allegra went to another park: Vondelpark, which with its 45 hectares is Amsterdam’s main green lung. In 1864, some distinguished citizens, fascinated by the idea of having a park in which they could recreate or ride horses, decided to entrust the project to architect L. D. Zocher. Originally the park was located in a rather marginal area of the city, but today it is located in the center of town. In this immense green space there are more than 130 varieties of trees and plants but also carpets of English lawns, flowers, ponds with ducks and swans, bicycle paths, a music kiosk and a white pavilion that make Vondelpark one of the most charming and splendid places in all of Amsterdam. Allegra randomly bumped into a work by Pablo Picasso, the sculpture “Figure découpée l’Oiseau” in the shape of a bird found near the small lake. The Catalan artist decided to donate it to the city of Amsterdam in 1965 on the occasion of the park’s centenary.

The last district to visit was Oud West, a triangular area located west of centrum and surrounded by greenery. For sure, the most vibrant neighborhood: the main streets were full of special caffe, pubs and shops. Each of them was characterized by a unique identity. In addition to that, on the sidewalk there were many stalls offering painting activities for children, appetizers with oysters and champagne, handmade hats and live music. It was really magic because the perception was to pass by a very innovative and proactive district populated by Amsterdam inhabitants.
Amsterdam is magic and makes us fall in love with it !


seventeen – amsterdam – navigandum per hereditatem

Change of plan

Not every morning starts in the best way. Unfortunately, today’s day brought us some trouble right from the start. Our plan was to leave Amsterdam and head for Leiden by crossing the inner canals. To do this we would have had to leave at night because there are railroad bridges that open only at 3 and 4 a.m. Before leaving, however, it was necessary to take back and reassemble the engine component that had been fixed by the mechanic. Gloria immediately tried her hand at reassembling the parts and tried to access the engine to see if there were still water leaks. Unfortunately, a few drops still gushed out, but this time from the hose instead of the pump. Moreover, after a few attempts to start the engine, there was a strange noise of stuck gears and a burning smell. Immediately Gloria stopped the attempts and contacted an experienced mechanism from Italy who suggested step by step what to do to figure out the cause of the problem. The situation is more complicated than expected. Maybe it’s the batteries, maybe it’s the battery charger, or maybe it’s the starter motor. Hard to tell. 

The Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

After a long and agitated morning, we understand that we had to wait and that we are unlikely to be able to sail in the next few days. We decide, therefore, to break away for a while, have lunch, and go for a walk around downtown. Our afternoon is once again absorbed in artistic discoveries, this time in the field of photography at the Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam (FOAM). As soon as we started visiting we bumped into “Blessings from Mousganistan”, an exhibition by self-taught photographer Mous Lamrabat (Morocco, 1983). Lamrabat’s work is characterized by beauty and a sense of hope. His work is an exhilarating and occasionally confronting fusion of his diasporic life, employing beauty and humour to create powerful new narratives about sensitive issues such as racism, religion, and women’s rights. The artist conveys a message of love through a colorful and eclectic visual experience in Blessings from Mousganistan.


But the most interesting part was exhibited at the first floor. The group exhibition is entitled Foam Talent 2022 and presents the work of a new generation of artists. The 20 participating artists examine both the world around us and the one within – without fear of discomfort or pain. Climate change, political conflict, discrimination, displacement, and social justice issues are addressed in the works, which remind us that photography has the ability to capture the unspeakable. One of the artists that impressed us the most is Yushi Lii. Moving deftly between vulnerability and quiet violence, so the work of Yushi Li holds the viewer in its thrall. Her gaze falls ipon contemporary masculinity, desire and eroticism, as well as the often-unspoken awkwardness of a potentially sexual encounter. 

But what we liked the most was Kata Geibl’s masterpiece, “There Is Nothing New Under The Sun”. In this monograph she interrogates the rampant individualism that underpins our contemporary social, political and economic system and how capitalist ideology infiltrates our consciousness. She brings this to life by means of photographs, quotations, critical theory, personal essays and cultural references. The book invites the viewer on a journey of immense existential questioning as we confront what it means to be human in this moment. There are no easy answers, just an impulse to unsettle establishing narratives, expose the underlying ideology and metabolize the chaos all in the spirit of transformation.
Reading and looking at her images and words was a mental journey that we will not forget easily. He felt so lucky because we had a chance to take two of her photographs directly from the exhibition wall. 

