Glory of Green
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Stories from the Great Outdoors

 

In Belgium there are four seasons: spring, summer, autumn – and then there are the three months of November, November and November. Or so it feels like for Norwegians – spoiled with frosty and snowy winters as we are. Truth to be told, there’s snow outside my window in Belgium right now – and it’s been there for some days, but this is an anomaly, I’m sure. In early January we biked along the Mause (or Maas river in Flemish) from Namur to Dinant – and it was pouring down (almost) non-stop the entire way – just as I had expected from a Belgian January. Namur to Dinant is however a great bike-ride for kids, no matter the weather. It’s a completely flat and about 30 km long ride. You can turn and pedal your bike back – or you can take the warm and cosy train. Just remember to wear water-proofs all over. 

Vivre la Wallonie! (part 2)

This is the trip that turned out to be the second part of my Vivre la Wallonie week-end. See Vivre la Wallonie! (part 1) for a short-short description of the socio-economic development of the region from the middle ages. I saved the story of the region during the two world wars and some other stuff worth mentioning, though, so here it goes:

Namur is the capital of Wallonia, hosting the Walloon Parliament, Government and administration. They speak French. To me, Belgium is a chaotic political construction, defined both in regions and by the three official languages – I won’t even try to understand the full complexity. Feel free to investigate further if this is of interest. 

For now, I’ll only mention that Namur and Dinant are great holiday destinations. The rivers of Sambre and Mause confluences in the city of Namur, and the city hosts beautiful bridges and an UNESCO-listed Cathedral. Both Namur and Dinant have citadels, dominating the cityscape. The one in Namur has a 2000-year old history, while the one in Dinant stems from the Napoleonic era.

Namur and Dinant lie close to the Ardennes, and for any person with the slightest interest in history this implies a heavy toll during WW2. Both cities were also occupied by the Germans during WW1, and Dinant experienced the massacre of 674 civilians, that has later been named “The rape of Belgium”. The battle of Dinant (WW1) even has its own page on Wikipedia, and Namur was a major target of the German invasion of Belgium in 1914, seeing the Meuse valley as a route into France.

Better days

The bike path between Namur and Dinant is completely car-free as soon as you reach the river Meuse (about two km from the railway station in Namur). The route is scenic – with mighty old castles and estates along the way. The river has cut steep walls of rock and the fog creeped mystically around the cliffs. 

At the same time, we had the feeling that better days had gone by – exampled by an old camping wagon left out on the field of a castle and what looked like an abandoned holiday complex, windows smashed and similar red curtains hanging faded behind dirty glass. 

Still, I find this kind of decay quaint in its own way – I’m definitely a guilty-pleasure romantic. The question of "what on earth might this have been?" popped up a couple of times, though...

Ourselves, we decided that better days probably lie ahead. Audun and I got completely soaked due to lack of water proof pants – so very unexperienced it’s embarrassing – but we had extra mittens, which felt like a life saver at one point. 

Then we started to imagine how wonderful this bike path would be in spring – when the seemingly endless November ends. In Dinant the Meuse meets the Lesse river – there’s just so many options! Maybe we’ll bring kayaks and see where that will take us? Then, I’ll probably even have time to take picturesque photos of Dinant – something which seems to be mandatory when you travel in these quarters.

Bring bread

Finding good cafes in Dinant is probably unproblematic, but as we got a dinner invitation around 22 km on our way there and quickly realised that we had to speed up royally to catch the train back, we never tried any of them – as usual we were saved by sandwiches and chocolate from the backpack. 

Even if your plan is to eat at a restaurant, I recommend bringing bread or seeds. The birdlife is flourishing, and we could have made many new goose and sea gull friends if we had stopped to feed them.

Other practicalities

Start and stop was at the Pont de Jambes in Namur - you can see the bridge on the picture below.

The path follows the western side of the river and it’s difficult to get lost due to lots of helpful signs. They also keep you updated on the km status – which is extremely helpful when you do the ride with a nine-year-old. She got so happy and proud when she had done half of the way, it was a great motivator for completing the ride. 

If you're visiting Brussels, it's easy to reach Namur by train, and you can bring bikes on the train if you buy a ticket.