View my previous blog here:

I reply to all comments except spam, no matter how old!

Please ignore any email address displayed here! My email is shamp123 AT

Gmail has persistently ignored my request to change it even though it belongs to a minor.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Mechelen, Belgium

The Grote Markt (Town Square) of Mechelen in Belgium
I have just returned from a five day trip to Mechelen in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium (In French it's known as Malines). I have made the easy journey to Belgium dozens of times from my home in suburban London. Mechelen is a very typical Flemish town with a medieval central square and 336 protected-status beautiful buildings. St Rumbold's Cathedral, begun after 1200 and consecrated more than 100 years later, is visible in the picture above. Most of these town squares, usually known as the  Grote Markt (Great Market) are lined with buildings of Dutch-style architecture, most of which are restaurants and bars. More often than not the classy retail shops are situated in the streets leading out of the square in all directions. Although Mechelen is less of a tourist town it is still very popular with locals. I didn't hear too much English being spoken but most people are able to speak it well.
The vaulted ceiling of St Rumbolds, Mechelen
This type of ceiling is very weighty and it is not uncommon to see this style of architecture built with flying buttresses because the weight tends to push the walls outward and the buttresses transfer the load to the ground or a lower wall. The cathedral is full of superb works of art although it was stripped almost bare in the three-day Spanish Fury of 1572. It has two superb carillons of bells totalling 98 pieces, many weighing nearly a ton each!
Belgium has hundreds of different types of beers, as many as 500 at one time. They still offer genuine Trappist Beers brewed by monks since medieval times in six Belgian monasteries (there are five others in the world). The use of the term Trappist is strictly controlled but so-called 'Trappist-style' beers are marketed as Abbey Beers. Funnily enough, my friends and I managed to find some in Mechelen. Who'da thought?
As well as beer, Belgium is rightly famous for it's food having more Michelin stars pro-rata than France and Mechelen keeps up that tradition. Every restaurant we visited gave excellent quality and value even though some of them were clearly touristic places.
Belgian chips (fries)
They greatest culinary delight of Belgian cuisine is clearly fried potato chips (also known as French fries). The secret is that they are twice-fried, at least. They are firstly blanched, then stored in cold water and finally fried completely and served in paper cones with a dollop of mayonnaise. Enjoyed with a glass of Frank Boon Kriek beer (brewed with sour cherries) - that's sheer heaven!
I seem to have wondered off the original subject of Mechelen. Never mind......


David said...

Hi bazza,
I have also been to Belgium, but only just to make a stop there when on my way to other places. It sounds great, though, particularly the beer and chips (who needs wonderful old buildings!). Incidentally, my dad used to, for some reason, think that our family surname (Sweetsur) was Flemish in origin, but I'm not so sure about this! Anyway, another illuminating post, bazza. I'd share a monk-brewed beer with you anytime!
Best Wishes,

Parnassus said...

Hello Bazza, What a beautiful place Mechelen must be. Belgium in general is carillon paradise, but Mechelen in particular has several fine ones and also contains the Royal Carillon School.

bazza said...

David: Your surname certainly does not look Flemish. If I had to guess (which I am doing!) I would say Old English, possibly Norman French in origin. But then I don't know what I am talking about......I'd like to share that beer with you!

bazza said...

Jim: We heard several quarter-hour and half-hour peels of bells sounding like a heavenly musical box. Just sitting there in the shadow of the cathedral drinking our artisanal beer and eating gourmet chips/french fries. It was really rather lovely!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bazza - what a fascinating looking place - one to note for perhaps future visit. Amazing cathedral with all the goodies ... vaulted ceiling, carillon of bells ... as too the Square. Then the food - yes please! Just had lunch fortunately ... cheers Hilary

bazza said...

Hilary: I have been to about a dozen towns that are just like this one in Flanders. I think Belgium is seriously under-rated by us Brits. The most famous are probably Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp but there are loads of others! I also like Ypres, Tournai, Veurne, Kortrijk and (although they are not similar types of medieval towns), Da Panne, Middlekerk and Blankenburg on the North Sea coast.

Hels said...

Many thanks. The cathedral is fortunate to be full of superb works of art these days. Not only because of the three-day Spanish Fury of 1572, as you mentioned, but also the appalling damage of 20th century world wars.

Which works of art would you recommend I look at in the cathedral?

bazza said...

Wow, Hels, are you going there? St Rumbold's Cathedral has an overwhelmingly striking interior and, if you are lucky enough to visit, I'm sure you would want to take in as much as possible. There is an outstanding Crucifixion scene by Van Dyck and a series depicting the life of St Rumbold around the choir. There seemed to be acres of superb stained-glass windows but the item I enjoyed most was the oak-carved, Baroque-style pulpit. One of my friends, who had once worked as an organ restorer, was very impressed by the two organs as well. I felt a strong sense of "We couldn't build this today. The skills are lost"!

All Consuming said...

Gorgeous architecture! I envy you those beers and the chips too!

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

What a lovely place! I have always wanted to visit Europe and see the beautiful old architecture, but alas, other than a trip to Greece ( which was wonderful) my travels have been more close to home. Seeing pictures of other people's trips are always a treat.

bazza said...

AC: Perfect combination! We also had five days of uninterrupted sunshine except for 20 minutes of TORRENTIAL rain with thunder and lightning. Apart form that time we ate outside everywhere.

bazza said...

Arleen: Well you won't get Greek-style weather all over Europe but there are other compensations in the northern half! I have been to the USA and Canada about five times and I reckon it would take a lifetime to see it all so I know how you feel.

Sherry Ellis said...

Those are great pictures! I've never been to Belgium. My college viola teacher was from there. I love the buildings.

Those fries sure look good. They're probably really bad for you, though!

bazza said...

Oh yes Sherry, it's back to my more usual healthy diet now. The fun is over! I think Belgium is an underrated destination - at least the towns of Flanders are.