Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Celebrating Hops and Making Small Children Wear Funny Costumes in Poperinge.

Arrive to find all of Poperinge barricaded off like it's preparing for a zombie invasion. Pay €7 to enter. Feel safely protected from vehicular traffic, freeloaders and the undead.

Food search reveals pricey three-course meals or cheap bratwurst. Easy choice. Enjoy brat while looking for open café table. No problem there; you're a good planner and anal-rententively early. Have some Hommelbier and wish it was hoppier.

After a few rounds, here comes the parade (zombie-free, although there is one giant devil, a giant spider, and several Germans). Cute little tykes in insect costumes. Everything decorated in hops, whose resinous aromas waft through the air. Bavarian oompah bands. Locals pretending to be Americans, migrant workers and drunks (some don't have to try very hard). Hop queens past and present. More cute little tykes in insect costumes. Then a big finish before the beer festival in the main square. Turns out to be just a Jupiler festival. Back to the café to grab a few decent beers for the train ride.

A tip: The best beers and parade views appeared to be at the Palace Hotel on Ieperstraat. Get there a couple of hours early for a curbside table. The Café de la Paix is also worth a look, especially if you're looking for a proper sit-down meal.

But don't stress about it. You have until 2011.

In the meantime, meditate on this strangeness:

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