A Travellerspoint blog

Belgium

Belgium.

Statue in Bruges. - Belgium

Statue in Bruges. - Belgium

Belgium.

Today the beautiful little Belgian girl in my primary three class, Victoria, left my school to return to Belgium, so it seems like a good day to write my Belgium page. I have visited Belgium three times, not counting the times I've just passed through and spent a couple of hours. Visit one was on the 13th of March 1987. I know the exact date because it was exactly one week after the Zeebrugge ferry disaster in which 193 people drowned. I had told my sister I was going to Belgium and she was only half-listening and got confused about the date of my journey and the port I was sailing to and was convinced that I had been killed on the 6th of March 1987. I was not, in fact, even sailing to Zeebrugge but to Ostend and I was visiting for a day having collected tokens for a trip from Dover to Ostend for a pound from the Mirror or Sun newspapers. Since my departure point was Glasgow, my day trip really covered more than two days. Overnight bus to London, travel on to Dover, early morning crossing, late ferry back, overnight back up. I would not have the stamina to travel like that now, but I was young then. It was a freezing cold day and we had a quick look at Ostend, then took a train to Bruges. I felt we had made a wonderful discovery a beautiful, historical town and not a tourist in sight. I did not realize this was just due to the weather. After spending several hours in Bruges, we returned to Ostend. It was so cold we bought a quarter bottle of brandy to swig in an attempt to stay warm. We had very little money and went to a cafe and ate Croque Monsieur trying to eat as slowly as possible so we could stay inside and thaw out. Apart from the weather, it was a great trip.

Visit two.

I don't remember the year. It was the late 1980's or early 1990's and we were making our way to Austria by train. We stopped over in Brussels, Liege, Luxembourg and Strasbourg. In Brussels we stayed in a cheap hotel near the station. We arrived quite late and were travelling onwards next day, so only really saw the city centre: the Grand Place, the Manneken Pis. Then we travelled on to Liege. I only have two photos of Liege. I remember a lovely park with a swan filled pond and climbing up lots of steps to see the view over the town. We stayed overnight in a cheap hotel near the station again.

Visit three.

Visit three was in 2003 and we travelled with two friends. It was August and Brussels was not all that busy. Most of the population were on holiday. We managed to get a lovely hotel with an indoor swimming pool pretty cheaply. We explored the centre of Brussels plus went further afield to visit the Atomium. We also used Brussels as a base for a day trip to Bruges. I told our friends that it was an undiscovered historical gem, but in fact it was swarming with tourists. We did a day trip to Antwerp also extremely busy and a day trip to Ypres where we took a tour of the World War 1 battlefields. This was an excellent tour very, very moving and sad.

Here are some of the places we have visited in Belgium.

Brussels City Centre.

On our last visit to Brussels one of the things we enjoyed was just wandering the streets and having leisurely meals in outdoor restaurants. I, of course, tried mussels and frites with mayonnaise and lots and lots of wonderful beers, not to mention excellent chocolate. The Grand Place is the main square of Brussels. Most of the buildings here are in the same architectural style and date from the seventeenth century. The buildings here have highly ornate facades and many are topped with statues. During our visit there was a flower market in the centre of the square which added to the beauty of the scene. Near the Grand Place is the Manneken Pis the famous little boy peeing. The Manneken Pis is the symbol of Brussels and, in fact, the whole of Belgium. He has his own outfits and these are changed frequently for different events and occasions. The Manneken Pis was designed by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the Elder in 1618. The statue is located on the corner of Rue de l'Etuve and Rue des Grands Carmes. The statue has been stolen frequently and the current statue dates from just 1965. There are several legends about this statue. One is the story of the two-year-old Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. In 1142 the troops loyal to this two year old were battling against the troops of the Berthouts. Duke Godfrey III of Leuven's troops put the baby duke in a basket and hung the basket in a tree. The baby duke urinated on the troops of the Berthouts in the midst of the battle which they eventually lost. Another legend claims that in the 14th century, Brussels was attacked by a foreign power who laid siege to the city. The attackers decided to place explosives at the city walls. A little boy named Julianske saw the besiegers lighting the explosives and he urinated on the burning fuse saving the city. A third legend states that a visitor to the city lost his infant son and after a frantic search found him near the statue's present location peeing. He gifted the statue to Brussels as a thank you for getting his son back unharmed. We also visited Jeanneke Pis. This is a statue of a little girl peeing. She is located not far from the Manneken Pis on the Impasse de la Fidélité or Fidelity Alley. Jeanneke Pis is not as famous as the Manneken Pis. It is a fairly new statue. It was commissioned by Denis Adrien Debouvrie and was first displayed in 1987.

The Royal Palace. - Belgium

The Royal Palace. - Belgium

The Grand Place, Brussels. - Belgium

The Grand Place, Brussels. - Belgium

Brussels - City Centre.

Brussels - City Centre.

Brussels - City Centre.

Brussels - City Centre.

Brussels - City Centre.

Brussels - City Centre.

Excellent Meal.

Excellent Meal.

Belgian icons - the atomium

The Atomium is located in Heysel and is well worth a visit as it is quite unique. It was originally constructed for Expo '58, the 1958 World Fair which took place in Brussels. It was designed by engineer André Waterkeyn and architects André and Jean Polak. The atomium is 102 m tall. Its nine spheres are connected so that they form the shape of an atom magnified 165 billion times. The atomium has a variety of weird and wonderful exhibitions inside it and there are great views from the top sphere. We could see the famous Heysel Stadium from there. The Heysel Stadium Disaster occurred here on May 29th 1985. Thirty-nine fans were crushed to death before the start of the 1985 European Cup Final between Juventus and Liverpool. Outside the atomium was one of those wandering cow sculptures we keep encountering Zurich was full of them when we went there.

