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Category: Life in Brussels

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Brugge, medieval and mysterious ūüďú

There is a post on my blog already dedicated to Flemish cities of Belgium . But I have decided that this city deserves one single post for itself. Even more, as I have been to Brugge many times, and as always, there is a place to discover something new. With its cobbled streets, crooked bridges, meandering canals and World Heritage-listed medieval buildings, the Belgian city of Bruges is so pretty it‚Äôs almost too good to be true. But anywhere where you can drink 12% alcohol beer and get into medieval history has got to be more than just a pretty face.¬†And Bruges is just perfect for a weekend break ‚Äď easy to get to and explore on foot, and bursting with charming streets, fantastic beers, boutique chocolate-makers and canalside bars.

Bonifacius bridge

So let us begin with just a bit of history to get you in the story ūüôā Why? Because Brugge is one big outside museum.

The name probably derives from the¬†Old Dutch¬†for ‘bridge’:¬†brugga.

Bruges was a location of coastal settlement during prehistory: Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements. The first fortifications were built after¬†Julius Caesar’s conquest¬†in the first century BC, to protect the coastal area against pirates. The¬†Franks¬†took over the whole region from the¬†Gallo-Romans¬†around the 4th century. The¬†Viking¬†arrived in the ninth century prompted Count¬†Baldwin I¬†of¬†Flanders¬†to reinforce the Roman fortifications; trade soon resumed with England and¬†Scandinavia. The Golden Age arrived soon: 12th to 15th century.

Bruges became important due to the tidal inlet that was crucial to local commerce which was then known as the “Golden Inlet”. Bruges received its¬†city charter¬†in 12th century , and new walls and canals were built. Soon it became the capital of the¬†County of Flanders and placed itself strategically at the crossroad of the Hanseatic League trading with the south. The new form of merchant capitalism developed and Flanders were leading in it – just some decades after Italian society’s renaissance.

The¬†Bourse¬†opened in 14th century as the first¬†stock exchange¬†in the world and developed into the most sophisticated money market in the 14th century. By the time Venetian galleys first appeared. Numerous foreign merchants were welcomed in Bruges and established their own commercial consulate in Bruges by the mid-15th century.¬†The foreign merchants expanded the city’s trading zones. They maintained separate communities governed by their own laws until the economic collapse after 1700.


This attracted a number of artists, bankers, and other prominent personalities from all over Europe. The new oil-painting techniques of the Flemish school gained world renown. The leaders of this Norther Renaissance and Humanism in painting were Jan van Eyck and maybe Pieter Bruegel (although he comes a bit before in time).

These artists made significant advances in natural representation and illusionism, and their work typically features complex iconography. The painted works are generally oil on panel, or fixed altarpieces in the form of diptychs or triptychs.

The first book in English ever printed was published in Bruges. This is also when Edward IV and Richard III of England spent time in exile here.

The Basilica of the Holy Blood is the relic of the Holy Blood, which was brought to the city after the Second Crusade by Thierry of Alsace, and is paraded every year through the streets of the city. More than 1,600 inhabitants take part in this mile-long religious procession, many dressed as medieval knights or crusaders.

The Church of Our Lady dates mainly from the 13th century. This church is a monument to the wealth, sophistication, taste, and devotion to Catholic religion. In the church you can find amazing Madonna sculpture from Michelangelo.

Remaining still in religious timeframe, inevitable is to mention the quiet sacral place called Beguinage. An architectural complex which was created to house beguines Рlay religious women who lived in community without taking vows or retiring from the world. They are not nuns though. In most cases, beguines who lived in a convent agreed to obey certain regulations during their stay and contributed to a collective fund.

The Minnetwaterpark is just next to it and together with canals, cobbled stones streets and passages creates even more mystery.


As the Brugge developed thanks to its proximity to the North sea and the tide that was giving peaceful shelter to the trade boats, naturally, Brugge built more and more canals to trade, store and commerce the goods. Today these canals are still in usage – some for the trade and some for the tourist sight seeing purposes. This time, I took a boat too ūüôā

On these photos taken from the boat, you can’t miss the tall Belfry – the bigger the better, the nobels would say. The¬†Belfry of Bruges is a medieval bell tower¬†in the centre of¬†the city. One of the city’s most prominent symbols, the belfry formerly housed a treasury and the municipal archives, and served as an observation post for spotting fires and other dangers.

Just next to it is an interesting Historium experience that will take you in these times just written here. You become on of the characters of the city of Brugge, assisting great Jan van Eyck in the creation of one of his paintings. But just when things start to develop, your character gets lost in the streets and somehow ends up in the storage.

For the rest, I leave you just to walk and explore. There is many more to see. Like the fish guilde from 15th century next to fish market, possibly the wealthiest family of its times.

As one can see, Bruges is the archetypal Flemish city, but it‚Äôs so much more than that. Ancient brickwork and winding canals give the city its nickname ‚ÄúThe Venice of the North‚ÄĚ. I am not the fan of giving the name of one origin to another origin of itself, so I have to admit: its position as the heartland of Dutch-speaking Flanders gives it an unmistakable identity of its own.¬†

The¬†Hospital of St. John¬†was a medieval¬†hospital¬†in¬†Bruges. It was founded in the mid-12th century. Located next to the¬†Church of Our Lady, the premises contain some of Europe’s oldest surviving hospital buildings. The hospital grew during the Middle Ages and was a place where sick pilgrims and travellers were cared for. The site was later expanded with the building of a monastery and convent. In the 19th century, further construction led to a hospital with eight wards around a central building.

