We finally made it to Grimbergen! We were always curious about the 12th century Abbey just 12 kms from Brussels and where the famous Grimbergen beer come from. It was the Norbertine monks who first brewed this ale which is now the biggest-selling Abbey beer in Europe. Grimbergen beer is truly wholesome! A 0.2 liter glass served in a bar costs 2euros!
If you have driven to Brussels, you will no doubt have also cursed to high heavens what kind of street sign system they have in this country. We firmly believe that they are not interested in tourism for they do not even have the slightest intention to make sure their expat-guests don’t keep losing their way. They are already earning huge amount of money in properties, I mean, by renting offices and apartments to expatriates whose numbers are increasing more and more each year because Belgium and The Netherlands are the next best countries in Europe (trailing the UK) to set up European offices because they speak English!
Anyway, THERE ARE NO PROPER STREET SIGNS IN BELGIUM which would make a stranger-driver always lose his way. Driving in Brussels is like a guessing-game! You drive round and round and all you see are arrow, no-entry, right turn signs but nothing to make you guess which ground your car is cruising on at the moment. It’s like, this country is only for those who have been born, gotten married and died here for they are the only ones who know every turn of each street by heart.
We finally reached Grimbergen and how we feel sorry about the state of each Belgian town and village we have been, save for a few like Brugge, Tournai, Antwerp and Liège. The Belgians sure don’t know how to preserve their history and old architecture. They just mix and match for example, a gate of an Abbey with that of a car showroom and a 17th century church standing next to modern houses. The town is even surrounded by factories, so many of them that you won’t really believe that you are about to enter the site of a 12th century Abbey!
But where is the Abbey? we walked and walked and saw only an Arc, cobbledstone streets, a magnificent church and a handful of tourists listening to their guide.
Honestly, the town is almost haunted! What a shame! To think that the place is supposed to be a tourist attraction! It reminds us of Waterloo. Have you heard of the famous Battle of Waterloo? That was where Napoleon Bonaparte met his defeat which had him exiled to the island of St Helena until he died. Well, the famous Waterloo is just now a modern city riddled with supermarkets, gasoline stations, shops and no sign at all of the famous battle! That which H kept on insisting that had Napoleon won and Belgium is now part of France, this country’s historical and architectural past would have been better preserved.
Anyway, went to a bar to have some coffee. There was a picture of the magnificent monastery on the table and we thought, that’s it! That’s where we want to go! So we asked the waiter and he said, it’s by the l’eglise (church). But we saw the church and an arc, but no Abbey?? The waiter gave us a Tourist brochure and there we read that it had been destroyed by the French when that part of Belgium was still under French rule!
Nothing much to see in Grimbergen so we drove to the next town of Meise.
The Greenhouse of the Botanical Garden is truly fascinating! It houses different sub-greenhouses featuring the different climates of the world and the kind of vegetation growing there.
Rogier van der Weyden, (1399 -1464)
Tournai’s famous son, considered one of the greatest painters of the 15th century.
Seen here making a sketch of the Virgin Mary and Child, a subject close to his heart