Page 5, 5th January 1962

5th January 1962
Page 5
Page 5, 5th January 1962 — HALT AWHILE in BELGIUM By LADY KELLY

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People: Napoleon, Prince
Locations: Wellington, Brussels, Antwerp


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THE nmst salient features of Belgian life are its organic roots in the past, its happy unsophisticated pleasures, its feeling for colour and movement and the virility of its people.

Out of this mixed bouquet here are a few blossoms connected with nature, people or places which. plucked out of Belgium's small provinces may help the traveller to feel what Verhagen the poet meant when he wrote: "The bells of this country have harmonies Si, deep that they are still heard even when they are muted."

One should halt awhile in Flanders. at Bruges, the Sleeping Princess who wakes up only in long summer weeks. never more than on the Monday following Ma s 2, when a sumptuous procession commemorates the return of the Holy Amphorae containing dried-up drops of Our Lord's Sacred Blood which has liquified a number of times since the Crusades when Tierry. Earl of Flanders and Alsace brought it to the West.

Streets, windows. bridges are all festooned with carpels and tapestries for this great procession.

With extraordinary ceremony the Benediction is given to the people.

* *

THE second stop must in Antwerp at Rubens' house. now turned into Plantin's museum, where the greatest of all Renaissance painters lived as 11 prince between his visits as Ambassador really extraordinary of the sovereigns of France, Spain and England.

The third halt is at Lierre in the province of Limburg. II has a curious "Ile'guinage" dating from the 13th century. This is a conglomeration of small houses each of which is lived in by a recluse who does not take vows but lives a life devoted to good works. The houses have vivid red roofs and old wrought-iron pumps; the river Nethe reflects its splendid XVth century church.

* *

THE fourth halt on Roseday in Lent could he at Eupen near Liege where a carnival reigns then. In this small town a number of carnival societies and choirs enact a pageant drawn from national and local history. Floats are garlanded and dressed up to the nines and groups of armed soldiers in fancy uniforms red white, blue white—green white go round the eity, honouring town officials.

All converge on the town hall where the Mayor makes a speech and surrenders his powers to Prince Carnival. Ile reviews the :tarade and later makes his entry into Eupen.

The fifth slop brings one to Mont St. Jean near Waterloo in Brabant. the Duke of Wellington's headquarters. The Brussels high road runs straight south to Napoleon's Belle Alliance farm.

On the niorning of June 18, 1815, as Wellington on his chestnut "Copenhagen" rode along his armies, his outposts were fortifying both the farm of La Haye

Sainte and Hungoumont in the grandest cavalry cheztLe in history.

* *

THE sixth halt Is in the manner of a reflective rest. Clothed in the grey velvet of its stones the ruins of the Abbey of Villiers near Nivelles cover a vast area.

This was a Cistercian foundation begun by St. Bernard. eight centuries ago. The south wing, the fine choir transept and nave VielT built later, as was the monk's brewery. At the French Revolution the Abbey 11,24 sacked, the monks dispersed. Even the lead was stripped from the roof. It was only when the Belgian Government undertook its preservation in 1890 that the damage was stopped. It is now wonderfully restored.

* *

THEseventh halt takes the visitor to Malines, the City of singing bells. Its background is redolent of historical memories. Here Erasmus was received by Marguerite of Austria. Baroque is

rampant and festoons church facades along the river Dyle.

St. Rombaul's Gothic tower dominates the city, a noble and well anchored shrine for the city bells which have made its "carrillon" famous. From the height of its three hundred feet, the church bells do not only ring, regimented, disciplined and fairy like: they descend in the town square in the summer in peals of unearthly music.

Listening to a "carrillon" recital in Malines is one of the most enchanting nays of recapturing illusions or putting sorrow to sleep.

* * THE eighth halt is a tryst with nature at Han. Here is a titanic palace for a plutonic god in greenless, sombre grottoes in a fold of the Namur prot ince hollowed out by the water of the river 1.esse. 1 hey were discovered only 165 years ago by four young men who left a trail of flour behind them so as to be able to retrace their steps, 111 takes three hours to visit these stupendous caves, to explore the Alpine subterranean chaos and the great lake — one hall measures nearly 500 feet long. and the roof of the embarkation lake is 400 feet high. Over it hangs chalky stalactites which clever lighting seems to drape in diaphanous folds of lace.

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