Hear about travel to Mechelen, Hasselt, and Leuven in Northern Flanders (Belgium) as the Amateur Traveler talks to Sofie Couwenbergh from WonderfulWanderings.com about her country.
Sofie says of this region, “We are talking about the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium which is in the northern region. Most people know it because it is where the famous city of Bruges is. I don’t want to talk about Bruges today. I want to talk about my hometown which is Leuven and two other smaller cities that I think tourists often pass on that are really worth visiting as well which are Hasselt and Mechelen.”
“These three cities are located fairly close to one another. They can be perfectly combined into a one-week trip to Belgium. Bruges is known because it’s a historic city and it’s pretty. These cities are all historic cities but they are also cities that are lived in. They are cities where things are happening, where new museums are opened, where new shops are opened.”
Sofie starts us on an itinerary from Hasselt to Leuven to Mechelen. All of these cities are easy to reach by train.
Hasselt has a fashion museum which is worth a visit. She also recommends a visit to the Jenever (or in the English-speaking world Dutch gin) Museum. Hasselt is surrounded by nature so she advises us to get out of the city, to go biking or hiking.
Leuven is a University city, so it is calmer in Summer. Belgium is the home to beguinages which were like a convent for laywomen. There are two of these in Leuven which are both UNESCO World Heritage sites. Leuven still boasts buildings from the 1400s like the beautiful town hall and cathedral. Sofie also recommends a visit to the Stella Artois Brewery.
Mechelen is the city that “puts out the moon”, which dates back to a medieval story. Take the path along the water for a quiet walk in the middle of the city. You can also take a boat tour.
Come see this less-visited region in Belgium.
Groot Begijnhof, Leuven
Leuven Botanical Gardens
Brewery Stella Artois
St. Rumbold’s Tower
Mechelen Transit Camp
Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance
12 fun things to do in Mechelen, Belgium in a day
Belgium – Ultimate Guide
Jeff comments on Travel to Rwanda – Episode 591
Hey Chris, another great episode which brought back many memories. I finally get a podcast which I can contribute.
My wife and I flew to Kilgali directly from Serengeti National Park (Tanzania) on Coastal Air, flying over the world’s third largest lake, Lake Victoria. It was a Cessna, we were the only passengers! Rwanda is the “Land of a Thousand Hills”. And the drive to the Mountain Gorillas will show you why.
I wanted to add some comments on the Mountain Gorilla trek in Volcanoes NP. Each guide must daily bid to see a particular gorilla family. It looks like trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. We got the Umubano family with the silverback “Charles”, http://igcp.org/gorillas/gorilla-families/. Our trek in November was muddy and slippery. I suggest long sleeves as you maybe climbing through stinging nettle.
(editor’s note: Chris you can cut the next paragraph out if you want).
As a safety advisory for situational awareness and I know this will scare some people, the “armed” rangers, are not necessarily for poachers. You may be less than two miles from the Democratic Republic of Congo border where rebels may be fighting Congo government troops. They have had a tendency to cross the border. Just after we returned home, a Rwanda ranger, Esdras Nsengiyumva, was killed by the rebels when they crossed the border into the park. This was in 2012. Having said this, the rangers take great pride in keeping the visitors safe. My wife and I would go again.
Finally, prior to going you may want to watch the movie “Hotel Rwanda” which centers on the genocide. In addition, to the genocide memorial you should also visit the memorial to the 10 Belgium UN peace keepers who were the first to be murdered. Their compound is preserved with the bullet holes still visible. On the bright side, Rwanda has its own version of Starbucks called Bourbon Coffee!
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