To end this, one has to try local dishes. We left the choice with flemmish carbonade and brugge zor bier – which is pipelined from bars to Brugge brewery. Cute.

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Tournai, Belgium

Guess what’s new? – Corona. Guess how long it will last? – China.

Never mind. The travel ban is still on for Belgium, so explorations within the country continues. This weekend was reserved for Tournai. A beautiful city on the west of Belgium. Kinda looks like Lille at the first sight. ¬†Although, being part of the province of¬†Hainaut, Tournai is part of¬†Eurometropolis Lille‚ÄďKortrijk‚ÄďTournai.

Tournai is one of the oldest cities in Belgium and has played an important role in the country’s cultural history. It was the first capital of the¬†Frankish Empire, with¬†Clovis I¬†being born here – the first king of France, crowned and buried in Reims.

Tournai, known as Tornacum, was a place of minor importance in Roman times, a stopping place where the Roman road from Cologne on the Rhine to Boulogne on the coast crossed the river Scheldt. It came into the possession of the Salian Franks in 5th century. Clovis moved the center of power to Paris. In turn, a native son of Tournai, Eleutherius, became bishop of the newly created bishopric of Tournai, extending over most of the area west of the Scheldt. In 9th century Charles the Bald, first king of Western Francia and still to become Holy Roman Emperor, would make Tournai the seat of the County of Flanders.

river Scheldt

After the partition of the Frankish empire by the Treaties of Verdun (843) Tournai remained in the western part of the empire, which in 10th century became France. The city participated in 11th-century rise of towns with a woollen cloth industry based on English wool, which soon made it attractive to wealthy merchants. An ambitious rebuilding of the cathedral was initiated in 11th century. The stone Pont des Trous over the Scheldt, with defensive towers at either end, was built in 1290, replacing an earlier wooden structure.

Le Pont des Trous à Tournai

During the 15th century, the city’s textile trade boomed and it became an important supplier of¬†tapestry. The art of painting flourished too. It was¬†captured in 1513¬†by¬†Henry VIII of England, making it the only Belgian city ever to have been ruled by England. The city was handed back to French rule three years later, following the¬†Treaty of London (1518).

Belfry of Tournai

In 16th century, Habsburg Emperor Charles V added the city to his possessions in the so-called Low Countries, leading to a period of religious strife and economic decline. During the 16th century, Tournai was a bulwark of Calvinism, but eventually it was conquered by the Spanish governor of the Low Countries, the Duke of Parma, following a prolonged famous Siege of Tournai in 1581. After the fall of the city, its Protestant inhabitants were given one year to sell their possessions and emigrate, a policy that was at the time considered relatively humane, since very often religious opponents were simply massacred.

Monument of local artist van der Wayden, in front of the Cathedral, 15th century

One century later, the city briefly returned to France under Louis XIV in the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. Following the Napoleonic Wars, Tournai formed part of the newly independent Belgium.

Unfortunately, local specialties were skipped this time as the bars and restaurants were closed.

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Still pandemic times, less travels and huge desire to go somewhere new. In case I haven’t mention yet, thank you China. One big f***ing thank you.

Anyways, how about some snow? Belgian Ardennes are a good answer. Fresh and healthy winter air with lots of white cover.

Why this city? Except the fact that we are not allowed to leave this country of Belgium if it is not an essential travel, there has been a rumour that Roche-en-Ardenne is  is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Ardennes.

La Roche is believed to have first been settled in the Neolithic era followed by the Celts and the Romans who built a fort there following their conquest of Gaul and the Ardennes.

The town’s medieval castle was in use between the 9th and 18th centuries. It provided protection to the many barges that plied their trade along the local river systems.

In World War II, the town was occupied by both Nazi and Allied forces, suffering severe damage. Freed by Americans in September 1944, the town was recaptured by the Germans in December, during the Battle of the Bulge. I was particularly surprised with the Museum of the Ardennes Battle.

The museums tells the story of local people fighting for their city. Belgian King Leopold I was advised to move his most ekite artillery and infantry towards Antwerpen thinking Hitler would never break strong cold Ardenne mountains. It happens that Hitler arrived with tanks, entered into every village in Ardennes in no second and broke Belgium. The fall of France and The Netherlands was the direct consequence of it.

The city is walking area with lots of shops, bars and restaurants. Thank you China so much for allowing me to enjoy this! We were allowed to walk down the Quay of Ourthe.

Never visit The Ardennes without buying the delicious local products: cheese, sausage made of boar and local beers. Here is what we brought home ūüôā

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The Ardennes ‚õįÔłŹ

The Ardennes is the name given to a region of Belgium in the south that extends into Luxembourg, France and Germany. This southern region is totally different from the busy, industrial north. The things available to do in this region are as varied as you might imagine and include some great museums, plenty of beer and even the world‚Äôs smallest city. Given the rolling hills and the lush green scenery, it will not surprise you that The Ardennes has become a popular spot for travellers who love the outdoors. 

