Ath and Brussels

In spite of our mishap at the beginning I like to give the Blaton-Ath Canal a little promo! The canal flows through beautiful rural and wooded land and is a nice alternative to the busy, industrial Charleroi-Brussel Canal where the Ronquières Inclined Plane has been a problem of late and been closed more than open. The itinerant lock keepers are friendly and put boats through quickly and efficiently, although only few speak English. A good opportunity to practise French or your acting skills! The Marina Chièvres at Ladeuze with a long pontoon along the canal has well kept lawn, shade providing trees, picnic tables, water electricity and clean bathrooms, all thrown in at 10.- euros a night. The castle at Beloil is not to be missed and has a nice brasserie with simple but delicious dishes. It is only a 4km bike ride away from Ladeuze. Around the corner of the marina is a pub full of memorabilia owned by a 84 year old lady, called Gina, who still serves drinks to visitors. 

The next mooring opportunity is in Ath at the end of the canal. Here the moorings with the railway station right next to it are not so pretty, yet the trains move through very slowly and quietly and haven’t disturbed us at all. There is unmetered water and electricity, and in the three days we have been there, nobody has come to collect any money.

Ath itself offers a lively square and a 19th century castle accessible via the tourist office which has become the house of the giants, “Maison des Géants”. The giants play a very big part in this area of Belgium and neighbouring France. The tradition of parading giants through the city streets during the yearly festival is 500 years old and started when the church incorporated legendary or religious giants into its processions. They became so popular that over time more giants were created, some representing local characters or professions. The male giants, like Goliath e.g. was paired with a Mrs. Goliath and their Giant children. Constructing and parading the giants is a family affair and has been passed down from generation to generation. It is heavy work as the wooden framework is carried on padded shoulder bars, all hidden under the giants garments and danced along the streets by a single person.

Unfortunately we will miss the processions this year as we will be back in the Netherlands then, preparing to fly back to Oz.

The predicted heatwave -" the hottest ever in Belgium” - hit us on the second day in Ath. No shade cloth, ice bucket or fan would have saved us from sizzling on our steel boat, so we took advantage of the adjacent railway station and the 6.50 euro seniors fare and hopped onto a train to Brussels. We did the same on the next day when temperatures hit 43 degrees. By then the trains aircon and ventilation system had shut down and there were long waits for trains in all directions.

Of course, two days are no way enough for a city with such beauty, culture and history like Brussels. Also, due to the extreme heat we were slowed down and didn’t see as much as we would have liked. But here are a few impressions: 



© Austin Robinson 2019