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.
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.