We started our day at 9am travelling to Bouillon, chasing the Templars.

The landscape aside the highway was full of green grass, deep forests, cows and sheeps. My heart was warm.

Tombeau du Géant

There is a magnificent open view at Devil’s view, looking across to ‘Le Tombeau du G√©ant’ (The Giant’s Tomb), so named because one of the bends in the Semois at this point seems to enclose a coffin of gigantic proportions. It is not easy to reach it. We walked an hour through the forest athough the tracks are pretty good marked.


Cozy little town actually hides many secrets. Hubert was actually a prince of Liege. Being passionately in love with hunting, perhaps too passionately, one day he saw a deer with the christian cross on his horns. The deer asked not to be killed and advised prince to live modesty. So prince became a monk and the patron of hunters. And later of this city.


Well known for its megaliths from pre-historic times. Most probably Celts. It is a nice little village with stone houses and some timber houses.


The last the cutest. ūüôā In medieval times, Durbuy was an important centre of commerce and industry. In 1331, the town was elevated to the rank of city by John I, Count of Luxemburg, and King of Bohemia. In 1628 by permission of Felipe IV of Spain it becomes the duchy. One of the people connected to the city was the son of Lancelot II: Count of Durbuy.

The Ourthe river flows through the municipality.

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Lier, Belgium

Week 9 of Quarantine after chinese virus we were finally allowed to leave our own city and make a small change in our lives. Belgium is a tiny country but still many options were appearing.

The choice fell on Flanders region. The small city called Lier. Cute, surprisingly big, with canals just like in Amsterdam and heart-melting medieval architecture. Unfortunately, we couldn’t treat ourselves with the lunch in restaurant or a local bier called St Gummarus – according to its patron. Apparently, if you break your bone, you call for his help.

Lier is a municipality located in the Belgian province of Antwerp. It got its name thanks to muddy shores. It is mentioned first time in 7th century.

in 1496 Lier was the scene of the marriage between Philip the Handsome – son of Maximilian of Austria, and Joanna of Castile. This marriage was pivotal to the history of Europe as Charles V, who was born to this marriage (Ghent, 1500), would go on to rule both the Holy Roman Empire and the Spanish Empire.

King Christian II of Denmark, accompanied by his spouse Isabella (sister to Charles V and known as Queen Elisabeth), lived in Lier until 1523, after having been expelled from Denmark by the local nobility while waiting in vain for military support from his brother in law. He attempted again to regain the Danish throne, but ended in eternal prison.

St. Gummarus Church, gothic architecture, 14th century.

The main square is a vivid space, surprisingly big for the small city. A conspicuous feature of the market square is the spot where Lier’s last witchcraft related execution is traditionally believed to have taken place.

Town hall, rococo architecture, 18th century.

Lier has one more interesting thing to visit: Zimmer tower also known as the Cornelius tower, that was originally from 14th century city fortifications. In 1930, astronomer and Louis Zimmer  built the Clock, which is displayed on the front of the tower, and consists of 12 clocks encircling a central one with 57 dials. These clocks showed time on all continents, phases of the moons, times of tides and many other periodic phenomena.

These wonder-clocks were prepared for the 1935 world exhibition in Brussels; later they were demonstrated in the USA. Around one of these dials moves the slowest pointer in the world – its complete revolution will take 25800 years, which corresponds to the period of the precession of the Earth’s axis. The wonder-clocks impressed Albert Einstein, who congratulated Zimmer on the creation of these unusual mechanisms.

At the start of the WWI, King Albert and his Chiefs of Staffs were temporarily headquartered in Lier as German lines advanced.

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Pairi Daiza zoo, Belgium

Pairi Daiza (formerly Paradisio) is a privately owned zoo and botanical garden located in the province of Hainaut, Belgium.

The park is thematically divided so we started with domestic animals ūüôā


We continued towards the monkeys, but there was some garden on our way – perfect to take photos.



Some ducks and guises before the monkeys ūüôā


Finally the monkeys in cambodian temple…


In this one of the biggest zoo’s in Europe – it is great that most of the animals are running around you. So you can touch them as you wish, even more – they are jumping on you as friendly they are.




The white tiger is one of the main attractions. It is white due to leucism and there is not many living creatures like this one.


Then there was the Aquarium as well but it was really hot inside and almost no air.


Then the birds part… we needed to climb over the bridge vines.


And the most interesting part was about the dinosaurs. They are almost alive as you can almost touch them and see how they move.


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Waterloo, Belgium

A day trip to the south of Brussels, to be more precise РBrabant region in Wallonie which is the site of the Battle of Waterloo, where the resurgent Napoleon was defeated for the final time in 1815.

We started with the visit to the museum which takes you to the times of enlightenment and ideas of the 18th century philosophers like Rene Descartes or Diderot, Immanuel¬†Kant (my ever time favorite),¬†Montesquieu,¬†Rousseau,¬†Adam Smith, Voltaire¬† … whose main ideology based on the idea that a human is allowed to advice for itself without being oppressed by the government nor church:¬†in opposition to an¬†absolute monarchy¬†and the fixed dogmas of the¬†Roman Catholic Church

Soon evolved the¬†Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen of 1789¬†(D√©claration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen de 1789, fra) –¬†a¬†human¬†civil rights¬†document from the¬†French Revolution.

Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen of 1789

However, Napoleon Рeven though sharing these principles (he established the civil code etc), soon started to rule in authoritarian way and battling the Europe in Napoleonic wars.  So, the european leaders allied against him in  The Gret Coalition.

Napoleon vs rest of Europe leaders

The Europe that time after so many battles looked liked this:

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The most south battle was Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife which I mentioned in my previous post when visiting the Canary Islands. The battle between French Empire and British Royal was famous for admiral Nelson loosing his arm.

However, the wars through Europe continued and The Great Coalition decided to invite Napoleon for the battle at Waterloo.


The¬†Battle of Waterloo¬†took place near Waterloo on 18 June 1815 between the¬†First French Empire¬†of¬†Napoleon Bonaparte¬†and the¬†Seventh Coalition¬†(troops from¬†Prussia, the¬†United Kingdom, the¬†Netherlands,¬†Hanover,¬†Brunswick¬†and¬†Nassau), under the main allied commanders, the¬†Duke of Wellington¬†and¬†General von Bl√ľcher.

Napoleon lost and the allies decided to make a tribute by building the butte with the victorious lion facing the France. We climbed up with 226 stairs, in order to see the battle and the strategy drawn.


Time for the beer: of course, in the country of beers, the Waterloo commemorative beer ūüôā


The day was still bright and there was so many things to see around the field: the barracks of both enemies where the soldiers were sleeping, or the Hougoumont – the small house with the yard where finally the enemies met again to finish the battle, it was kinds the battle within the battle.


In his novel Les Misérables, Victor Hugo describes how 300 bodies were thrown down a well at Hougoumont. Most of them were still alive.

Fun fact: a celebrated 400 years old wooden crucifix which survived an inferno during the Battle of Waterloo was only to be looted from a battlefield chapel has been rediscovered in a Belgian flea market after a four year hunt by Interpol. The crucifix is now there, at the Hougoumont farm and it well respected.

400 years old wooden crucifix which survived an inferno during the Battle of Waterloo

The visit to the battlefield was very touching and sensitive. We decided to walk the land field which is nowadays full of agricultural goods but once the place of terrible battlefield.


The day finished in the city of Waterloo with the dinner. In the city center there is a small museum dedicated to the winner of the battle: the commander Wellington.

Museum of Wellington

Funny, isn’t it? Even though he is the actual winner of the battle who stopped Napoleon for long time, his name is not even close mentioned and celebrated as Napoleons’.

Life is strange sometimes.


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Walibi park, Belgium

One day trip to this amazing park of attractions, located in Wavre, close to Brussels, since 1975.

We started with the hardest ones: the roller coasters like the Vampire and Loup-Garou. 

It literally spins you around, up and down and in all possible directions. Although the rides are short…

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However, the Loup-Garou is a rollercoaster made of wood. And unsurprisingly loud! The map shows it is one of the longest routes.


Some funny things we took like Spinning Vibe or Calamity mine or the Tutankhamon experience¬† ūüôā A bit childish but why not? Never stop feeding the kid in yourself.


But the most recent thing opened and what brings the most attraction is the Pulse. Although it looks scary, but once it brings you up and down, you kinds start to enjoy, at least I did. But then it is over.

Although I was not aloud the scream cause I just recently healed the hematoma on my vocal chords. -.-

After it brings you up and down, the last downing is actually almost diving into the water. So we were wet, completely.




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Castle van Gaasbeek, Belgium

Since I got myself a car: her name is Tintine, we decided to drive around Brussels and explore. My Flemish friend recommended Castle van Gaasbeek –¬† apparently the most romantic castle of Belgium.

The castle was initially built in 13th century as part of the wider line of defence to protect Brussels but changed it’s style through centuries…

Gaasbeek - foto Marc De Vos (4)

The castle was occupied by a succession of noble families. Lamoraal, Count of Egmond, was one of the chateau’s best-known owners.

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Count of Egmond, Governor of Flanders, Commanding Officer of the Spanish army in the Low Countries (Spanish Netherlands), Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece, was born in 1522 in Hainaut. He came from the Dutch Egmond family, which had amassed an enormous fortune via lucrative dealings and who were consequently influential in the politics of the Habsburg court. His father was a chamberlain and personal friend of Emperor Charles V on whose side he fought several times.

I like him cause he was  he protested against the Spanish Inquisition.

KvG Bibliotheek © Luc Van Muylem

During the Romantic Period, the fascination for the Count of Egmond grew, and he became a popular theme in literature and the arts. He became a national hero in the young Belgian Kingdom and was also acclaimed within the Flemish Movement.


In the late 18th century, the castle became the property of the Italian aristocratic Arconati Visconti family. Gaasbeek Castle became a meeting place for scholars and artists.

Marquise Marie Arconati Visconti, the last Marquise of Gaasbeek Castle. She was the daughter of the French radical socialist, a progressive journalist and member of the French National Assembly.  At the age of 33, Marie married a tremendously rich guy named Visconti Рan Italian who she met in Paris.

Apperently Visconti spent most of his time in Milano,  and Marie studied, she ignored social obligations and refused to behave as a woman of her standing. She rolled her own cigarettes, sometimes wore men’s clothes and used rough language.