Typical Dutch dinner

Once again, art has used its super powers to elevate our mood. So, happy and content, we returned to the boat, took a quick shower and then took our bikes back to the typical Dutch restaurant where some of Allegra’s university classmates were waiting for us. The restaurant’s name is ’t Zwaantje, instead of tablecloths there are thick Dutch carpets, there are copper pots hanging from the ceiling and dim lights reminiscent of candle lighting.
How nice to get together in such a typical setting! after sitting down at the table, we immediately began to tell the boys about our trip and adventures. Only after a while did we remember to order! We tried many different specialties such as “Saté van varkenshaas met pindasaus”, which is sate of pork tenderloin with peanut sauce, and “Kip in ’t pannetje”, which is chicken in a pan. And of course, we had a lot of Dutch fries!

sixteen – brussels – navigandum per hereditatem

Looking for Art Nouveau houses

One of the first things Anna, the lady who hosted us in Brussels, showed us was a wonderful book with beautiful illustrations of the city at the turn of the last century before splendid 18th-century buildings were demolished and when Art Nouveau was at its peak. Therefore, we could not resist following a short itinerary in search of some of the masterpieces of the artist and architect Horta. A forerunner of Art Nouveau, Horta revolutionized the way people conceived of dwelling buildings, broadening the architect’s task from the design of spaces, interior and exterior, to a conception that also included the study and implementation of lighting, furniture, wall decoration, even objects. According to the definition of one of his admirers, French architect Hector Guimard, Horta was an “artist architect” who conceived of the home as a “total” work of art, like a “shell” built around its owner. We were so curious that we read a lot of information while walking from one house to another.

«To each epoch, its art. To art, its freedom.» 

This motto, displayed on the frontage of J.M. Olbrich’s Secession House in Vienna in 1898, reflects the desire to which Art Nouveau was a response: the desire to break away from imitating styles of the past, to develop an art that reflected the sensitivities and way of life of a particular society, the extreme individuality of the artist dreaming of inventing an original language that would ensure the absolute harmony of life’s ornamentation. With its newly acquired wealth in commercial or industrial enterprises, the private home became the framework for an aesthetic experience for a new middle class. Art Nouveau was thus adopted by progressive individuals who sought to assert their modernity before it became widespread across all social classes or a passing fad. Images in decorative arts magazines and in commerce (department stores or magasins d’art) spread the word.

Our favorite house was Saint-Cyr house, one of the most extravagant Art Nouveau achievements. It was built by Victor Horta’s protégé, architect Gustave Strauven. Between 1901 and 1903, he built and designed this house for the painter George Saint-Cyr. The four-meter-wide narrow façade is rich in delicately crafted ironwork. The circular loggia surmounted by a wrought iron gable in Baroque style is one of the most stunning elements of the façade. The house has a fairy-tale atmosphere thanks to the architectural twist and ornamentation.


A coffee with the Italian Ambassador

After this amazing walking, we took the underground to get to the Italian Embassy in Brussels. We were so honored and grateful to be welcomed there. It was a great thrill to dialogue with Ambassador Francesco Genuardi, tell him about our project and answer his questions. In addition, we had the opportunity to ask more about his work and what it means to represent Italy in a country of central importance for European purposes, such as Belgium. The ambassador explained to us his role in connecting Belgian and Italian instances from both economic and political and cultural perspectives. We were positively impressed by his openness to citizenship and youth initiatives. 


It’s time to leave Belgium

Unfortunately, time ran out in Brussels and we had to head to the bus station where with some difficulty we found our Blablabus waiting for us to leave. Before reaching our destination, which is Amsterdam, we passed through Rotterdam, a city we did not know and were dazzled by as we peered out of the windows. During the long bus ride, we rested and used the time to post social content about the wonderful days in Belgium. 