Belgian icons - the atomium

Belgian icons - the atomium

Belgian icons - the atomium

Belgian icons - the atomium

Belgian icons - the atomium

Belgian icons - the atomium

Ostend.

Ostend is a city located in Western Flanders. We travelled here by ferry from Dover on a freezing cold March day. On our visit we walked along the front looking at the boats. Later we took a train to Bruges, a journey of around just 15 minutes. We then came back to Ostend for dinner. I believe there is a beach here, but we did not investigate this as it was freezing when we visited. We also did not really look at any particular sights just strolled around the town and ate there. It is a pleasant place and would be enjoyed on a warmer day.

Ostend

Ostend

Bruges.

We have been fortunate enough to visit Bruges twice. Once on a freezing cold spring day when we had it largely to ourselves and once in summer when it was a hub of touristic activity. After our first visit I really believed we had found an undiscovered historic town free of tourists and told my friends that on our next visit. Then we arrived and discovered how wrong I was. Crowded or not, Bruges is wonderful. It is a historic city with lots of canals, gateways, churches. On our summer visit we took a canal boat tour and visited an antique market. Bruges has an attractive town hall, a main square and lots of beautiful old buildings. After all our sightseeing, we enjoyed refreshing beers on the main square.

One of the sights I liked in Bruges was the fountain in t Zand public square. Markets are sometimes held in this square. The t Zand fountain has 4 separate sculptures created by husband and wife Stefaan De Puydt and Livia Canestraro. The sculptures are: a mermaid reclining on land reclaimed from the sea; a group of cyclists including characters from local folklore; a group of fishermen from the port of Zeebrugge; four bathing ladies who represent the four main cities in Flanders: Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent and Kotriejk. My main Belgium page picture is the bathing ladies and the cyclists are one of the photos on this tip. I enjoyed this fountain because it is unusual and fun.

Bruges

Bruges

Bruges

Bruges

Bruges

Bruges

Bruges

Bruges

Bruges

Bruges

Liege.

Liege is a town on the Meuse River. It is not far from Belgium's borders with Germany and The Netherlands. It is the birthplace of the Emperor Charlemagne. In more recent times it was also the birthplace of writer George Simenon. We spent some time strolling along the river area and crossing the bridges there. We visited a large park with ponds, statues and lots of swans. We climbed up lots of steep steps to the citadel to see the view over the city.
.
Liege

Liege

Liege

Liege

Antwerp.

Antwerp is a beautiful historical city. It is the second largest city in Belgium and is located on the Scheldt River. Antwerp is a port and is famous for diamonds. Antwerp gets its name from a local legend. Long ago a terrible giant called Antigoon lived near the Scheldt River. Whenever anyone tried to cross the river, they had to pay him a toll. If they refused to pay, the fearsome giant severed their hand and hurled it into the river. One day a brave young hero named Brabo wanted to cross the river. When the giant appeared to exact his toll, Brabo fought and killed him. He cut off the dead giant's hand and threw it in the river. Antwerp comes from the Dutch words for hand and throw. On the day we visited, Antwerp was astonishingly crowded. I'm not sure if this is just normal or if there was a special event going on. The main square was the busiest part. This square is filled with beautiful historical buildings. It also has a colourful town hall and a famous statue of the hero Brabo. After exploring the centre, we walked to the castle on the river. Nowadays this castle is Antwerp's Maritime Museum. Antwerp is an interesting place to visit with a pleasant, bustling atmosphere.

Antwerp

Antwerp

Antwerp

Antwerp

Antwerp

Antwerp

Antwerp

Antwerp

Antwerp

Antwerp

Ypres.

I am not generally keen on taking organized tours, preferring where possible to do things on my own, but one of the friends we were travelling with strongly advocated doing a guided tour of the World War I battlefields around Ypres. This proved to be a wise choice for two reasons: one we did not have our own transport and the sights were widely dispersed; two the guide's historical knowledge was invaluable and brought what we were looking at to life. On our tour we visited trenches on the former front line, a war museum and a war cemetery. We had no idea before how little ground was taken in advancing the front line and at such a cost in human life. The war museum with its horrific photos brought home the horrors of war. For example there was a photo of woodlands and yes there was mud, debris and shell craters on the ground, but the full horror of the scene did not register till you notice part of a human leg which has been blown off and is hanging in a tree. The war cemeteries here are also poignant with their endless matching nondescript graves. So many dead that burying them is what's important not preparing their grave. My grandfather fought in Belgium in the First World War. He was lucky and survived uninjured. His brother lost both his legs and spent much of the rest of his life in hospital. I still remember taking the Erskine ferry across to Erskine Hospital to visit him when I was a child. A visit to Ypres and its surroundings is historically fascinating and deepy moving. In some places the famous Flanders poppies were growing on the now silent battlefields.

Ypres

Ypres

Ypres

Ypres

Ypres

Ypres

Ypres

Ypres

Ypres

Ypres

Posted by irenevt 23:14 Archived in Belgium Comments (3)

(Entries 1 - 1 of 1) Page [1]