Day 172: LeuvenAugust 5, 2017 in Belgium ⋅ 🌙 12 °C
Day trip outside of Brussels today. Leuven is a small-ish university city about half an hour's train ride to the east. It's also home to two UNESCO sites, so after a quick breakfast of pastries and coffee we hopped on a train and headed out!
Arrived around 12pm and walked into the city centre from the train station. It's quite an attractive city, with some lovely old buildings and interesting alleyways to explore. Lots of young people around as well, despite it being summer holidays.
First stop was the first UNESCO site, another of the belfries. This was attached to a church, but was mostly in ruins these days. It was originally planned to be a colossal 180 metres tall, basically unthinkable in the 15th century, and would've comfortably been the world's tallest building until skyscrapers in New York and Chicago started breaking the 200m barrier in the early 20th century.
But they never finished it, and after a few fires and wars it's now basically the same height as the church it's attached to. Still nice to look at though!
Next stop was the beguinage, another multi-site WH list entry that's unique to the area. A beguinage is basically a community of religious single women who wanted to retreat from public life. They weren't nuns, they took no vows, they didn't collect alms and they were free to leave at any time to marry or return home. But otherwise it was just a simple, quiet community of religious women (usually landless nobles, widows, second daughters and so on).
There's 12 beguinages on the list, but this was one of the largest so it was good to explore. And it was very peaceful, set off to the side of the city in a walled compound. Lots of small houses, narrow streets, canals running through of course, and a few parks plus the obligatory church. A very nice environment, and as with a lot of places in Belgium, well off the tourist radar so we had it mostly to ourselves (aside from the students who live there now, of course).
Headed back into the main part of town where we ummed and ahhed about what to do next. We had a quick lunch in a chain health food place called Exki, then debated having a drink outside and doing some people watching. In the end, the weather decided for us, as an enormous downpour forced us to take cover in a small portico along with a lot of other people! It absolutely bucketed down for about 10 minutes before stopping.
Since everything was now wet and we didn't feel like sitting inside, we just headed back to the train station and grabbed the next train back to Brussels.
By the time we got back, it had fined up a bit again, so we walked from the station back to our hotel - about 30 minutes worth. Strolled through a nice park and past the royal palace as well, which was good to see, though we were too late to go inside (and I have a feeling dogs wouldn't be permitted!).
Back to the hotel where we settled in for the evening to work and plan. I briefly ventured outside for some takeaway kebabs from the store across the road, but that was pretty much it! It's surprising how common kebabs are here in Belgium (and Netherlands and France too, for that matter). Though they're different from Australian-style kebabs with meat, salad and sauce - these tend to just have meat, sauce and cheese. No hummus or tabouli either!Read more