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|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.