Once we arrived in Amsterdam we ran into the doors to greet Moses the cat who patiently waited for us during these days away. Just enough time to unpack and then we got right to work preparing a small aperitif for Door Mariam and her boyfriend. Door Mariam studies in Groningen as Gloria and writes for the online newspaper Ukrant. Interested in our project she asked us for an interview. It was an in-depth and extremely pleasant conversation. It was an opportunity to focus on all the activities we had copied over the past weeks and reflect on them. After letting them taste some Italian amaro, we said our goodbyes and sank into bed to give ourselves a great rest!

fifteen – brussels – navigandum per hereditatem

“La grande force de défense, c’est l’amour qui engage les amants dans un monde enchanté fait exactement à leur mesure et qui est défendre admirablement par l’isolement” – Renè Magritte.

Surrealism for breakfast!

This morning we woke up poetic and thirsty for art, so we decided to devote our morning to visiting one of the city’s most important collections, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique. We started visiting the Magritte Museum, which not only holds the largest collection of works by the famous Belgian Surrealist but also the most important collection of works from Magritte’s “vache” period. In addition to numerous world-famous paintings in typical Magritte style, we also discovered works from his less well-known periods. For instance, we expanded our knowledge about the advertising collaborations the artist has made throughout his career to support himself. One of Magritte’s masterpieces that surprised us the most was the “Empire of Light”. A nighttime street scene is set against a pastel-blue, light-drenched sky dotted with fluffy cumulus clouds. René Magritte upends a fundamental organizing premise of life with no fantastic element other than the single paradoxical combination of day and night. Sunlight, which is normally associated with clarity, causes the confusion and unease that is traditionally associated with darkness. The brightness of the sky becomes unsettling, making the empty darkness below appear even more impenetrable than it would in a normal situation. The strange subject is treated in an impersonal, precise style that is typical of veristic Surrealist painting and that Magritte has preferred since the mid-1920s.


A journey into the last century

Once we concluded Magritte collection, we dove into the astonishing Musée Fin-de-Siècle. The Fin-de-Siècle Museum is dedicated to the 1900s, when Brussels, Europe’s capital, was a unique artistic crossroads and Art Nouveau’s capital. Paintings, drawings, watercolours, prints, sculptures, photographs, films, models, and decorative objets d’art can be found in this cultural history sanctuary. Ensor, Khnopff, Spilliaert, Horta, Rodin, Gauguin, Mucha, Bonnard,…: more than 30 major artists are honored at the Fin-de-Siècle Museum! Plunged into the heart of the effervescent atmosphere of Brussels 1900, we discovered a range of artistic currents, from impressionism to Art Nouveau, and different disciplines, from fine arts to opera.

We were impressed by a wonderful oil painting by Post-Impressionist painter Pierre Bonnard. The title is “Nude Against the Light”, also known as “Backlit Nude” (in French: “Nu à contre-jour”). Marthe de Mrigny, the artist’s naked model and partner, is shown in the work applying eau de Cologne after a bath in a tub. She is silhouetted against the window light, which fills the room with bright warm shadowless light and color. The bather is reflected in a mirror, which is a recurring motif in Bonnard’s work. Another amazing painting that dazzled us is “Dimanche après-midi” by Gustave Van de Woestyne. Gustave organized his life and art around deep philosophical reflections. Even at a young age he was very concerned with existential questions, which were quickly amplified by religion. The artist made several attempts to lead a clerical life, but he was too driven by creative desire to devote his existence exclusively to the church. Instead, he understood the pictorial palette as a tool to spread the word of God by deploying subtle earthy colors to represent Catholic values such as simplicity and humility, love of God, respect for all creatures, human suffering, and hope. The artist embodied this spiritual dedication with an open stance on the world. His eclectic body of work is informed by his receptivity to developments in Modernism. 

Institutional meeting at the Grand Place

After this long morning among masterpieces, we had lunch with Gloria’s friend in a nice park in the middle of the city. Then we walked around till a terrace over the city: we enjoyed the beautiful landscape.
It was almost four o’clock and it was time to head for the town hall at the Grand Place. What a thrill to enter these wonderful buildings and meet Ans Persoons, alderwoman of town planning, public spaces and dutch-language education and affairs.

