Archive for December, 2014

Best Thing to See at Brussels, Belgium: Comic Strip Murals

Posted: December 26, 2014 by obsesessivetraveler in Belgium, Europe
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Cart 0What strikes a person visiting Brussels for the first time are the omnipresent comic strip murals!! On my first visit there, I spotted one comic strip mural and was fascinated. Then I kept walking around kept spotting more and more murals and soon realized that all murals were based on comics, which was quite unique as murals in most cities are based on abstract art or some recent topic but I have never been to a city where all murals are based on comic murals. Walking through Brussels is like flipping the pages of a comic book where all the popular comic characters come alive- Tintin, Spirou, Smurfs, Lucky Luke, Daltons, Corentin, Black, Mortimer etc!Belgians regard by comic strips as 9th art and Brussels as the capital city does pay a true ode to this art form! The comic strip mural project started in 1991 when following a ban on billboards, the walls looked ugly and dilapidated and hence the billboards were replaced by comic murals and now there are over 50 murals that give a unique identity to Brussels as a city. Whenever I would think of Brussels now, the first thing that would come to mu mind would be the comic strip murals.

There are dedicated Comic strip walks and cycling tours. I however bought the comic strip map from the Information center and walked along the recommended path as per map 1 and trailed a number of murals for a day , though of course trailing all 50 (map 1, 2 & 3) would require 2-3 days. Map 1Map 1 Map 2Map 2 Map 3Map 3 Some of the comic strip murals I saw were: 1. The Passage by Francois Schuiten & Benoit Peeters Cart 16 2. Broussaille by Frank Pe (first mural in July 1991) Cart 17Cart 2 3. Victor Sackville by Francis Carin Cart 18 part 2 Cart 18 4. Monsieur Jean by Philippe Dupuy & Charles Berberian Cart 20 5. XIII by Jean Van Hamme & illustration by William Vance Cart 21 Part 3

  1. Yoko Tsuno by Roger Leloup Cart 22 6. Young Albert by Yves Chaland (French) Cart 1 7. Olivier Rameau & Colombe Tiredaile by Dany & Greg Cart16 copyCart 15 8. Tintin (Calculus Affair) by Herge cart 26 Few other comic strips around:
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How to Move About in Dinant

Posted: December 18, 2014 by obsesessivetraveler in Belgium, Europe
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I have a fetish for collecting maps and I especially loved the map of Dinant I had received from the Tourist Information Center there. It is an awesome illustration, of course made possible by the fact that the town is so small that its entire dimensions could be covered on foot in half an hour but nevertheless I love the illustration and somehow I feel it quintessentially represents the comic spirit of Belgium.

But perhaps the other Europeans would say,” How would anyone take Belgium seriously when their maps are also not serious!!”

dinant map

This church with a 68m high onion-shaped tower is one of the major landmarks of Dinant. It was built as a Romanesque church at the end of the 12th century. When in 1227 a part of the rock behind the church destroyed the tower, it was partially rebuilt in Gothic Style and later the characteristic onion shaped tower was added.

Dinant flourished as a manufacturing hub for metal products especially brass. The carillon of bells (made in Dinant) at the Church is interesting.

Citadel, Dinant

Posted: December 9, 2014 by obsesessivetraveler in Belgium, Europe
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The fortified citadel on the top of the cliff behind the Church is one of the major landmarks of Dinant. It was first built in the 11th century to overlook and control the Meuse valley and was rebuilt and enlarged in 1530 by the Prince-Bishops of Liege. The French troops destroyed it in 1703 and in 1821 the Dutch troops rebuilt it in the present style.

The citadel can be reached by road, by a cable car, or by a 420-step staircase. The entry is paid and the guidebooks say that the cable car costs 1€ more and hence I took the stairs while going up, only to realize I was the only one doing so.

Later while coming down I realized that the cost of cable car is by default included within the ticket. So I am not sure that whether they do not give tickets without the cable car now or you have to especially as for the same. Anyways the only consolation for climbing stairs is that it offered better views of the city than the cable car did.

The museum has an interesting exhibition on the role Dinant played in World War II.

I love the illustrations describing the German attach on 15 Aug 1914 and how Dinant was supported by French and not Belgian army.

The citadel is quintessentially just one room and some adjoining outer sections. Thus I liked the room but was anticipating more as I am used to massive citadels, so the small size was a bit of a disappointment!! However it is definitely a must visit especially for the stunning views of the city!!

Saxophone Museum, Dinant

Posted: December 7, 2014 by obsesessivetraveler in Belgium, Europe
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This museum is in a house at roughly the same location as the house where Adolphe Sax, the inventor of Saxophone, was born on 6 November 1814. This house is quintessentially a very small room that has a brief exhibit about him and the Saxophone and the entry is free.

 Keeping in line with Belgian custom, the museum has a number of illustrations/ cartoons in and around the museum.  

