Archive for the ‘Belgium’ Tag

Royalty and Castles

How many of you imagined your self as a prince or princess as a child?

I enjoyed reading biographies and watching documentaries on the European royal families. Recently saw the movie, The Young Victoria on the flight back from Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg where I took trips to see various castles and fortresses.

In Ghent we spent two hours touring the Castle of the Counts which dates back to the 1300s. You can see the first part of the building to be constructed, then how they built around that part and expanded to take over more land and build the structure higher.

The museum shows you how boldface the methods of maintaining power were for these dominant families with displays of the torture devices.

The most glamorous castle we saw was in Luxembourg. The area of Vianden was historically involved in wars from the battles among fiefdoms in the Middle ages through World War II.

The sight of the castle looming on top of the hill is impressive.

This is the storybook castle according to a friend.

The bedroom shows that the count believed in the benefit of sleeping upright like most people did in the era.

The view from up top is really amazing.


This was the castle owned by one of the families that became the royals in the Netherlands. King William II sold it in 1820 and the place fell into continual disrepair. Although Victor Hugo stayed there in the early 1870s.

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Gardens

My partner and I grow vegetables, flowers and herbs in our postage stamp sized front yard and a strip of dirt we have in the back yard. Several other neighbors use pots of various sorts to grew a wide range of things to make Truxton Circle/Shaw nice and green.

The BeneLux vacation we finished last week offered a great chance to see a wide range of gardens. Since we started in Paris we took a short excursion to Versailles. Later we went to Namur to see the Jardin D’ Annevoire and we ended the trip with the tulip farms and tulip gardens of Keukenhof.

Versailles is the classic royal gardens. Half the time there is spent ooohing and aahing over the palaces and places like the Hall of Mirrors (see below)

Since we were there early in the year not many flowers were in bloom. We enjoyed a barer version of the gardens.
We enjoyed the classicism of its alleys, statuary and water displays.

The long, straight lines, guiding the eyes. The mythology of the Greeks and Romans brought to life.

Then there’s the sheer power and technological control of water.

A garden in the south central portion of Belgium has been around for nearly 300 years. It has aspects of the French classicism in it but also throws in English and Italian style gardens as well. Its technology creates multiple waterfalls but all using the water from the area in a natural manner.

The Jardin d’Annevoire had been held in two families for most of its existence and there is still a private section to the public parks. The chateau on site is charming.

The gardens feature both land and water alleys.

The English garden uses the piped in water from a lake on the far side of the hill to create a terraced waterfall.

Like Versailles, Annevoire uses statutes of mythological figures in central positions in water fountains.

Keukenhof is the idea of area flower farmers. It is open for spring and is flush with wild colors. The gardens are enormous and also contain glass arcades named after Dutch royalty. These arcades feature orchids or another single type of flower, medal winners, and also demonstrations and exhibitions.

The colors often appeared side by side.

As impressive as all these gardens were, sometimes the most amazing sight is seeing the plants growing. We spotted many a tulip farm in the area and reveled in the richness of the view.

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Historian of Sexuality in Gent, Belgium

Architects, historians, religious people can find three full days of activities in Ghent. The St-Baafskathedraal – St. Bravo’s Cathedral is a Gothic beauty with some amazing stain glass windows. The organ is enormous and the crypts are fun to explore.

The painting Adoration of Mystic Lamb by Van Eyck is in a separate section. They will soon be doing restoration work so we felt lucky to see it.

While the Belfry tower has been updated several times, I still enjoyed seeing the collection of ancient bells. The Harbor has many restored buildings in it which the boat tours openly discuss.

Many parts of the city were restored before the World’s Fair of 1913.  Still the Patershol neighborhood has much of its working class character. Many ethnic groups live there now and we ate at a good Indian/Pakistan restaurant.

The Grote Meat market is a humongous building that places you back to the Medieval Ages.

The biggest debate for our group involved the Castle of the Counts. While one person saw it as a vision of the Middle Ages by late 19th century people, another enjoyed the tour and the movie interpretation that they supplied. I thought the castle had amazing materials, such as torture devices, and while it had some elements of artifice, it still contained architectural elements that made you understand how people lived and used the building over its many centuries.

Most impressive to me is the Beguine women who lived in the city from the mid 1300s until the late 1960s. This group of women had three large housing complexes in the city and we visited two of them. Here’s the most intact one.

The buildings, which at that time still lay outside the city boundaries, were endowed for pious Catholic girls (begijnen) who wanted to live in a religious community but not in the seclusion of a convent. They devoted themselves to the care of the poor and sick. In a “Begijnhof” they were not called upon to abandon their personal freedom and could leave whenever they wished. They had their own accommodation and were not required to renounce personal possessions. When Amsterdam went over to Protestantism the “begijnen” had to make their church over to the English Presbyterian community and hold their services in secret in a small chapel opposite the church. The Begijnhof was turned into almshouses but the “begijnen” retained the right to be buried in their “old” church.

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