We talked about many topics, in particular management of mass tourism. Ans explained to us that in the old town many old stores have moved away and made way for souvenir stores or small bazaars. This, in addition to creating problems with the identity of the central areas, is a reason for the emptying of the downtown dwellings. In fact, in order to access the upper floors of the buildings, it is necessary to go through the stores. But currently few people who work in the stores live above their stores. So, the municipality is trying to create secondary entrances where possible, so as to make the downtown apartments more desirable. Another issue is related with Airb&b and the rising rental costs. In addition to that, Ans explained to us the municipal difficulties to combine several different interests, such as accessibility for disable people, cycle paths, monumental conservation and sustainable restorations.
For example, Ans told us that the “Royel des Monuments Commission” carried out a study of the famous Place de la Liberte and lobbied the municipality to uproot the trees currently in the square because they do not belong to the original neoclassical design. Clearly the idea of removing trees from a city is absurd considering the efforts being made to plant new ones!

Honored to have been able to attend this meeting, we said goodbye to Ans and headed home, where we had a chance to chat some more with Anna and her husbands, the kind Italian couple who welcomed us into their apartment. 

fourteen – brussels – navigandum per hereditatem

Dive into European history

For two European Youth Parliament members like Gloria and Allegra, Brussels means firstly the home of Europe. So, our adventure begins at the House of European History, the foremost museum dedicated to the transnational phenomena that have shaped our continent. It connects and compares shared experiences and their various interpretations by interpreting history from a European perspective. The House of European History is a place for learning, reflection, and debate for people of all ages and backgrounds. Its primary goal is to improve understanding of European history in all of its complexities, to promote the exchange of ideas, and to challenge assumptions. The House presents Europe’s history in a way that highlights the diversity of perspectives and interpretations. It keeps both shared and divided memories. It exhibits and collects information about the history and foundations of European integration. The House of European History is an academically independent project of the European Parliament and part of its visitor offer. Its international collection, exhibitions, and programs provide unexpected and inspiring encounters. The idea is to strengthen the European dimension in debating, exhibiting, and learning about history through outreach and partnerships. The House’s multifaceted interpretation of the past, as a place for encounters and exchange, builds bridges to questions relevant to today’s Europe.


The permanent collection is organized in the following sections: 1) shaping Europe, 2) Europe a global power, 3) Europe in ruins, 4) Rebuilding a divided continent, 5) Shattering certainties, 6) Europe now. We traveled from one section to another listening to audios, watching videos, reading original documents and much more. It was very interesting to find out how much common ground there is among European countries, as well as to learn more about the recent history of European nations farther away from Italy and about which we knew less.


Bumping into dear colleagues

With great enthusiasm we left the museum and headed for the European Parliament. Right in the square dedicated to Altiero Spinelli we happened to meet a close friend of Gloria’s: Filippo, also an active member of EYP. Together we went to the headquarters of the European Youth Forum where we met Francesco, a friend and colleague. Together we conversed about our project and their initiatives related to the theme of climate change and cultural heritage. The meeting was really prolific because we got the interesting view of this NGO, which is the platform organisation advocating for youth rights in Europe. It is made up of over 100 National Youth Councils and international youth NGOs from across Europe.  The European Youth Forum works to empower young people to participate actively in society and improve their lives by representing their interests towards the European Institutions, the Council of Europe, the United Nations and other partners active in the youth field. 


The magnificent Grand Place

Later, we left Francis at his work and headed with Filippo to the city center to admire the famous Grand Place. The square has been influenced by architecture from the Baroque, Gothic, and Louis XIV eras, giving it an eclectic feel. Because of its eclectic character, UNESCO designated the Grand Place as a World Heritage Site in 1998. Historically, the Brussels Grand Place was a marketplace where traders and citizens exchanged goods. The streets that surround the square are named after foods. As in the case of butter (Rue au Beurre), herbs (Rue du Marché aux Herbes), cheese (Rue du Marché aux Fromages), and so on. Market stands gave way to the grand buildings that surround the Grand Place today as the city grew. The Maison du Roi in French means “King’s House,” but the Broodhuis in Dutch means “Bread House.” After France bombarded Brussels in 1695, most of the buildings were rebuilt or restored.


