Staying awake all day on arrival day in Europe is a challenge that is more easily met if you are looking at something of interest. So the place I chose to go look is the Large Beguine village in Leuven, reached by train from Brussels where I was on business.
I will not recount much history here, since it is written quite compactly on this information sign:
If you want to really delve into the history of the Beguine movement, with emphasis on its mystical aspects, you can read this file on this web site.
Other Beguinages I have visited include one in Brussels and, my favorite one, in Bruges or Brugge.
But let's stay focused on Leuven, here is the main entry:
The small sign says the community was founded about 1232, and that the houses here are from the 16th through 18th centuries.
Note the strikingly different stone used in this wall and even in this gate. There are signs giving a geological history of the materials used in the buildings now here, and I was surprised and delighted to find out that this may be local stone, but its history goes back to hundreds of millions of years ago when this area was closer to the equator and there was a lot of volcanic activity around, the stones range from ancient volcanic porphyry to relatively young baked clays, with old sandstone and schist also in the mix.
But you are not here with me to talk geo-history, so let's hit some highlights such as the river that splits in two as it flows through this place:
There is also a narrower part of this river:
The couple on the bridge had just left a small interior park of some note: it uses willows to make living trellises!
A willow wisp is entwined with one coming from a neighbor tree, and the two are fastened to each other after a while. Would like to have seen it with all its leaves. But it is December, after all.
I suppose I should give you some sense of the houses, and get away from water and vegetation:
In some places the boundary of the village was watery:
In other places it was a wall with a gate, and the main one is what we started with, but this is a scene outside a smaller gate:
And this is that smaller gate with that same couple we have seen before:
In one square there stand two different historical methods for delivering water, a well and a pump:
To the right in the above photo is a gate into a garden area:
There was another gated garden area next to the river:
The church is from the 15th century (as is the Catholic University at Leuven!) and the oldest building:
A few more water and housing scenes ought to suffice to give you a flavor of this peaceful village:
There is more, but I think you "get the picture."
Go to Brussels and see the Christmas decor--same trip
Go to Nijmegen, the Netherlands, my home town
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