Belgian discoveries

I thought: when I come back, I have to start rediscovering Brussels and Belgium again, with new eyes, just as if it would be another stop on my journey.

And continue to write about it. One of the nice side effects of this blog was also to keep an eye open to interesting things, stories and pictures to share. It was like my daily task to come up with something somewhat interesting.

Now that I’m back, I feel a real risk of falling just into my daily routine and live a life between bed, office and watching TV series on the couch.

In order to break with those bad old habits, I need to say ‘yes’ to something new at least once or twice a week!

So when my friend Sven asked me if I wanted to join them on a day trip to Mons, about an hours’ drive from Brussels, I joined in.

Mons is one of the two cultural capitals of Europe in 2015, which means the city has a crazy number of events going on all year, and has prepared for years to show off its best side.

And indeed, it’s a charming city! Old medieval streets, beautifully restored houses, cafés, bars and parks.

We went to see an exhibition about Van Gogh, who, unknown to me, lived in Mons for two years of his life, and studied to become an illustrator for newspapers.

The exhibition had a great number of his early works and drawings.

No sunflowers, but it was interesting to discover his origins, and to see the style evolve into what would later become his world famous paintings.

After that, we just had a stroll through the medieval part of town, and uphill to the Belfry of Mons, the only Baroque style belfry in Belgium.

Standing on a hill overlooking the city beneath surrounded by a beautiful park, and looking over the landscape with its rich history, it really is worth a visit.

I realised that, all in all, in my 12 years in Belgium prior to my journey around the world, I had only been in Wallonia six times, including this trip to Mons.

Somehow I have always been drawn north, to Flanders, Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, where I studied, or the coast.

I totally ignored the southern part that is somewhat overlooked, and suffers from a bad image of being a region in industrial decline, closed steel mills and coal mines, unemployment and misery.

It was indeed once one of the powerhouses of European industry, but has yet to find an answer how to redefine itself.

But I discover that it’s a beautiful landscape with nice proper little towns, full of art and cafés and life.  I have to discover more of it. Namur, Liège, all the little towns around them

One big event is already coming up: Waterloo is preparing for the 200th anniversary of the final battle against Napoleon, with a full-on re-enactment of the battle.