Belgium: Nature, culture and cuisine meet in Wallonia

Nature, culture and cuisine meet in Wallonia

In Wallonia, nature and culture are combined with culinary delights.

© Wallonie Belgique Tourisme / Dominik Ketz

Have you ever tried a “Helix aspersa” in puff pastry or drank a Trappist beer? Let’s go to Wallonia in the south of Belgium.

Wallonia has an area about the size of Schleswig-Holstein and combines several things that make the traveler’s heart beat faster: good taste, untouched nature, as well as culture with unique craftsmanship. In Wallonia in the south of Belgium, people understand something of savoir-vivre and are happy to pass the art of enjoying life on to visitors. They can go on a discovery tour in the region: belfries, Belgian Ardennes, fairies and sweet temptations are waiting!

UNESCO World Heritage: From coal mines to carnival

let’s go in the province of Hainautwhich alone has 19 tangible and intangible cultural assets of UNESCO to offer. Anyone interested in architecture should visit at least one of the belfries in Hainaut. The bell towers shape the cityscape of Mons, Charleroi, Binche, Thuin and Tournai. From the top of the 87 meter high belfry in Mons, visitors have a wonderful view over the borinage and the former collieries – the next highlight of the UNESCO tour.

Grand-Hornu, near Mons like three other disused mining sites since 2012 as world cultural heritage. Where coal miners used to unearth coal, art and design dominate today. Because Grand Hornu has developed into an important cultural and historical center in Wallonia with the arrival of the MAC’s museum. Anyone interested in the history of mining can go underground in Blegny Mine, near Liège, and learn more about the tough working conditions in the underground tunnels.

Again “for days” it goes back to Mons, where a detour to the Mundaneum is recommended. The many millions of bibliographic writings in the special archive will certainly not only inspire bookworms. Because “paper google”, as the newspaper “Le Monde” once called the archive, is considered to be the pioneer of today’s Internet search engines. It was awarded the European seal of approval for culture in 2016.

It is much more colorful at the Binche Carnival to. At the most important local event of the year, Gilles – the oldest participants in the carnival -, Pierrots and Harlequins parade through the medieval city with their special masks, costumes and drums. What looks like a joke is subject to strict rules. Only someone born in Binche can become a Gille. In addition, he must never sit down in public during the celebrations and under no circumstances appear drunk. Not at all easy when you consider Belgium’s long brewing culture.

Sweet temptations and culinary challenges for foodies

Abbey, Trappist and fruit beers are not only drunk in Belgium, they are also used to refine dishes. In many Walloon praline and chocolate manufacturers, the sweet temptations are mixed with roses, wasabi, saffron or even beer. On site you can as part of guided tours witness the sweet craftsmanship.

For so much sweetness you need something hearty: the famous Belgian fries are crispy and served with dips, sauces and pickles on the plate or in the bag. The Ardennes ham, which is smoked with local beech and oak wood and juniper, is not only popular with Walloons. Cheese is also part of a real Walloon snack: Fleur des Fagnes, Bleu des Moines, Trou d’Sottai, Boulette de Nivelles … the list of more than 500 varieties doesn’t exactly make life easier for the foodie. Real gourmets also dare to try a specialty: snails from Warnant. The Folli family has been breeding snails there for over 40 years and offers “Helix aspersa” processed into fine delicacies such as pies in the shop.

Wine and juniper schnapps: a good drop as a souvenir

Wine lovers can take the Liège Wine Route. This leads to 25 wineries in the region, which offer tours on request and also sell their products with the grape varieties Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot gris, Riesling and Chardonnay directly. A great souvenir for those who stayed at home is the juniper schnapps Pékèt, which has produced other colors and flavors over the years: violet, vanilla, kiwi or caramel.

On foot: hiking in Wallonia

If you want to shed some of your “trapped” pounds before heading home, you can do so in various ways in the hiking region of Wallonia. The Belgian Ardennes are still an insider tip for many. Hiking or cycling paths meander through forests, over rock paths to great viewing platforms. On the way you pass wandering castles, palaces and monastery ruins such as Bouillon Castle or Walzin Castle.

The high moor landscape of the High Fens can also be roamed nicely on foot. There, attentive and shy residents can see who have developed into real life artists in the rough landscape: the black grouse, the rough-footed owl or the rare black stork. In order to protect the flora and fauna there, however, some areas are not accessible.

In the region of Durbuy and La Roche-en-Ardenne, an almost magical tour leads through the valley of the fairies. Two separate hikes are combined. The path leads from the Feen Valley to the wild and romantic valley of the Martin Moulin stream. On the way back there is a narrow, winding path. The second part takes us uphill, but rewards the drudgery with a beautiful view of Achouffe. There you can end the hike with a cold beer in the brewery tavern.

If that’s not enough, you can let off steam on one of the numerous long-distance hiking trails. Next to a great hike through the Chimay forest (178 kilometers), Another tour connects the Trappist monasteries Scourmont, Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy in Rochefort and Orval with each other. And with it the breweries of the Trappist beers of the same name. Here, too, nature, culture and cuisine come together again in their very special Walloon way. Santé!