31 January 2014

Back to Belgium: Groot Begijnhof van Leuven

Back in September, I had the chance to visit Belgium again. I first visited Belgium in March 2013, when a good friend of mine and I decided to do a trip together in Luxembourg as well as Belgium in the spring. During that time, I visited Gent and Brussels. This time, I was in Leuven for a conference, but getting into town a day earlier allowed me to see some of the sights. So the next couple of travelogues will all be from this visit. Then it will be followed by a couple of posts from Brussels, as I had a long period before I had to take my flight back to Berlin.

The Groot Begijnhof, or in French, the Grand B├ęguinage, is a very well-preserved historical section of Leuven. It is said to be one of the largest beguinages in the Low Countries. a b├ęguinage is a collection of small buildings used by the Beguines, which is apparently a religious order. I didn't know much about this religious order, but I liked strolling around old buildings, so I spent a couple of hours in this complex.

These buildings are now owned by the University of Leuven, and are currently used for housing for students as well as academic guests. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live here, but then again, walking on cobblestones is not the most pleasant thing to do.

At first, I thought that Leuven is the first Dutch-speaking city that I have been to where there is no canal. But no, I was wrong. The canals in Leuven are not as prominent as in Utrecht or in Amsterdam, but they're still there. It's inside this complex, as some of the buildings are actually islands, where the river splits into two threads and people have constructed a building in the middle.

I recommend visiting this place in case you are in town. Hopefully the weather is good, since strolling around and discovering the various nooks and crannies of this huge complex is actually a very pleasant thing to do.

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