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.
Known as the smallest town in the world, Durbuy is also one of the prettiest. Due to its picturesque location on the banks of the Ourthe River, in the Belgian province of Luxemburg, the town became a pleasant holiday resort. This small but at the same time enchanting place has a lot to offer to visitors. Ironically, the smallest town on earth has the largest topiary park with more than 30,000 square feet of impressive animal and human forms. For those of you who prefer taking pictures, there is an excellent spot at the top of the cliff with a magnificent view over the town and the River Ourthe.
Between 17 February and 17 March, 2012, Ieper Library ran a fascinating and highly successful exhibition which paid homage to American artist, printmaker and filmmaker Andy Warhol. The exhibition featured the extensive collection of lifelong Andy Warhol fan Diederik Vandenbilcke and was timed to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Warhol’s death.
The exhibition aimed to be truly unique and was composed of Diederik’s personal collection of Warhol memorabilia. Diederik, a resident of Ypres, has followed the work of Andy Warhol for many years. His collection consists of original exhibition catalogues, posters, impressive street banners, cool Warhol gadgets and many other assorted items of memorabilia, as well as several diverse and rare books covering Warhol’s life and art.
Until May 29th, in the village of Rebecq, 25 km south-west of Brussels, the local museum is hosting an exhibition to commemorate the loss of an RAF Lancaster shot down over the village in the Second World War. During the night of 27/28 May 1944, the Lancaster was returning from a bombing mission over Aachen when it was attacked by a German night-fighter. The Lancaster, which belonged to 550 Squadron, crashed at Rebecq. Five crew were killed and are buried in Evere cemetery, Brussels; two crew survived.
On May 7th this year a memorial to the crash victims was unveiled and dedicated in Rebecq. Representatives of RAF 550 Squadron Association were present at the ceremony, along with guests from the UK, Canada and Italy. The display at the museum includes part of the tailplane on which one of the wounded airmen was carried to the local hospital. It was found in a loft when part of the building was demolished recently. Continue reading
Choosing where to walk in the Ardennes is not easy; there are so many wonderful areas to explore. But if you have never been to the Ardennes before, I would recommend La Roche-en-Ardenne. It’s an excellent place to start getting acquainted with this marvellous area of Belgium.
One advantage of this location is that if you set off from Brussels in gorgeous weather and arrive in La Roche to find it pelting down with rain (which in the Ardennes is quite possible), then you can simply change your plan and visit one or more of the town’s museums: the Milling Museum, the Second World War Museum, the Pottery Museum, or even the Ardennes Ham Museum. The town also has a castle with a ghost, which conveniently appears every evening through the summer (although apparently not if it’s raining). Continue reading
The 9 km Justus Lipsius walk around Overijse is not recommended for young children (or for prams or buggies) but for those who persevere with its gradients and occasionally rough terrain, it’s well worth the effort. It affords stunning views over Overijse and Wavre and leads you alongside some gems of old buildings.
The walk starts and ends at the Justus Lipsiusplein in Overijse, where you can park. The 344 bus goes to Overijse from Brussels Schuman. The circular route is well signposted, with red and white signposts at all major junctions. It’s named after the Belgian humanist who was born in Overijse in 1547. Justus Lipsius has been described as the greatest Renaissance scholar of the Low Countries after Erasmus. His most telling contribution was a series of works designed to revive ancient Stoicism in a form that would be compatible with Christianity.
The walk introduces you to good views of the Kasteel van Ijse and Kasteel Terdek, as well as two huge farmhouses, the Hof te Reutebeek and the Hof ter Geiten, although the latter is admittedly in a shameful state.
In a stand of Scots pine trees I watched a pair of crested tits feeding. In my native UK these delightful birds are rarities, as they are confined to ancient pine forests in the north of Scotland. Yet in Belgium they are fairly common; they even visit my garden and feed on the bird table. This disagrees with the latest and best bird guide available which states categorically that the crested tit “does not visit bird tables.” Obviously the individuals in my garden have not read the book.
The route brings you back to Overijse via the sports centre, where you can burn off any remaining energy on the outdoor Fit-O-Meter. A more realistic suggestion is to visit the Grape Museum on the Justus Lipsiusplein, which will bring you up to date with the history and present status of grape-growing in Overijse.
For the kids – In autumn, see how many different nuts and berries you can collect. I came across acorns, horse chestnuts (conkers), sweet chestnuts, hazel nuts and beech mast, as well as rose hips, blackberries and blackthorn berries (sloes). The website http://www.hainaultforest.co.uk has a useful section on autumn fruits and nuts to help you identify what you bring home.