Bernard Wilkin is a Senior Researcher in the State Archives of Belgium. He oversees the modern archives, writes books, organizes exhibitions, helps visitors, and gives interviews.
Bernard was born and educated in Liège, achieving a BA and MA from Liège University. After working for a few years for the federal government, he was offered a PhD bursary in history at the University of Sheffield, UK. He lived in England for seven years, completing his doctorate thesis and working as a lecturer at the Universities of Sheffield, Huddersfield and Exeter. In 2016, he returned to Belgium to take up his current position.
Bernard has written ten military history books so far, both in French and English. Titles include Fighting for Napoleon, Fighting the British, and Lettres de Grognards. He has written on morale in the French army during the Phoney War (1939-40) and aerial propaganda operations aimed at the occupied territories during the First World War. Currently he is studying the daily life of Belgian and French soldiers in the Napoleonic Armies, using more than 1,000 letters of low-ranking soldiers kept at the State Archives.
Bernard lives in Liège, next to the beautiful cathedral, with his partner and his very dynamic son. Let’s discover what he likes the most about Belgium.
Favourite city: Liège
I love Liège. It is not an all-round beautiful city but there is so much history here. Depending on your interests, you can visit 1,000-year-old churches, eat fantastic food, meet friendly people, have a local beer or eat excellent gaufres de Liège. People from Liège have the reputation of being welcoming and have a distinctive accent that many enjoy.
Favourite restaurant: Magneus d’Pelotes
I shouldn’t tell you this, because I’d like to keep it a secret, but this recently opened restaurant (Rue des écoles 6, 4520 Bas-Oha) is a great discovery. Everything is prepared by one man, Jehan Delbruyere, who is fanatical about local produce and incredibly talented. His house menu is tailored and can be negotiated in advance.
Favourite café: Tea Late
Located at Rue des Carmes 10, 4000 Liège, this café revolves around the theme of Alice in Wonderland. It is beautifully decorated and ideal to spend time with friends.
Favourite museum: Brussels War Museum
I’ve always been fond of this place. It is a mess but there are so many items to discover. The plane sections and the First World War floor are incredibly interesting.
Favourite battlefield: Waterloo
The battlefield of Waterloo doesn’t look like how it was in 1815 but there are many areas to discover and you can often meet reanactors. Make sure to set aside enough time to walk there by yourself and feel the landscape.
Favourite green area: The Fort of Eben Emael
Originally a military fort, and also a place of great shame for the Belgian army, you can explore the huge underground complex. The place is also a natural site where you can enjoy woods, splendid views over the Netherlands and fresh air.
Favourite “Quiet area”: The State Archives of Belgium
For history buffs, it is a place where you can both enjoy the silence and discover the history of this country – for free.
Favourite country walk: Petergensfeld
Near the German border, this area is full of forest walks and nature. You can cross the border and enjoy an enclaved area, given to Belgium after the Versailles Treaty. I encourage you to look at a map and see for yourself this historical oddity. Make sure to visit in autumn and witness “mushroom hunters” walking around the woods. They might even share their loot or give you a lesson.
Favourite cycling route: Liège to Maastricht
This is a great route. It is a mixture of industrial relics and nature and you’re sure to see interesting sights. It’s also a wonderful route great for keen photographers.
Favourite family activity: Waterloo Memorial Museum
Over the last year they have hired reenactors and are now even firing shots with a French cannon. It’s great fun for kids, who can also experience riding in a horse and carriage.
Favourite market: The Batte, Liège
This food market next to the Meuse River is one of the oldest in the world. It takes place every Sunday and stretches for kilometres. You’re sure to spot local or exotic good-looking fruits and vegetables.
Click on the images to buy Bernard’s books or to find more information about them:
Categories: My Belgium