The most popular Belgian boy

Then, we walked around the city center and came across the Manneken Pis. It is a figurine of about 50 centimeters, depicting a naked child, urinating from the top of a fountain. Manneken Pis was carved in stone in 1388. Since its placement in the 14th century, they tried to steal the statuette on several occasions, until an ex-convict managed to steal it. Thus it was that a bronze copy of the original stone statue, made in 1619 by Jérôme Duquesnoy, a famous Belgian artist of the time, was placed on the fountain. Subsequently, attempts were made several times to steal this copy, and today, it is not known for sure whether the statuette is really the one that Jérôme Duquesnoy made or whether it is another copy. In 1698 a governor gave Manneken Pis his first dress, a tunic. This was the first of 650 suits given to him by government presidents visiting Brussels. In the Museé de la Ville, located in Maison du Roi, you can see the young hero’s clothes, small regional outfits or costumes, such as that of the bullfighter and Elvis. At various times of the year, the Brussels City Council dresses the Manneken Pis in original clothes. We saw the Manneken Pis wearing an officer’s outfit!

To conclude our day, we decided to have dinner together before Filippo went back to Maastricht where he lives. We took advantage of this time together to exchange some more ideas about our project and some thoughts about the city of Brussels!


thirteen – bruges – navigandum per hereditatem

Magic walking around Bruges 

The sun shined high over the canals of Bruges and the scent of chocolate filled the streets of the city. We could not resist long walks through the picturesque streets of the city, stopping occasionally to admire the fairy-tale landscape around us. Immersed in an ancient atmosphere, we photographed the most beautiful sights, sent postcards to Italy, and drank coffee in the shade of a weeping willow tree on the canal bank.



We thoroughly enjoyed the magical morning, before heading to the town hall at 12 a.m. to meet the Climate and Energy Department team. Once we got in front of the meeting point, we were left speechless by the magnificence of the palace facade. The monumental City Hall (1376-1421) is one of the Low Countries’ oldest structures. For more than 600 years, the city has been governed from here. The Gothic Hall, with its impressive vault and 20th century murals depicting Bruges’ history, is an absolute masterpiece. Using original documents and paintings, the adjacent historic hall sheds more light on Bruges’ governance over the centuries. 

A meeting at town hall

At the second floor of the town hall, we had the honor to talk with Schepen Minou Esquenet, aldermen of climate and energy, environmental policy, smart city and facilities management, and with Leentje Gunst, department head of building design. They explained to us that one of their main duties is to develop a masterplan to manage, preserve and restore more than 500 monuments. In particular, large concentration of monuments causes a huge flow of tourists from all over the world, whose presence undermines the proper physical preservation of places, but also the cultural characteristics of the city. An example of this problem is the emptying out of the center: the inhabitants of Bruges and the typical stores have moved further outside or even outside the city walls in order to be able to enjoy more peace and quiet. Instead, the center has been filled with tourist stores selling low-quality chocolate, souvenirs, industrially produced lace, and cafes with international menus. The historical buildings close to the monuments became mostly airbnb accommodation. That’s why the Municipality of Bruges tries to encourage an overnight stay for several nights in order to promote a visit to the city spread over several days. Moreover, they have taken up citizens’ demands and shaped the so-called golden triangle in which to concentrate tourist attractions so that the rest of the old town is quieter and more livable. In addition to that, Minou and Leentjie talked about their will to regulate the airbnb rentals limiting them to a period of 30 days per year for each apartment. 

As had been the case in Amsterdam, here we were shown various problems that arise in trying to improve the sustainability of older buildings. Most of the palaces cannot be subjected to exterior changes because of legislation on the preservation of cultural heritage. The gas crisis is also creating difficulties because the inevitable drop in temperatures inside the buildings could damage artwork, ancient furniture, and the oldest and most delicate architectural structures. For this reason, the municipality has already taken steps to install dehumidifiers in every room. 


Once our meeting was over, we decided to use our remaining time to visit another place on the unesco heritage list: the Beguinage.

The Bruges beguinage dates from the 13th century, specifically 1245, and is one of the best preserved. The majority of its buildings are not as old, dating from the nineteenth century, but the original layout of the Beguinage has been preserved. 