Three years after their marriage, Giammartino Visconti died and Marie inherited a gigantic fortune. Marie lived alternately in Paris or in Gaasbeek. In Paris, Marie held political and literary Salons, at which the liberal socialist L√©on Gambetta was a key figure. He gave her the nickname ‚Äėthe angel of liberalism‚Äô. Like her father she abhorred religion, collected art and donated fortunes to scientific research. She punctuated her busy intellectual and urbane life in Paris with long holidays in Gaasbeek Castle. She had a love of history and archives and at times dressed up in page outfits. Together with her adviser, the antiquarian Raoul Duseigneur, she purchased a great many works of art. Duseigneur, who was also Marie‚Äôs lover, often stayed with her in Gaasbeek. Basically, the woman lived my life! ‚̧


Her favourite period was the Renaissance. Really? ūüôā So she restaured the castle according to back 15th century renaissance style.

Shortly after that, the World War I started and she knew she needs to make the testament.  The Louvre received her complete collection of mediaeval and renaissance works of art.

The impression of her left some mark to my historic soul. I was walking through her gardens and admire… picturing her soul wandering around the castle…



The evening we spent at the Brasserie Graaf van Egmond. ūüôā We had typical flemmish meal.


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The boat lift of Str√©py-Thieu, Belgium

At the end of the Second World War, it was clear that the Belgian system of canals and waterways needed to be standardised and suitable for 1,350 tonne barges ‚Äď a step up from the traditional fleet of barges used on the canals, with a maximum capacity of only 300 tonnes.

Additionally, the European Conference of Transport Ministers in 1957 recommended that the canals be adapted to suit 1,350 tonne barges.

The Strépy-Thieu project was the final step in the Belgian canal improvement programme.  It is strategically important on a European level because it forms a link between the Escaut and Meuse basins, and also between the port and region of Dunkirk and the Rhine basin.

My friend and I decided to stop by (driving from Mons back to Brussels) and check what is it about.

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We took a look from the hill first, realising the view is capturing the nearby farms with animals and minings.


At the view point there is a guide mark explaining the directions, distances and interesting places in surrounding.


From the close it look even more impressive!

After a number of years spent working on the design of the Strépy-Thieu funicular boatlift, the only one of its kind in the world, work finally began in February 1982.


The boat lift was the tallest boat lift in the world, and remained so until 2016 when China constructed bigger version of a dam boat lift.

The boat lift is promoted as a tourist attraction in its own right by the government of Hainaut. A pedestrian ticket for a one-way ride on the lift costs¬†‚ā¨5,50.

What an epic engineering masterpiece ūüôā


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Route de Chimay

situation6661My friend and I decided to go on  great Chimay tour for a grand weekend in Belgium. We sat in her car (hot as it was 34 degrees outside) and drove south of Brussels through Ardennes and Wallonie. 

Our first stop was a brewery Beers and Cheeses of Chimay. We tasted samples of beers and decided to continue further.

We were driving to many pitoresque small belgian villagges filled with houses made of stone and detailed with flowers in pots.  It was charmng to drive 30 km/h and enjoy all those things one can not see when driving from the high way.

Small villages of Wallonie in Belgium

Our second stop was Poteaupré and the abbey of monks. This Abbaye de Chimay, a small group of monks,  during the summer of 1850 established themselves on the wild plateau of Scourmont near Chimay. Around the monastery, soon came a farm, a brewery, and a cheese plant famous today as well.

Abbaye de Chimay

In the brewery, french brasserie we degustated the pyramide of beers and chimay cheeses.

As there was a small shop, we were even making our own way of shopping – a beer shopping! ūüôā

Beer shopping

From there and the city of Chimay, we continued towards France… towards the sunset and new adventures…

In the village of Chimay ‚̧ a beer boiler



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Wallonia: Liege, Mons, Namur, Dinant – down the Meuse river valley

bf8d639dd89557666529b73e68af8b6cWhat I am mostly surprised of this region of Belgium, is its nature. The heavily forested Ardennes massif occupies the southeast of the Walloon region. Mostly cliffs, forests, river Meuse and many streams. The legend said Hitler will never manage to break through the Ardennes and take over Belgium and later Netherlands. Happens to be the guy invented tenks.

Anyhow, this topographic peculiarity gave the region its name, Wallonie being in the Walloon tongue the ‘land of the valleys’ (vallons). It is a common misconception to think that the region’s name derives from Walha, the ancient Germanic word for ‘strangers’ or ‘non-Germanic people’, after which Wales and Wallachia were named.

As a pat of Kingdom of Belgium,  the economic inequalities and linguistic divide between Wallonie and Flanders are major sources of political conflict in Belgium and a major factor in Flemish separatism.


This is Wallonia’s largest city. It is one of the longest continuous history of any Belgian cities and some fine examples of 17th- and 18th-century Mosan architecture. It is a vibrant and friendly city known in French as the Cit√©e ardente, due to the warmth and enthusiasm of the local folk.

The City Hall

As Birthplace of Charlemagne, the place has the present cathedral of Li√®ge which was originally one among the seven collegiate churches of the city built in the times of merovinian dynasty. Today it is called¬†St. Lambert’s Cathedral.

