CULTURE

Athenian society bids au revoir to the Belgian ambassador and his wife

The Rijmenans have left after five years in Greece. There were 35 farewell parties where Athenians and diplomats bid au revoir to the outgoing Belgian ambassador, Claude Rijmenans, and his wife Marie Therese. They were so popular and had integrated so successfully into Athenian society, participating in artistic and philanthropic events, responding courteously to invitations to dinners, island stays and yacht trips, and always with a smile. Tall, slim, elegant and humorous, the ambassador is a modern European with the gracious style of a traditional diplomat. His next posting is Madrid. Dutch Ambassador Paul Brouner gave an intimate dinner for the couple with moving tributes in the garden of his residence. Chinese Ambassador Tang Zhengi and his wife Zhan Ding Fang gave an eight-course banquet including ostrich steak in Szechuan sauce, while Moroccan Ambassador Lotfi Auoad and his wife Fatima Zahra served Lebanese delicacies. As for the Rijmenans, among the many memorable parties and receptions they gave during their posting to Athens, an unforgettable night was the concert dinner which King Albert and Queen Paola of Belgium gave for President Costis Stephanopoulos at the Athens Concert Hall. When the royal couple came back to Athens for the Olympic Games, King Albert and his ambassador were sitting behind the Queen of Spain at the opening ceremony. He leaned forward and said: «Sophie, meet my new ambassador to you.» The last and liveliest party for all their ambassador friends, and attended by personalities in the arts and sciences, was the farewell party given by Nicholas Egon and his wife Matti, who worked closely with Marie Therese at the Hellenic Society. The ambassador’s wife made her own sweets and biscuits for the Christmas bazaar. Another successful going away party was given by Costas and Lydia Carras. The Rijmenans were among the first to be interested in the Marathon issue, and Marie Therese urged Belgian officials to help preserve the battle site of Marathon. She also offered to translate the Society’s book, «Heritage Walks in Athens,» into French. At their beautiful house on Deinocratous, with its famous paintings on the walls, superbly lit to show the beauty of the timeless Greek landscape, the Egons gave a buffet reception. Silk ribbons in the national colors of Belgium were used to decorate the house. We’ll miss them, but their new post in Spain is a consolation. We can see them there and they say they’ll come here in the summer.