First day back in Eupen, getting up at 7:00: I had to do my old run. Ordinarily, I would have started at my parent's house in Stockem, but since they are in nursing care, I am staying at my brother's house in the middle of town. It is a typical Belgian winter morning, just above freezing, a damp chill cutting through my running outfit without it being really cold. Taking off, I crossed Zentral Park (fka Spitalswiesen (hospital meadows)) and headed up Stockem. Passing Athenaeum school, my alma mater for both primary and secondary school, I was inundated with memories. After all, I had walked, biked or driven that stretch for those twelve years. I ran by the old farm houses and newish villas, by Castle Stockem (Burg Stockem), St. Michael's Chapel (Michaelskapelle) and many other landmarks of my childhood. I ran past my parents' house, only giving it a glance and headed for Roereken, where the cow pastures are. Except for the winter months, the dairy farmers in my neighborhood drove their cattle in for milking mornings and nights and swept the cow pies off to the side of the street, or rather distributed them evenly across the blacktop. Since now is winter, I did not have to contend with this slick film coating the street, and anyway, the milking barns have moved to the pastures and cattle driven on the street is pretty much a thing of the past. Where the blacktop ends and the gentle ridge begins tilting west, towards Membach, the first village in Wallonia, I had to frown my forehead towards the ugly machine shed, sized to accommodate about the five or so monstrous tractors and their implements of an agricultural contractor, right above the pond where I used to fish as a kid. It was built long after I moved away, but it is an eyesore in oh so many ways. The stretch between there and the Chapelle de Notre Dame des Sept Douleurs on top of the Giesberg used to be deeply rutted, now it's filled in with gravel, certainly easier to run on but much less charming. We used to have quite a few bone fires on top of this hill, talking and drinking into a Friday or Saturday summer night.
Heading down the hill towards Membach in a light drizzle, mist shrouding of Hertogen Forest, the northern-most slopes of the Ardennes. I skirt the north-east edge of town, past St. Joseph's nursing home and the cemetery, and once more I am on a dirt road surrounded by hedgerows and pastures. Passing Loussak, an isolated farmhouse I am starting the home stretch, entering Eupen at Waisenbueschchen and returning to my brother's home.