A Beguinage was a community of women who followed the apostles’ example of poverty, simplicity, and preaching. These are lay orders that make no binding vows. They could break their vows and leave the Beguine community at any time.

The Beguines were a group of single or widowed women who wanted to live a religious life outside of the confines of a convent or monastery. As a result, many north Belgian and Dutch cities established beguinages where these women could live and pray. The beguines led a hardscrabble existence, earning their living at first with looms. No vows were taken, but they followed a strict regime overseen by a mistress who protected the establishment’s independence. The last beguinage nun left in 1927, and it has since been occupied by a community of Benedictine nuns.The Beguinage is accessed via a small bridge and a gatehouse built in 1776.  The first church on this site was built in 1245, but it burned down in 1584, and the Gothic replacement, built in 1605, was given a Baroque facelift around 1700. It is dedicated to St. Elisabeth of Hungary, patron of many beguinages, and to St. Alexis, reputedly the son of a wealthy Roman family who chose poverty and charitable work over riches: desirable virtues among Beguines. This church is still active, with daily services led by the Benedictine Sisters who live in the former beguinage. Silence is requested, as it is in the rest of their home. St. Joseph is commemorated on the altar to the right. The gilded Madonna and Child below is a Medieval treasure from the chapel: “Our Lady of Consolation” or “Our Lady of Spermalie” dates from 1240. A small museum recreates the living quarters of a beguine in the corner to the left of the beguinage’s entrance. We lit a candle in the church, took a moment of reflection then said goodbye to this place of faith.


Bye bye Bruges

Our time in Bruges was almost over! We went home to say goodbye and thank you to Magdar and Stan, packed our bags and ran to the station to catch the train that took a little over an hour to Brussels.

The arrival in the Belgian capital was magnificent: wide Parisian-style streets and hubbub of international people greeted us as we exited the metro. 

Also in this city we found a supportive and loving welcome from, this time, one of our fellow Italian citizens who has been living in Brussels for a few years now. Anna hosted us in her large house where we were able to rest from our trip. With her we talked amiably about our project and the initiatives we carry out, while Anna told us about her work in the capital of Europe and anticipated the wonders and history of the city.

Great expectations for the next few days!

twelve – bruges – navigandum per hereditatem

Apple picking!

In September apples start to be in-season and we went to pick them!
Magdar and Stan, the couple that hosted us in Bruges, proposed that we go with them in a forest close to the city and to join the community in apple-picking. What a great idea and a wonderful experience. None of us had ever picked apples before, so we were like children enjoying our first time.
The activity is organized by the Municipality of Bruges, which makes the municipal apple trees available for everyone one day a year. The orchard was full of families and groups of friends. At the entrance the staff gave us a basket and a stick with a net, a specific tool for picking apples.
We really had a good time while filling our basket and eating some fruit!

We conclude our morning excursion sitting in a nice dehor to drink a coffee with whipped cream and chatting about our lives. There was so much to share with them!


Exploring Bruges: the old city

Once back home, we had lunch all together. Later, we left our hosts enjoying their Sunday and we walked towards the city center. We bought “Musea Brugge Card”, with which you can visit all open locations of Musea Brugge for 72 hours at a reduced price. 

The first place that we visited was the Church of Our Lady, a magnificent medieval church that was built over at least two centuries, beginning in the 13th century. At a height of 122.3 m it includes the second tallest brickwork tower in the world (after St. Martin’s Church in Landshut, Germany) and is the tallest spire in Belgium. The church is a classic example of brick Gothic, but it is also unique due to a centuries-old connection with the Gruuthuse palace through an oratory in the chancel. The church chancel houses an impressive triptych of the Passion by Margaret of Austria’s court painter, Bernard van Orley, as well as the 15th and 16th century mausoleums of Charles the Bold and his daughter Mary of Burgundy, who died tragically in an accident.
The altarpiece of the large chapel known as the Cappella sacra, created in the 18th century in the Baroque style, enshrines the church’s most celebrated art treasure—a white marble sculpture of the Madonna and Child created around 1504 by Michelangelo. Payments made to Michelangelo by Florentine bankers Baldassare and Giovanni Balducci between 1503 and 1504 provide evidence of this date. Because the block of marble used to sculpt the Madonna weighed nearly a ton, carving locations would have been limited. Michelangelo most likely began carving the sculpture in Carrara, where he spent nearly a year in 1505. The Madonna was finished in 1506. It was most likely intended for Siena Cathedral, but it was purchased in Italy by two Brugean merchants, Jan and Alexander Mouscron. Due to a monetary disagreement, Michelangelo had the statue privately transported to the Mouscrons in Bruges instead, and it was donated to its current home in 1514.



