Still suffering from the greyness of March? Itching for some colour? Then get yourself over to Haspengouw, an area in the south of Limburg province. An annual spectacle of colour will surely lift your spirits and help you forget the long cold winter. It really is spectacular. In April, millions of apple, pear and cherry trees blossom simultaneously, washing virtually the whole of Haspengouw in swathes of pink and white. Whether it happens in early or late April depends on many factors – principally the temperature in March. And we all know what that was like! So a sensible guess would be to make your trip later rather than sooner. Check out this site and you get a real-time view of the state of the orchards. Below are some ideas to make the most of your trip.
April 2013 update: The peregrine falcons are back in the tower of the St. Michael and St. Gudula’s Cathedral in the middle of Brussels, and the female has already laid her eggs and is brooding them. You can see a live webcam of the nest here. Read the article below for background information on these great birds.
A Belgian village that’s not in Belgium? Or is it? Visit the remarkable Baarle-Hertog and you might end up with more questions than answers. The Belgian village of Baarle-Hertog is extremely difficult to describe. When you first hear people talking about it you think it’s merely a village cut in half by the border between Belgium and the Netherlands. Oh if it were only that simple. But it’s not. For a start, Baarle-Hertog is not actually on the Belgium-Netherlands border at all. It lies a few kilometres inside the border. In the Netherlands. Yet the village is very much part of Belgium.
Readers of Discovering Belgium will know that every year I promote Floralia Brussels and strongly suggest that for people living in Belgium it’s much more environmentally-friendly to visit this flower show than drive the 3 hours to the more famous Keukenhof in the Netherlands. This year it’s the 10th edition of Floralia Brussels, which is held on the grounds and in the greenhouses of the Castle of Groot-Bijgaarden between April 5 to May 12, 2013. Over one and a half million tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and grape hyacinths have been planted under the old trees of the 14-hectare park, providing a wonderful display. It includes 400 varieties of tulips, some of which have not yet received a name.
In addition, you will discover an exhibition of floral arrangements and decorative plants in the greenhouses, incorporating more than 10,000 flowers from various flower markets throughout Europe. There’s also an orchid show in the chapel, a surprise in the tower, and bulbs can be purchased at the entrance to the castle.
Entrance costs 12 EUR for adults, 5 EUR for children (6-14). It’s open every day from 10 am until 6 pm. Address is Castle of Groot-Bijgaarden, Is. Van Beverenstraat 5, 1702 Groot-Bijgaarden
Check out this post for some lovely photos of last year’s exhibition.
How to get there:
The easiest is probably to take the train to Groot-Bijgaarden station and then walk up Brusselsstraat to Isidoor Van Beverenstraat where the castle is. It’s a distance of about 800 metres which should take you about 10 minutes.
Alternatively take bus 136 from Brussels Zuid and get off at Groot-Bijgaarden Kerk and walk about 200 metres. Here’s a bus 136 timetable: De Lijn 136
If you are interested in historical craftsmanship of the highest quality, then an event taking place in Maaseik on Tuesday evening, 19th March might interest you. Members of the “Pearls of Craftsmanship” will be exhibiting their work from 17:30 to 22:30. They include a wood carver, art restorer, painter, tailor, furniture maker, portrait artist and marble decorator, who will each be talking about their crafts. Guides will also be available to give short tours through the centre of Maaseik, and there’s also an open air play to watch. It takes place in five historic buildings in Maaseik. Registration (12 EUR) is at the town hall (Markt 1, 3680 Maaseik) or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Here’s a short video to whet your appetite.
When a town promotes itself as the oldest in Belgium, it’s tempting to wonder how much evidence of this claim is still visible. Visit Tongeren, and its credentials are right in front of you: city walls that date from the first century; a Roman archaeological site from the fourth. Moreover, this attractive town in Limburg is clearly proud of its antiquity. Streets have names like Caesarlaan and Pliniuswal. A car park is called Praetorium. So you don’t need a guide book to tell you that Tongeren dates back to the time of Christ, and that it takes great pride in its connections to the Romans.
It’s cold and wet and gloomy … decreasing the chances of getting out and about in the open air. Even the thought of visiting a museum isn’t particularly appealing. So what about curling up in front of your computer for 25 minutes and watching a video of beautiful Belgium as filmed from a helicopter! (Thanks to Gil for sharing!)
With the cold winter weather making outdoor trips difficult, if not impossible, here’s another strange but fascinating Belgian museum to visit (from February 1st when it re-opens). However, if you recently kicked the habit and have just stubbed out your last Marlboro, then the National Tobacco Museum in Wervik is probably not for you at the moment. But for anyone else, it’s highly recommended as it gives a fascinating insight into the history of tobacco over the last four centuries.
Today’s post is a little different to normal. It’s not about Discovering Belgium but about Discovering Belgium’s Birds! During the weekend of February 2 and 3, 2013, birdwatchers across Belgium will be taking part in the annual census of garden birds. It’s organised by the Flemish nature conservation society Natuurpunt and its French-speaking equivalent Natagora, and the statistics gathered give a useful picture of the current status of garden birds in Belgium. For example, the information can help ecologists spot a declining species, and take the first steps to aid recovery.
My previous post introduced you to an area (Mollendaal Forest) that is ideal for young children. However, I do not recommend Mechels Broek for young children, nor is the terrain suitable for buggies, push-chairs or wheelchairs. It’s an area of wetland at all times of the year, and particularly in the winter many of the paths are very muddy.
Walking in the Mollendaal Forest, south of Leuven, is highly recommended for families with young children. Once you enter the gated area just after the car park, the forest is totally car-free. Many of the pathways through the forest are stone or concrete (so are dry, un-muddy and therefore easily navigable at this time of the year). There are two children’s play areas, interesting wooden sculptures to marvel at, and quite a few picnic benches.
The words “Flanders” and “glass” don’t usually sit comfortably together. Our neighbours have a much stronger glass heritage: think of the Val Saint Lambert glass factory in Wallonia or the major European glass museums in Leerdam, the Netherlands; Frauenau, Germany; and Sars-Poteries, France. But actually Flanders is firmly on the glass map, thanks to the Flemish Centre for Contemporary Glass Art, otherwise known as The Glass House, in Lommel, Limburg province.
Antwerp has been an important silver production centre for five hundred years. This activity is based first and foremost on the fame of Antwerp’s many silversmiths and jewellers, restorers and silver collectors, but also on the city’s numerous vocational schools. The Sterckshof Silver Museum houses over 1400 silver objects and provides an overview of Belgium’s silver production during the last five centuries. A staggering variety of styles, types, forms and formats are shown in themed rooms. These include the bedroom, the dining room, the salon, sports and games, and religion.
The countryside around these two little villages in the Ardennes (closest town is Manhay) makes for a lovely weekend trip. And the small, cosy hotel Les Sources is an ideal base, or somewhere to enjoy a mid-walk snack or evening meal. But more of that later. First, the walks. The two walks in this area are numbered 26 and 27 on the excellent Erezee-Manhay walking map, available from local tourist offices and shops for 7 EUR.
The 86-kilometre long River Dijle rises near Nivelles in Wallonia but soon crosses the language border a few kilometers south of Sint-Agatha-Rode. Here the river drunkenly zigzags through the fertile Flemish fields before sobering up and straightening up as if in reverence to its next ports of call: the cathedral towns of Leuven and Mechelen.