Europe

Belgium’s Artistic Side

written by | Posted on March 1st, 2010

Also in Liege, the new Grand Curtius Museum of Weapons opened recently in a 16th century palace complex originally used as workshop space for arms manufacturers. Military weapons, helmets and armor are the museum’s raison d’etre. Stone Age fossils, medieval sculptures, paintings from several centuries (including a portrait of Napoleon, who occupied Liege in 1803), baroque silver, and art nouveau and rococo objects supplement an already extensive collection.

Just 40 miles south of Liege (90 miles from Brussels), deep in the Ardennes Forest, lies the town of Bastogne, strategic as an American stronghold in the WWII Battle of the Bulge in 1944. That Bastogne is charming is quite a paradox considering the town and everything around it were demolished during the siege. A statue of General McAuliffe, commander of the American 101st Airborne Division, who courageously replied “Nuts,” to the Germans’ request for surrender, stands in the town square, near a white signpost marking the 1145th kilometer of General Patton’s route to reinforce McAuliffe’s forces, and a Belgian tank retrieved from the German lines after the war. Outside town, an interesting Historical Center commemorates the Battle of the Bulge with a 25-minute film on the Battle of the Bulge and exhibits that range from tanks and armored vehicles (Opels and Volkwagens for the Germans, GMCs for the Americans), soldiers’ uniforms, parachutes in different colors depending on what they were dropping; and all sorts of weapons, even a German hand grenade called a “potato masher.” Suggest that clients book one of the popular half- or full-day tours of the town, museum and monument to the American forces who saved Bastogne. In this era of diminished respect for the U.S., these battle sites—a must-see in Belgium—are monuments to American heroism during the war. In town, clients can enjoy a traditional French lunch or dinner at La Brasserie du Sablon.

Belgium might be pocket-sized and keep a deliberately low profile, but in its role as the capital of the European Union, responsible for some 300 million people, it is constantly reinventing itself as a bastion of history, culture, cuisine, and—yes!—cool.

getting there & around No point within Belgium’s borders is more than a day’s drive from Brussels. There are few countries of comparable size where a client can see so much in so short a time, moving through the centuries in a matter of minutes—from prehistoric relics and medieval splendors, to the most thrilling cutting-edge architecture. Driving in Belgium is safe and simple. The major rental companies—Alamo, Avis, Budget and Hertz—will guarantee U.S. dollar rates for advance reservations made in the U.S.

And getting there, well that’s easy, too: American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Jet Airways, United Airlines and U.S. Airways all fly direct from the east coast to Brussels National Airport. For clients traveling to Belgium by train from other European countries, Rail Europe’s Eurail Pass is a worthy option.