I have been working a full time job for quite a while now and working six days/evenings out of seven doesn’t leave me much time to go places. Sitting at home most of the time makes me get antsy. I want to go out and explore new places! As a big Lord of the Rings fan, which to me is the ultimate adventure and travel story, I understand Bilbo really well when he said: “I want to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains.”
It’s a feeling that I never had before I went to Australia. After getting back home, It seems hard for me to spend several months in one place. Like I said I get antsy and I want to see new things. It’s an interesting change of my way of thinking and my behaviour. I’m currently working on a blog post about that. (Update: How Australia changed my life)
Anyway… Last Sunday it really was time for me to get out of the house. Belgium is a really tiny country, but it’s packed with history and culture. So after a couple of weeks of working it’s an easy way for me to get my culture fix!
Some may have heard about the city of Dinant, but most of you probably haven’t. It’s a small city located in the province of Namur in the French speaking region of Belgium. Except for one famous picture, I didn’t really know a lot about it either though, so that was a great reason to go take a look.
First thing I discovered after arriving in Dinant was that the abbey of Leffe is located a little north of the city. Since Leffe is one of my favorite beers ever, this surprised and embarrassed me at the same time.
Dinant has several other interesting landmarks.
The entrance to the Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame with is characteristic onion-shaped dome is free. From the outside it’s a rather small looking church, but the interior is really impressive. The original 10th century collegiate church was replaced by a Roman style church in the 12th century. The northern portal is the only remaining part of that church. The present Gothic style church was built in the 13th and 14th century.
Saying that I’m not a religious person definitely is an understatement, but I have to give religion credit for its ability to make people build amazing churches, mosques, temples, cathedrals and so on. Religious architecture probably is the most interesting form of architecture after all.
A visit to Dinant isn’t complete unless you’ve climbed the 408 stairs to the famous Citadel. The fortified Citadel lies on top of a near vertical rock behind the church. It was built in 1051 to protect and control the valley of the Meuse River. It has been used and rebuilt by the Prince-Bishops of Liège, the Spanish, the French and the Dutch. The present Citadel was built during the Dutch occupation in the 19th century.
A little outside of town lies the Grotte la Merveilleuse (the marvelous cave). I love caves. Every time I enter a cave I feel like I’m going back in time. There’s no connection with our present materialistic lives, nothing reminds you of televisions, jobs, money,… I love it. So I thoroughly enjoyed visiting this cave as well. A visit was only possible with a guide and usually I’m not really a fan of guided tours, especially when the guides try to be funny. This guide was great though. He provided us with some interesting and welcome information. He didn’t talk too much either, but when he did, he spoke with a great French accent, for which I have nothing but respect. After all, and even though they both are Belgium’s official languages, speaking Dutch isn’t that easy for a native French speaker…
One of the least known features of Dinant is that it’s the birth place of Adolphe Sax. That’s right, Sax as in saxophone. He was a 19th century musician and music intrument designer. The house were he lived still exists and is visited by many tourists each year.
Saxophone statues and images can be found all over the city.
I really liked spending the day in Dinant, getting to know the city and surroundings, its history and learning some new and interesting things, enjoying the weather and having a beer. Of course it was only one day, but if you don’t have a lot of time for whatever reason, this is the way to do it!
It’s not only heaps of fun exploring some place new, but getting there can be enjoyable too. Especially when you drive past places like this:
I have planned some more day trips like this in the upcoming weeks. After visiting Waterloo more than a month ago, I think it’s about time I check out the next famous battlefield in Belgium. I will probably be going to Ypres and Flanders Fields in two weeks.
This is my entry for the Carnival of Europe hosted by DJ Yabis at Dream Euro Trip.