  

Things to see at Dinant, Belgium

Posted: December 5, 2014 by randommuzings in Belgium, Europe
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Strangely, Dinant is one of the underrated tourist attractions in Belgium. The most commonly visited places are Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and Brussles. Dianant usually doesn’t fall in the list but I am glad my friend had strongly recommended visiting Dinant showing me the picture of the church and the citadel against the rocks and seeing the picture I knew I had to see it for myself.

Getting There:
Dinant, lies about 65 km south of Brussels and can be easily reached from Brussels by train (about 90 minutes) or by road (about an hour).  Please note that the train from Brussels separated at Namur and only a few coaches go to Dinant. Thus please check with someone on reaching Namur if you are on the right coach.

It is a small town and can be easily covered in a day.

Dinant Must-Sees

  1. The Collegiate Church of Our Lady: This church with a 68m high onion-shaped tower and the citadel at the top of the cliff behind serve as the landmark image of Dinant. It was built as a Romanesque church at the end of the 12th century. When in 1227 a part of the rock behind the church destroyed the tower, it was partially rebuilt in Gothic Style and later the tower was added.
  2. Citadel: The fortified citadel on the top of the cliff behind the Church, was first built in the 11th century to overlook and control the Meuse valley and was rebuilt and enlarged in 1530 by the Prince-Bishops of Liege. The French troops destroyed it in 1703 and in 1821 the Dutch troops rebuilt it in the present style. The citadel can be reached by road, by a cable car ride, or by a 420-step staircase and now houses Dinant’s Arms Museum. The museum has an interesting exhibition on the role Dinant played in World War II.
  3. Charles De Galle/ Saxophone Bridge: You enter the town through this bridge. The bridge exhibits many saxophones painted by several countries of the European Union. Each saxophone is unique in itself.
  4. House of Mr Sax (Entry Free) Adolphe Sax, the inventor of Saxophone, was born in Dinant on 6 November 1814. This house has a brief exhibit about him and the Saxophone. The more detailed exhibit is at the Musical Instruments Museum at Brussels.
  5. Bayard Rock and the Legend: Just on the outskirts of Outside of the city is ‘le Rocher Bayard’ (the Bayard rock). It was separated from the main rocks with an explosion to provide passage for the French troops of Louis XIV after they had taken Dinant. However, as per the popular legend, the rock was split by the hooves of the giant Bayard Horse, when it jumped from here over the Meuse river when the four Aymon Brothers were fleeing from the troops of Emperor Charlemagne, sitting on the back of the single Bayard Horse._DSC0067 copy
  6. Grotte La Merveilluise (Caves): Limestone caves with an interesting oblique stalactite that I would say is a must visit. I would personally give it the highest rating among the places to be seen at Dinant.

Other Interesting Places to See:

Town Hall: It was built on the residence of Prince-Bishop of Leige in1700 and rebuilt in 1924 and now stages various cultural events like jazz concerts and exhibitions. I love the sazophone sculpture in front of the building.

Tschoffen Wall: The owners were among the many civilians killed by Germans on 23rd Aug 1914.

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Cartoon Murals: Keeping in line with the Belgian fetish for cartoons, Dinant has interesting cartoons all over the town.

This place is not to be missed at Dinant, although most people tend to not visit the same as it not really much talked about and also it is located on the other side of the river of the major attractions. Also if viewed from outside the little shed doesn’t look too promising but you will be in for a surprise the moment you step underground. The caves are only 500m from Dinant railway station and the guided tours are 50 to 60 minutes long in French, English and Dutch.

For me these caves hold special significance as I finally got to photograph interesting limestone formations that had caught my fancy since I had visited the Dark caves at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last year but had not been able to click them due to no lighting (only torchlight) so as to not disturb the wildlife. The caves at Dinant were well-lit, although the shots would have been had I been carrying a tripod.

Limestone Formations (Speleothems)

Stalactites: The formations that hang from the ceiling of cave;

Stalagmites: The formations built up above the floor of a cave;

Flowstone: sheet-like, layered deposits on the walls or floors.

Column: formed when a stalactite and a stalagmite join each other

Oblique Stalactite: A rare formation when a Stalactite during formation takes a slight turn from the perpendicular and hence doesn’t join to form a column with the Stalagmite below. The 1 Oblique Stactite (which as per our guide is the tallest in Europe) is the main highlight of these caves and has been formed due to the wind in that part of the tunnel.

About Grotte La Merveilleuse (The Wonderful Cave)

The caves were discovered in 1904 and opened to the public in 1905. The caves were used as a shelter during World War II and as per our guide have been the shooting location for many Hollywood movies, although I don’t remember the names now.

Temperature inside the caves is 10 to 12 degree Celsius throughout the year and hence bats reside during winters but when I visited in autumn when the outside temperature was higher than that there were no bats inside.

The caves go to a depth of 40 meters underground, divided into 3 zones and the size of the caves keeps increasing as we move down. Up to 30m is accessible to public, the last 10m is still under water (River Meuse).