Sunday, 17 July 2016

A special adventure in Leuven

Today we walked a huge 7.5 km. The longest adventure we've ever had in any Dijleland adventure. And we had just realized that there were a whole new set of numbers we hadn't seen! We started off at black 12 (the blacks were the landmarks and the reds were normal) then we went to black 9 and 8, then to black 2, 3, 1 and 4 after that to black 6 then red 69 and finally back to 6 red where the car was.

Just as we started, we saw landmark 12 called Kasteel Van Arenberg. It looked beautiful. We tried to find a way inside but all the doors were locked.

As we walked to 8 and 9 we found a village. In the medieval times, the men used to go far away and fight while the women and children used to stay and build villages where they would live a very religious life. The town was full of houses that looked like they were from the 17th century. Near 8 and 9, there was a river called Dijle. That river and Dijlepark is why the whole thing is called Dijleland. Dijlepark was lovely and had a classy bridge. We took a picture there. Just after that we decided to have a break. I had a coke while Tonio had a Belgian beer called Orval and we shared a tapas for two. It was delicious!

We went into a church and saw St Damien De Veuster. He went to Molakai in Hawaii to help people that had leprosy. He helped the people to build schools, hospitals and homes for the poor. But while he was finding a cure, he caught leprosy and died of it at the 15th April 1889 but his courage and bravery helped the people and they slowly but surely found a cure to leprosy!

When we found 1, 2, 3 and 4, it was near the center. We had another break there and I had a portion of olives. Nearby we saw a church and went into it. It looked grand. 

When we reached 2 we saw a huge bug being stabbed by a much bigger stake of sorts. Opposite it was a majestic looking building. Near the entrance was a roof that looked strange but cool.

Then, we saw a statue called Fons Sapientiae. It was a statue of a man pouring beer into his brain while reading. I said, "That's proof that people think a certain amount of beer is good for you." Then Tonio replied, "You know that alcohol isn't good for you, no matter what type." We took a picture of it with me eating an Oreo flavoured ice cream.

After that, we reached 6, the city park. There was a mini waterfall that looked admirable.

Then it was pretty straightforward from 69 to 6. But there were very stunning views indeed.

When we finally reached our car, we realized that we were very VERY exhausted, so we stumbled into the car, and drove home. Did you like our adventure? If you did, then join us next time, in Dijleland adventures!


[By Tonio:] A while back, our route should have taken us to no. 69, but the way was closed as the bridge that led to it was closed down as it was in danger of collapsing. No. 69 is at the edge of Leuven and in our map there's an "off network" route from 69 through Leuven and leading to no. 6. The off-network path through Leuven is 4.9 km long, while the "network" path from 69 to 6 is 2.6 km. Both alternatives may be joined into a 7.5 km long loop.

Saturday 16th, two days before our great adventure in Bucharest, Romania, we embarked on this 'special' adventure. We started at no. 6 in the extensive garden of an educational establishment at the edge of Leuven and could immediately admire the Kasteel van Arenberg next to the Dijle river.

The route followed the Dijle for a good while. We entered the central part of Leuven, within its ring road, in a Unesco World Heritage site - the Groot Begijnhof. This was a medieval village that used to house single women in a spiritual community. Nowadays it's used mostly for student accommodation. Leuven is very much a university town with different faculties spread within it, and students make up a sizable proportion of its population. The Begijnhof is maintained in excellent condition, although I have to say the old cobblestones are not easy to walk on at all.

We had a lovely tour of some of the main attractions in Leuven. We entered a complex with a watermill where we had lunch consisting of tapas, proceeded to a garden over a bridge and approaching the centre. We entered a church dedicated to St Anthony the Hermit, where there is a crypt and an exhibition on St Damien, who died of leprosy after going on a mission to take care of lepers on a remote island in Hawaii. It's so impressive how selfless some people can be.

We passed through the Oude Markt and had coffee at the Grote Markt, the main square with a magnificent town hall in gothic style, entered the Sint-Pieterskerk, said hello to Fonske, the mascot of Leuven, and passed by many other interesting sights.

Gianluca posed in front the statue of a boy, 'De Witte', in yet another garden, this one serving as a bicycle park. We had a rest at the main town park - Sint-Donatuspark - full of families with toddlers chasing beach balls and older children going wild over a kiosk with musical instruments and percussion instruments. Gianluca contributed a lot to the din while we were there. I sat down on the grass and amused myself watching the toddlers.

With all the detours we ended up walking much more than 7.5 km. The route led us to 69, from the other side of the closed bridge, where there was a beautiful view of the church tower of the Abdij van Park (the Park Abbey) where we had been previously. The remaining 2.5 km towards no. 6 was mostly next to the railway and quite uneventful except for some views into long back gardens planted with vegetables or housing chickens. It was here that Gianluca talked about his wish to study agriculture. It's either that or archaeology. Well, good luck Gianluca, either one of them would be an interesting career choice.

We came back to the car about six hours after setting out, tired but satisfied with our thoroughly successful day trip to Leuven.

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