St. Lambert’s Cathedral


Mons got its¬†name from Latin “montes“, meaning “mount”, from the geographical feature where it stands, although it is really just a hill. ūüôā

At¬†the heart of the city is a beautiful Grand Place with buildings¬†originally built in 1530 in the Gothic style of¬†wealthy local families. Ofcourse, there is a Town Hall (so called “House of Peace”) and the Belfry.

Grand Place in Mons with the Town Hall and Belfry

mons monkeyOutside the main entrance of City Hall is a small iron statue of a monkey. Its origin is not really known, but it is for sure some centuries old. Some historians claim it was placed there in order to bring luck to the city and its inhabitants. Today, the tradition is that when you visit Mons, you should¬†touch the monkey’s head with left hand and make a wish.

So I did ūüôā So far good…

The Sainte-Waudru Collegiate Church is one of the most characteristic churches and most homogeneous of Brabantine Gothic architecture (Brabant is the region of Wallonie).

collegiate-church-of mons


Then my favourite Namur and Dinant! ūüôā

Standing at the Meuse river, the town began as an important trading settlement in Celtic times, straddling east-west and north-south trade routes across the Ardennes.

The Romans established a presence after Julius Caesar defeated the local Aduatuci tribe.

Museum of the Celtic culture

The tap dating the times of the Celts

Namur came to prominence during the early Middle Ages when the Merovingians built a castle or citadel on the rocky spur overlooking the town at the confluence of the two rivers. When the Dutch gained the right to garrison Namur, although the subsequent Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 gave control of Namur to the then called Spanish Netherlands , the citadel was in the hands of the Austrian House of Habsburg. Note the strategic importance of the citadell, which was later recognized by Napoleon, too.


The view on the city from the citadel and Pont de Jambes Рthe oldest bridge in Namur

Middle Ages were also the most interesting time for Namur. It was economically rich and developed, at the crossroads of the German Hansestadts and France.

It was the city of handcrafts, especially the goldsmiths’ work and glass work are valuable and unique to see in the local museum.

Butchery from 12th century

Lively 17th century Namur: cabaret!


From Namur, I took the train to Dinant! ūüôā

The train was passing by beautiful¬†¬†Ardennes, marked with river Meuse, green forest and high and sharp cliffs. There is a legend about the four nephews of Charlemagne¬†¬†riding a horse named Reynard, passing by the Ardennes and separating magically the cliff to go through. It is how the valley of Dinant became (he name of the city comes from celtic ”Sacred Valley” or “Divine Valley” ).¬†

A cliff that was separated by one of four sons of Wallonie (nephew of King Charles the Great – Charlemagne)

The city is rather small but pictoresque. The main square is Place Reine Astrid, just at the foot of the citadel hill. People climb usually at the top of the citadel with the funicular, and enjoy the view from the restaurant. Below is the collegiate Church of Notre-Dame. 

Citadel and the Church of Notre Dame

Just opposite the church stands the Meuse bridge. It is a beautiful early Gothic building from the 13th century on which are placed colorful saxophons in the colors of the flags od EU member states. Why saxophones?

Well, the inventor of saxophone – Mr Adolph Sax was born in Dinant. ūüôā

Adolphe Sax – the inventor of saxophone comes from Dinant


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Flanders: Brugge, Gent, Antwerpen, Leuven, Oostende


Upon my arrival to Brussels, I started to explore Belgium by visiting other cities. Everyone’s recommendation is always the Flanders and the most popular tourist place Brugge. Although, later I will discover the south of Belgium, Valonie. ūüôā

Flanders is a Dutch speaking part of Belgium, at the north of the country with important place in European history. During the late Middle Ages, cities such as Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp and Brussels made it one of the richest and most urbanized parts of Europe, having great both domestic import and export. As a consequence, a very sophisticated culture developed, with impressive achievements in the arts and architecture, rivaling those of northern Italy. Flanders was one of the centres of the 19th century industrial revolution too.

Along such developed commerce and business, the society was famous by its own renaissance of the north. Painters like Pieter Bruegel, Jan Van Eyck and Peter Paul Rubens are the founding fathers of Flemish art.

Belgium is a beer-lover‚Äôs paradise. And that‚Äôs not just its proud inhabitants talking. Even UNESCO recognised its reputation for specialty beers, ever since the Middle Ages. Up to this day the enormous quality is met by an unmatched quantity: there are more than 1.500 original Belgian beers. That includes, among others, Belgian ales, raspberry or cherry beer, wheat beer, Flanders ‚ÄėOld‚Äô red and brown, Abbey beer, lambic, gueuze and ‚Äď the grandest of them all ‚Äď Trappist.

Belgium has even it’s own pipeline that brings the beer directly from the brevery directly to the beerhouse. The pipeline is 2,000 m long and goues mostly under the city of Brugges.



Brugge is an outstanding example of a medieval historic settlement, which has maintained its historic fabric as this has evolved over the centuries, and where original Gothic constructions form part of the town’s identity.

Old Town Hall Exterior
Bruges - City Hall-3
Facade of City Halle

As one of the commercial and cultural capitals of Europe, Brugge developed cultural links to different parts of the world. It is closely associated with the school of Flemish Primitive painting. The Flemmish (Dutch) painting renaissance (of the north) was carried by the painters like Jan van Eyck.

