|The biggest castle in Belgium
||[Jul. 7th, 2017|08:55 pm]
Of the places we visited on our spring holiday, Bouillon was the odd one out: a small town rather than the 'city break' centres of the rest of the trip, which makes it a much more typical stop for us. My Routard guide says it is one of the major tourist centres of Wallonia, a boast whose modesty delights me. But - again, according to Routard - it has the biggest castle in Belgium, and the history to go with it:
That's not the picture I took from our hotel window, but a very similar perspective, only from the walk we took as soon as we were settled in. You see the same view of the castle on its crag high above a loop in the river Semois, but you get a better view of the swan pedalos, which were doing brisk business on this Easter Sunday evening (there were flamingos, too). There are more pictures of the castle on the tourist office website. It's famous not just because it's an impressive medieval fortress but also because it belonged to the Godfrey of Bouillon who became king (or thereabouts - the precise title is variously reported) of the Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem. This is presumably him:
though I haven't found any information about it. Apart from that, a quiet Sunday evening in a small town: the hunting shop had a display of knives, and indeed swords, interspersed with fluffy chicks and Easter eggs; the beer shop was open, and we stocked up on produce of the local brewery because we were, after all, in Belgium. It would have been easy to forget that, now we were in a Francophone region, but France was all of eight miles away, and we kept stumbling over things which reminded us that Belgium is another country. This memorial, for example:
to M. Henri Charles, pharmacist, gunned down by a Rexist hit squad in July 1944, "victime de son devoir professionnel et de son patriotisme" - a victim of his duty to his profession and of his patriotism, because he was the victim of a revenge attack, and was killed responding to a false plea for medical help. But the Rexist party (Catholic fascists) was new to me.
Dinner at our hotel was the grandest of the trip, and if not the best, it was still pretty good. The following morning we explored the castle, in the rain: massive defenses, solid masonry; an impressive courtyard:
set out for a display of falconry. I was flagging as our path led us through one subterranean chamber after another, but durham_rambler urged me on: "You've got to see this!"
Deep in the dungeons, the cheeses are maturing. Nothing else could compare to that. Just at the point where we thought we were leaving the castle we came to an exhibition - more a mini-museum in its own right - about the history of reading and writing, and wished we'd seen it earlier, while the rain was at its heaviest, and we were fresher. My only note, copied from one of the information panels, is "Charlemagne n'a pas inventé l'école." Charlemagne didn't invent school? Who knew?
Time to take the road to Germany.
This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.