Our second step has been the Gruuthusemuseum. In the museum, we travel through three pivotal periods in Bruges’ history. First, there is the city’s Burgundian heyday, followed by the previously underexposed period of the 17th and 18th centuries, and finally, the ‘rediscovery’ of Bruges in the 19th century neo-Gothic style that is so characteristic of the city today. More than 600 exhibits, each with its own story to tell, bring these three periods to life. From magnificent tapestries to Gothic stained glass, elegant wooden sculptures to refined historical lace, period paintings to a 17th and 18th century dinner table set with silver cutlery and luxurious Chinese porcelain. The theme running through the exhibition is ‘Plus est en vous,’ which was the motto of Louis of Gruuthuse, the man who gave the palace its stunning grandiosity in the 15th century. 


What surprised us the most was the private chapel located in the museum. With its original 15th-century oak plank floor and panelling, this extraordinary chapel connects the palace and the Church of Our Lady.  When we ended our visit, we felt immersed in the atmosphere of times gone by.

Exploring Bruges: contemporary art

Just rounded the corner, we came across other interesting museum. Properly, it’s St John’s Hospital, one of the oldest preserved hospital buildings in Europe. The first traces can be found in the middle of the 12th century. St. John’s Hospital houses an impressive collection of artworks and medical instruments that tell the story of early hospital life and depict how hospital wards looked in the mid-17th century.

We have been really lucky because there was an exhibition, titled Underneath the Shade We Lay Grounded, took place on the ground floor and in the hospital’s impressive wooden attic. The artist is Otobong Nkanga, a Nigerian-Belgian contemporary artist. Nkanga’s groundbreaking exhibition aims to engage visitors, the historic St John’s Hospital, and Bruges in an intense dialogue. Nkanga hopes to ‘heal’ visitors’ injuries and ‘cure’ them through their connection with her art and a dialogue with the works of, among others, Hans Memling and Jan Beerblock from the Musea Brugge collection. The concept of grounding is central to this exhibition, and it runs throughout the entire exhibition display. She reconnects people with their material, spiritual, and cultural roots in this way.

The sweet ringing of bells

When we left the Hospital, we saw that the golden hour was coming, so it would have been the perfect moment to enjoy a panoramic view from Belfort and to eat some Belgian fries.
The Belfort is the most striking tower in Bruges dates from the 13th century, stands 83 meters tall, and is a world heritage site. Climbing all 366 steps we have been rewarded with a breathtaking view of the city and its surroundings. On our way up, visit the treasury, which once housed the city’s charters, seals, and coffers. A few steps further on, we saw the impressive music drum that powers the carillon as well as the keyboard that the city carillonneur uses to play the tower’s 47 carillon bells.


Real Belgian bear

After a long and full day such as this, we deserved to enjoy the finest belgian beer. So, we went to a hidden alley in the middle of the inner city of Bruges to find “Staminee De Garre since 1984”. An establishment with its own typical atmosphere and where time seems to have stood still. We drank an amazing Tripel van De Garre (11%), a full bodied beer of high fermentation, which is rather soft and has a slightly bitter aftertaste. The brewing process of the triple goes through five stages and takes several months. It begins in the brewing room and ends in a room where the temperature is a constant 22°C.

Really happy and tired, we said goodnight to Bruges! 

eleven – amsterdam – navigandum per hereditatem

Where is Mosè?

The morning started off without Gloria’s cat, Mosé. We have been forgetful leaving the boat’s entrance a bit open during breakfast and the cat escaped out. So, we began seeking him all around the harbor, looking at every boat and every corner, asking people if they had seen him. 