Statue of Jan van Eyck, 14 century Flemmish painter

Jan van Eyck was a respectful artist of his time, leading the entire new wave of the paint art in the north of Europe. His most famous paint ‘The Arnolfini Portrait’ is complex double portrait oil painting, depicting the Italian merchant and his wige at their home in Brugge. Because of complex iconography and detailed picture space, it is considered the most complex paintig of the western art. The most interesting detail is the reflection of the painter in the convex mirror on the painting. The paint can be found in Nationall Gallery in London.


For five centuries, the Waterhalle was a part of the market in Brugge. It was one of the seven wonders of the city with its magnificent covered harbour. The city itself is a place of channals through which the boats were navigating by bringing the groceries and other trades. It was a time of the Golden Ages of Brugge (12 – 15 century) as being part of Hanseatic League, shaping new forms of merchant capitalism.

Canals of Brugge
Canals and housing storages

The local river made many chanals, however, a storm in 12th century re-established the access to the North sea, creating a natural channel called Zwin. The new sea arm stretched all the way to newly called Zeebrugge, and city soon became the commercial outpost for Bruges. Today, tourist can wals around the long sandbar of the port and have a great lunch with the view on the North Sea.

Restaurant at Zeebrugge
Sandbar walk at Zeebrugge

A magnificent medieval church from 13th century adorns the city, with the altarpiece of the large chapel of the most celebrated art treasure of the church‚ÄĒa white marble sculpture of the Madonna and Child created by Michelangelo, 16th century. The sculpture was meant originally for Siena Cathedral, but it was purchased in Italy by two Brugean merchants, and in 16th century donated to Brugge.

Church of Our Lady-1_0
Church of Pur Lady, Brugge

In the choir of the church there can also be find the splendid tombs of Duke of Burgundy, and his daughter, Maria of Burgundy who died. A she was born in Brussels, she united house of Bourbon with Burgundie dutchy and reigning the Flanders upon her death at age of 25 falling from her horse. She married  in Ghent an austrian archduke, future Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, uniting her house with the House of Habsburgs.

Church of Our Lady-19_0
The final rest of Maria of Burgundy


Ghent‚Äôs wealth in the early medieval period was thanks to the import and export of wheat, and the manufacture of luxury woollen cloth. Much of the city’s medieval architecture remained intact and is remarkably well preserved and restored.

The most important cityscape’s are the Belfry and the St Bavo’s Cathedral, a rococco buildings of the 15th century.

St Bavo’s cathedral
Belfry of Ghent

Today, Ghent is an important university city of Belgium as an interesting crossover between open cosmopolitanism and the quiet atmosphere of a provincial town.


According to the legend, there was a big giant Antigoon that lived in the river Scheldt and tolled the local fishermen and boatmen. Those who refused to pay, he would soak and kill. But a young hero killed the giant cutting off his hands and flung them into the river. Hence the name Antwerpen, from Dutch hand werpen, meaning ‘to throw hands.’ 

Statue of Brabo and Antigoon at main square

Antwerpen has a beautiful Cathedral of our Lady, same as Brugge, dating from 14th century. It houses triptychs by Baroque painter Rubens. The building was builded on a site of a small church from 9th century, in a gothic style and never been completed.

Later, in 16th century, when Antwerp came under the Protestant Administration, many of its works of art have been destroyed, demolished, removed or sold.

The most famous peace of art is The Raising of the cross, by local glorious paintor Peter Paul Rubens. It is a tryptich painting, masterpiece of the mentioned flemmish art, clearly being influenced by italian renaissance.

Elevation of the Christ, by P. P. Rubens
The Statue of the painter Rubens  and the Cathedral of Our Lady behind

Rubens was born nearby Antwerp in 17th century, as a so of reformation’s family (calvinists). He is most notable artist of Flemish Baroque art school. A year after marrying, he designed his house, an Italian-style villa (after spending sme years in Italy doing apprenticeship) in Antwerpen, called Rubenshuis, with beautiful interior courtyard and gardens behind the house.

In front of Rubenshuis
Courtyard and garden of Rubenshuis

Antwer is also a famous shopping city of Belgium, fashion place and The World‚Äôs Capital of Diamonds, as around 80% of the world‚Äôs rough diamonds, and 50% of its cut diamonds are traded in Antwerp each year.


It is a huge port of Europe since it area is 50 miles inland. As a result, the port of Antwerp has become one of Europe‚Äôs second largest sea port by total freight shipped.

Located on both sides of the Scheldt River, the city of Antwerp is connected by three tunnels under the river. The Kennedy Tunnel was opened to road traffic in 1969, and was named after John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States.

The massive Antwerpen-Centraal (Antwerp Central) is considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful railway stations, opened in 1905 Рthe times of Belgian Art Nouveau.

Antwerp Central Station


Dynamic and thriving city, most famous by its university: the oldest Catholic University in the world, founded in 1425. The historic centre is one of the most beautiful in Belgium.

The most famous citymark is gothic City Hall on the main square.

City Hall of Leuven


Then this city, probably my favourite as it is at the seaside, having long riviera, trying to capture my mood and remind me on the Mediterranean.

