The road to speaking

My ambition is to reach basic conversational level in both Russian and Italian.

In order to do this, the steps have been:

1) learn basic grammar using teach yourself books and tapes, as well as apps such as Duolingo and Babbel

2) Join group classes with a teacher

3) read simplified texts

4) watch videos made by native speakers: (also a YouTube channel “real Russian club”

YouTube channel “be fluent in Russian”

YouTube channel “RU-land club”

YouTube channel “Russian for education”

YouTube channel “Anastasia Semina”

YouTube channel “Italy made easy”

5) make contact with native speakers using
HiNative (also called Lang-8)

Nello and Petrasche

There is a story about a small boy called Nello and his dog Petrasche, which is set in Antwerp.

This has become well known in Japan and Korea. To keep this alive, the Antwerp authorities have made a sculpture of the boy and his dog in front of Our Lady’s Cathedral in the centre of Antwerp:

Inside the cathedral, the Brabantine Gothic style is as impressive as always:

If I understand it correctly, a difference between Brabantine Gothic and French Gothic if that it is lower but wider, and more white. There may be other differences.

What also stuck me is that the arrangement inside is even more like a museum rather than a church, compared to the last time I saw it.

In this respect it is moving in the opposite direction to the cathedrals in St Petersburg which I have seen in the last few weeks.

St Anthony’s Kraainem

Today I took the train from Antwerp to Brussels, to go to the English speaking church at Kraainem, a suburb of Brussels, which I used to go to.

Passed Mechelen. If you look closely, you can see the characteristic squarish tower of the cathedral there. (It is the source of the nickname “Maanblussers” for the citizens of Mechelen, from the story that they once mistook the moonlight shining through the tower for a fire, which they then tried to put out.)

Then it was great to catch up with Ray and Sue and others at St Anthony’s.

Nuenen and Van Gogh

Visited the village of Nuenen, near Eindhoven in Holland. Nuenen is linked to Vincent van Gogh because he lived and worked here from 1883 to 1885.

There is a sculpture in the park which represents one of his works painted in Nuenen, called The Potato Eaters (De Aardappeleters). Some consider this his first masterpiece. Not bad for someone who had enrolled in a beginner’s art course in Brussels in 1880, 5 years before.

We had to wait a few more years for the many colorful Van Gogh works beloved of visitors to many art galleries around the world. Most of these were painted in the last 2 years of his life, before he died in 1890.

Van Gogh’s Father died in Nuenen, but he was probably buried from one of the Protestant churches in Nuenen, not the Catholic one in the photo above. Although, as it happens, there was a funeral in this church when I took this photo, hence all the cars parked outside it.