Antwerp, Belgium, has a long history of great artists, including Peter Paul Rubens, Antoon Van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens and Brueghel. A visit to any one of the museums is quite an experience, even for an art-neophyte like myself!
Belgium is planning to close 23 barracks by 2011, including the famed Battle of the Bulge HQ. The response from British and American war veterans? Classic Battle of the Bulge reply: NUTS!
You might have heard about the Battle of the Bulge, but the nuts are in the details. In Dec 1944, the Heinz barracks at Bastogne was the base for thousands of US soldiers, including the 101st Airborne Division, commanded by General Anthony McAuliffe.
In mid-December, the town in the Ardennes forest found itself surrounded by Germans. The German Commander Heinrich Freiherr von Luttwitz sent McAuliffe a note demanding that he surrender, to which McAuliffe responded with a one-word reply: “NUTS!”
The rest, as they say, is history – the Germans got rolled over pretty soon after this battle, and for the Americans – it was the biggest and bloodiest battle of WWII. The barracks currently houses a small museum dedicated to the sacrifices made by British and American troops.
So it’s no big wonder that war veterans greeted the Belgian plan to convert the barracks into a prison with the same sentiment that General McAuliffe must have felt. Protestors are zeroing in on Belgian defence minister Pieter de Crem, and asking supporters to write to de Crem. Just say – “NUTS!”
Belgium is choc-a-bloc full of war museums and memorials, most of them in Bastogne, which you can find listed here. This includes the Mardasson Memorial to honor the memory of the 76,890 American soldiers who were wounded or killed during the Battle of the Bulge.
Here’s a nice list of Belgium’s best hotels, in case you decide to drop in.
Photo – public domain (source)
It has been many years since I first visited Bruges, Belgium, but one image stays strong in my memory – bicycles. They are everywhere in this tiny town, about 50 miles northwest from Brussels, and are definitely the recommended mode of transportation while visiting.
As you arrive in the train station, you will find the first opportunity to rent bikes, in the station, for 6,50 Euros for half a day, 9,50 Euros for a full day. The bikes must be returned before 7:30pm, and you are required to leave a deposit.
If you prefer a guided tour, by bicycle of Bruges, Toerisme Brugge lists several bike tour companies, including Pink Bear Bike Tours, which arranges leisurely rides to nearby Damme via a tree-lined canal. Many photo opportunities abound, with picturesque windmills and Flemish villages.
And if you are interested in exploring the country of Belgium via bike, it is good to know that bikes can be taken on trains, although you will need a special bike + train ticket. In addition, you are advised to travel off-peak with your bike, and follow the train conductors as to where to load and unload your bike.
Bicycle photo courtesy of Toerisme Brugge and Jan Darthet
Review by Gudrun Enger, of Kitchen Gadget Girl Cooks