After an hour we found him in a hedge between two fences delimiting the harbor. We tried to get him out by attracting him with cats’ biscuits. But no way, Mosè was leaving his best life in that hedge and he had no intention to go out. The only solution was to enter between the two fences. Gloria did it, while Allegra was checking every Mosé’s movement. Unfortunately, the hedge was made of thick and thorny plants, so Gloria had some difficulties, but in the end she managed to grab the cat. 

Movies, movies, movies 

As winners we went back on board and started getting ready to go out. We quickly ate some Italian spaghetti with tomato sauce and then we went to the Eye Filmmuseum, which is very close to Sixhaven Harbor. 

Eye Filmmuseum is the leading Dutch cultural institution dedicated to filmmaking. The museum is located ia building with a modern and unusual cut, which was inaugurated by the Queen of the Netherlands in April 2012 and was designed by Austrian architects Roman Delugan and Elke Delugan-Meissl. It includes four movie theaters and a 1,200 m² exhibition space. The structure is envisioned as a highly tensed and dynamic geometric solid. Smooth, crystalline surfaces reflect light in a variety of ways, subjecting the building’s appearance to permanent optical changes throughout the day. Movement and light are clearly manifested as essential parameters for the film as a medium in architectural production. In a formal and atmospheric symbiosis, the museum building responds to its surroundings and the distinctive neighboring Oeverhoeks tower. Two motivations guided their design: plural perspective and physiological effect. Along these lines, the entire structure alludes to the cinematic experience as a game of light, space, and movement. The building’s white roof alludes to cinematography, and the façade reflects light in constantly changing conditions.


EYE’s main goal would, in theory, be the preservation of film heritage for future generations, both of Dutch films and foreign films shown in the Netherlands. EYE’s collection of films on film, and the technical expertise of its conservators and restorers in the field of restoration are internationally renowned[1]. But the EYE is primarily concerned with showing contemporary films and promoting new cinema produced in the Netherlands at major international festivals, often forgetting its archival vocation.

EYE houses the largest film library in the Netherlands. The Institute’s collection consists of 37,000 films, 500,000 photos, 41,500 posters and scripts, collections of private materials belonging to filmmakers, and thousands of film-related objects. The collection, which ranges from silent films of the late 19th century to contemporary productions, to which many Dutch but also foreign titles are regularly added, is regularly ignored by EYE’s film programmers and curators of exhibitions presented at the Museum. The only exception, almost confirming the rule, was an exhibition devoted to the impressive Desmet Collection, which was included in the UNESCO Memory of the World list in 2011. 


We were impressed by a three-channel HD video installation by Kahlil Joseph. He is interested in the physical possibilities of presenting his films and in the moving image in all its forms – from video clips to commercials and news footage. The artist said that he makes the stuff he wants to see and in the process he blurs the boundaries between art, journalism, documentary film, and cultural criticism. We were enthusiastic because his style was so seductive and hypnotic. 

Moreover, we were interested in his way of challenging the mainstream – predominantly white – media representation of the lives of black Americans. Indeed, the video installation was about a not well known subculture: black cowboys. In particular, the video illustrated the Black Rodeo, which is held annually in the tiny town of Grayson in Oklahoma.

Before leaving the Museum, Allegra bought some playing cards with beautiful illustrations of Hitchcock’s movies. 


Bruges is calling!

Then, we had to run to the boat to pack our bags and go to the station where we had an appointment with Blablacar. 

Since Gloria had to wait five days in Harlingen between Elena’s departure and Allegra’s arrival, the itinerary has been changed. Sadly we couldn’t reach Bruges by boat anymore. That’s the reason why we picked up a ride in the car to get to Belgium. 

The shared car trip was an opportunity to get to know an Argentinian girl visiting Europe and an orchestra singer from Amsterdam. We listened to really good and new music!

At nine p.m. we got to Bruges, where a kind, sweet and helpful couple was waiting for us. After reading our request on a facebook group, they decided to host us in order to help the realization of our project. We appreciated this act of kindness immensely and tasted the good taste of solidarity. They have even made an apple cake to welcome us!

Our arrival in Belgium couldn’t be better!