Details on a facade of the house in Oostende

It is a coastal city on the North Seam in the history being constatntly taken by different invadors (French, English, Dutch, then later Flemmish, German…)

Especially during July and August, Ostend is famous for its sea-side esplanade, including the Royal Galleries of Ostend, pier, and fine-sand beaches. Ofcourse, some great sea food is well offered as well. ūüôā

Long sand beach of Oostende, Belgium – ending in eastern France


Home page 25

Christmasing in Brussels

Living in Brussels gets special glow in the time of Christmas. There are many Winter Wonders and of course the Christmas Market¬†where local delicious smell at long distance ūüôā

Usually the Winter wonders (fra. Plaisirs d’Hiver)¬†stretche over 2.5km through the Grand Place, the Bourse, Place Ste Catherine, the fish market and Henri Maus and Bouse-de-Brouck√®re streets.

At Grand Place there are christmas lights combined with the music. It runs every hour and makes you part of the fairytale. The main Christmas tree is there too,more then 20 m high! ūüôā A great shopping could be done around with buying some¬†beer, waffles, chocolates, pralines and of course the famous belgian¬†fries that will delight foodies.

Street decorations are the special part of luxury.

Christmas market starts around the Bourse with small houses and some¬†benches to sit down or bar tables to stand around. If you are cold – don’t worry, the heat from the wooden christmas houses and some heaters above are enough to keep you warm around heart and your body itself.

The best part is at the Place St Catherine! At the facade of the church is a ligt show as well but more a representation of the cartoon. This year the Japan was in the spot of the story. St Catherine’s Square was transformed into a winter wonderland with the festival featured an ice rink, gift stalls, a craft fair, Santa’s Grotto, funfair, and choirs and brass bands performing your favourite Christmas carols!

Royal Sint Hubert Gallery is the story for itself:


And Atomium as well:


Merry Christmas and happy new Year!



Castle 12

Chateau de Bouillon – home of Godfrey of the Crusades

A medieval castle in the town of Bouillon in the south of Belgium… impressively standing on the hill and witnessing ¬†its glory.


Although it was mentioned first in 988, it has been there, on the same site for a much longer time. The castle is situated on a rocky cliff of the river Semois .

In 11 century it came to the possession of Godfrey of Bouillon who sold it to Bishop of Liège in order to finance the First Crusade. The castle was later used for heavy artillery in the late 17th century.


Inside the castle you can walk from from room to room, to what used to be a library, to underwater passages,warehouses with of course – the brewery ūüôā until the dungeon where some detainees were tortured or killed. It is a great insight to medieval times!


Godfrey of Bouillon, 11th century was a Frankish knight, and one of the leaders of the First Crusade from 1096 until his death. To the Buillon castle he brought the best in technology and production to recreate the first Crusade in the company of thousands of men making their way to Jerusalem. After the successful siege of Jerusalem in 1099, Godfrey became the first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. He refused the title of King, however, as he believed that the true King of Jerusalem was Christ.

Episodes in the history of Belgium up until the 13th century with Godfrey Buillon

Of course, he made himself a final destination in the city of Bouillon. Although not buried in the castle, his grave is very close to the city walls with the museum opened a few years ago.


Home page 47

10 times Bruxelles je t’aime!

Brussels is considered to be boring, dull and overrun by Eurocrats, but it is actually a hidden gem which takes time to discover. When people ask me do I like Brussels and living here, I usually answer that the city and I have a very schizophrenic relationship Рwe love each other,   we hate each other. Sometimes its qualities are overlooked, so this post is a reminder to myself and those who have come to appreciate all the little things that make this city a beautiful place to live in.

Voil√†, the 10 reasons why¬†I love Brussels! ūüėÄ

  1. The Clemenceau marché


A massive weekend market close to Gare Midi with selling products from fruits and vegetables to stolen ipods.

2. Fresh sea food from the North sea with the glass of white vine


3. Of course, her majesty The Chocolate!


A major industry since the 19th century, today it forms an important part of the nation’s economy and culture.

4. And the other majesty: La bière!


5. Walking through the city and unexpectedly discovering parks with fountains, monuments and flowers like Bois de la Cambre.


6. Stunning Art Nouveau architecture mostly led by famous architect Victor Horta.


Brussels is the capital of Art Nouveau and magnificent structures throughout the capital city are recognized as “world heritage” by UNESCO. The brilliant creative works of Victor Horta, Paul Hankar… bring pleasure to thousands of visitors who enter the private world of these opulent houses every year.

In 19 century Brussels went through a period of unrivaled effervescence. The middle classes, merchants and artists opted to have their houses built in the style in vogue: Art Nouveau, marking the beginning of modern architecture and design.

7. Famous Belgian Flower carpet


A biennial event that takes place every other August.¬†Nearly a million flowers are required to create the ephemeral 1,800 square meter carpet.¬†The tapestry always exhibits begonias, one of Belgium’s major exports since 1860.

8. This romantic existing things whenever I walk in the city:


9. It goes back to ”medieval” twice a year!


For two nights every July and later in September, Brussels goes back in time when 1,500 performers resplendent in 16th Century garb re-enact the entry of Emperor Charles V into the city.

10. The fact I am close to many cities and its airports/stations so I can escape whenever wherever.