Friday, Sep. 28, 2007 - BELGIUM - Train to Leuven

Peg and Keith were up early to take the Metro in to Brussels' Central Station. There we would catch the comfortable train for a quick ride the roughly 15 miles east to the Flemish town of Leuven (Louvain). By the time we arrived at the Leuven station, the rain had stop and everything was fresh as we walked in toward the center of the town. In addition to some pretty spectacular architecture, its present day claim to fame is as a university town. The main university was founded here in 1425 and from the 1500's, it has been considered "one of Europe's most prestigious academic institutions." Our experience here was most interesting and pleasant. Like practically all of the towns we visited in Belgium, we would very much like to return here to spend much more time. See Leuven's English language tourist page.


1

A showery morning train ride -- this is a 4 euro 2nd class coach -- not bad up here on the observation level -- & no crowds.
2

We arrive at the attractive train station east of town & walked through the underground passageway to find ourselves just on the edge of this compact & lovely city..
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In the square in front of the Leuven Bibliotheek (Central University Library) there is a lively & large Friday market going on in spite of the recent rain.
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Numerous well-outfitted & organized vendors were selling a wide variety of things.  Here lots chickens & other meats are roasted on long rotisseries. They seem to anticipate a not inconsequential number of buyers.
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Here is the Font Sapienza.  (fondly called Fonske) It depicts a young man pouring water into/through his empty head. A nod to the university population of the town.
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The Stadhuis (City Hall) is purported to be the most beautiful building in Belgium.  Built between 1439-1463 from the profits of the cloth trade, it is covered with gloriously carved figures.  
7

A high-gothic masterpiece & a real source of pride for the town.  Saints & prophets can be found on upper levels. Biblical scenes can also be found on the fašade, while niches are filled other prominent persons. Six lacy spires add elegance & grandeur.
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Artistic Peg had to play with this tempting perspective.  
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Attractive buildings beside the town hall & across the Grote Market square from the Church.
10

This close-up angle is the only good outside one we have of the St. Peter's Church in the center of town. Called locally St. Pieterskerk,  we see above the church entrance a clock system that has an enjoyable little mechanized man hitting the bell on the hour. 
11

Inside, the vaulted ceilings are doing their job of pulling the eye upward.  It's a very nice church with much history.  We were fortunate to make the acquaintance of a retired priest who volunteers as a guide here. We felt privileged to have him share some of the rich but tragic history of this church.
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We believe this is the painting listed in the church brochure as "The Miraculous Catch of Fish" by Peter Paul Rubens (copy) +/- 1800.  It is on the north side of the aisle where little war damage occurred.   
13

The stone altar at St. Peter's Church was given by a group of Nazi prisoners from Leuven who celebrated their release from the concentration camps in this way.  The "Cross of Triumph" was the work of Jan Borreman the Elder of Brussels 1490.
14

Back outside at the flower market, Peg notes the deep blue heather again.  It is so tempting, but we could never get it back to Mad River alive (or legally).
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This street flower market was colorful & refreshing after the rain.  Belgians are serious gardeners.  Window boxes are frequently in evidence.   
16

Peg liked the canal; Keith loved this great statue of a real local jester. His name was Paep Thoon & lived in the 1400's. Humorous even in death, legend says that he requested to be buried vertically & under a gargoyle. That way he would never be thirsty.
17

This cafe was written up in our guide book as popular with the student population. This cafeteria is essentially an automated vending-machine type of place. We couldn't get closer because of crowd of young people & baby strollers. 
18

This whimsical bug on a pin must have a story. It towers over the square in front of the Central Univ. Library. Next (without photos) was a fun lunch at "Ron Blacks," a British style pub. Yes, we could relax &  read the English menu! (shame! lazy Gringos!)
19

Peg's patron saintress -- "Proud Margaret" (Fiere Margrietje) - something about resistance.   We didn't get the whole story but she ended up dead & thrown in the river.
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The town botanical garden was highly recommended and justly so.  On the west side of town, it was lovely, peaceful & very well done. The trimmed hedge work beside Keith spells "KRUIDTUIN."
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Nice statue. Fine setting. Officially this facility is called Stedelijke Kruidtuin (or Municipal Herbary). It is reported to be the oldest botanical garden in Belgium.
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Pleasant little glass house.  This was a relatively small garden, but so entirely  well done, it seemed acres bigger.
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This little formal corner was particularly pleasing to our tourist-weary eyes.  We welcomed the sit-down.
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This photo of the bee hives is for Laura. They seemed to be very happy bees in Belgium. Notice the old woven bee "skeps" on the shelf in the back of this shelter.
25

This Scandinavian corner was complete with bauta (Viking monument stones) and heather.  
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Near the Botanical Garden & still on the west side of town, we come to the Church of St. James with its tower from 13th century. It was an incredibly OLD looking building.  
27

Back to the center of town for coffee & to watch the hordes of kids just released from school. We considered taking a bus out to the train station, but opted for the pleasant walk instead of fighting these crowds. Being a Friday the train was also very crowded going back to Brussels.

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