Day 11 • Back to the Dom after over 40 years.

After the best breakfast of the trip, we head to Köln in search of the cathedral, which I last visited in 1956. My dad was convinced that parking would be an issue, but using the 'Burnett rule of parking' we found a lot directly under the Dom! [note: The Burnett rule of parking is that you go to the point closest to you destination and work backwards. Most drivers, on the assumption that 'there's no parking that close' will stop before the destination and early arrivers leaving will create space… it always works!]

We first visit the Treasury… very impressive! The amount of gold and the quality of the craftsmanship is most impressive considering that some of the items were from 13c. Afterwards, we go into the Dom and I find the place I most remember. It's a side alter with a Madonna statue which, at the time, was covered in jewels donated by the parishioners. We think, due to a robbery attempt, this practice was changed.

Armed with an address of a brewpub from Dr. Beer, we find Fröh, a seller of, what else, Kölsch. Nice, refreshing, but it's getting to be time to get back to Belgium. Leaving with the necessary glass, I spot an even nicer one up the block and acquire it as well. I guess that's why I end up with 50 glasses on the trip!

A quick stop at the British base looking for a room finds them completely booked. I make a quick stop at the Cyber café to check on some work from my office, and wonder how the guy knew we were Americans… I mean, we do speak the same language after all.

We decide to head on toward Achel. By now we all know that Trappist abbeys are never in the town for which they are named… nearby yes, but not in! After several stops for directions, thankful we are in Flemish country where everyone speaks English, we arrive at the abbey… it's 4:30 and they close at 5:30… luck is with us again.

The brewery more resembles a brewpub… in fact I've seen larger brewpubs. This is a new facility and is very nicely done. It has a cafeteria line where you get your food and beer and tables both inside and on the outdoor patio. We choose between the 4 and 6 blond and the 5 brown… eventually having sampled them all. We most like the blonds and feel that the brown needs development. Both Brother Thomas from Westmalle and Brother Antoine are developing this, the newest Trappist brewery.

Brother Antoine, formerly of Rochefort, arrives and is more than willing to pose for photos in the brewery. A very interesting man, speaking French, who enjoys seeing the immediate result of my digital photos and ask if I'd send him copies.

Having previously being told that glasses are not for sale by the lady in the café who is acting as my translator, Brother Antoine tells here that glasses are for sale in the store. The store! They have a store that sells not only many beers but also hundreds of glasses.

I have only minutes to run to the other end of the Abbey before the store is closed for the day. I quickly find the Achel glasses, $1.25 each, grab the required 4, and head to the counter where the brother wraps my purchase. I try note to look around at the selections as I would certainly be tempted, in this holy place, to acquire even more beer and glassware!

As we are planning to visit Westmalle the next day, we find the town of Mol along the way. No brewpub this time, but a nice selection in the hotel bar, tended by a young schoolteacher supplementing his income. A nice guy, who has never tasted Westvleteren 12, I give him one from my hoard… what's happening to me? Must be the beer!

We dine at a local café, serving Bosbier, a lambic I have not seen before and Gildenbier by Haacht… quite tasty! The meal was seved with a 'pickle sauce' , the receipt for which seemed a more closely guarded secret than some breweries yeast stain.

Back to Belgium 2001