Thursday, May 2, 2013


Another beautiful, mild sunny day in Belgium, and I'm loving it!  Today I had only 10 miles to walk, with only mild hills, so I took my time and enjoyed the scenery as it passed by:  more lush green meadows, contented cows (except, perhaps, the disgruntled cow in the following photo), farmers on their compact tractors and cool, quiet, planted forests.

The real fun began when I came upon a group of high school boys assembling for an outing with their teachers: two days of hiking and one night of camping. Their backpacks were loaded and they were eager to begin.

The group was interested in hearing about my hike and the route I'm taking, and I greatly enjoyed their humor and energy. Since we were all bound for the same town, Stavelot, Belgium, we ended up walking together for part of the time, and shared outdoor tables for our picnic lunches. I appreciated their attempts to speak English and was happy to have plenty of French practice for myself. I haven't seen them since reaching town, since I'm in a hotel and they're setting up camp elsewhere.  I'm sure they're having fun.

The relatively small town of Stavelot is known for several things. The most amusing and unusual is their traditional carnival, the Laetare des Blanc-Moussis. On the fourth Sunday of Lent, some 200 local men clad in white and masked with long red noses parade through town throwing confetti and beating bystanders with dried pig bladders. And I thought Bill and I were the only people who did that.  Large masks are proudly hung on the exterior of some buildings.

There are remnants of an abbey here which originates from the year 650, but only the more recent cloisters remain. This photo is from my hotel window.

During the Battle of the Bulge in WWII, the city was the scene of severe fighting between the Allies and the Naxis,  who also murdered more than 100 civilians here. There are numerous memorials throughout town.

The town square appears to me like a set for WWII movies, especially "Saving Private Ryan."  Places like this bring history to life. It's amazing how towns can recover from the destruction and now receive tourists.

Many old half-timbered houses have survived through the years of war. I
hadn't seen any yet on the walk. They look reminiscent of Germany to me, but this is Wallony, the French speaking part of Belgium.  The students I walked with don't even study German in school, only French, Dutch and English.

Tomorrow will also be a relatively short day of walking.  I hope to be able to make use of my swimming suit in the town of Spa.


  1. Hurry up, Bill. I want to see the disgruntled cow.
    Hopefully I will learn tomorrow if the word spa comes from the town named Spa.
    I'm glad you're having some good weather.

  2. I see it now. He (or I guess she) is so cute.

    1. Yes, Mary, the town of Spa gave its name to the concept of hot spring resorts everywhere. Apparently there are quite a few spas here in Belgium.

      I thought the cow was a bit arrogant. Perhaps I've been alone a bit too long in the countryside

    2. It's the dried pig bladders, right? That cracked me up.