An Interactive Experience of Railway History

Just like every Spanish resident, my travel mate and I spend almost all of our time at home now… Rumors are spreading since this morning that the lockdown could take longer than 2 weeks, but we still have more than enough material to keep you entertained! Besides, temperatures have gone down anyway and it’s raining, not exactly the ideal weather for excursions nor trips.

Today, we take you back to Belgium. Our visit to Trainworld was actually one of the last excursions we made there before leaving for Spain. Join us on a trip to the past, present, and future of the Belgian railways!

The museum is located in the train station of Schaarbeek, very close to Brussels. You can reach it by train (obviously) or tram (which very conveniently goes right to the center of the Belgian capital).

Enter the big hall and admire the first steam-trains! You can even climb in them.

The exhibition allows you to follow the history of locomotions, carriages, and railways from the very beginning to the present day.

There is also a replica of a railway cottage from 1958.

By the way, the biggest group in Belgium that uses the train are the commuters. And when the weather is fine during weekends and holidays, we also travel by train, usually to the coast!

Let’s face it: people used to travel in style in the past…

And international train travel looked cozy as well! Fancy a sandwich with ham or cheese?

Obviously, if you are not into trains, this is certainly not the museum for you! But if you are, you will at least have half a day of (educational) fun and lots of photography opportunities. Check out their website for more information. Because of COVID-19, the museum is currently closed. Let’s hope the lockdown ends soon!

Later this week, we will treat you to a very special trip in Romania. To be honest, this is one of our favourite travel experiences and we hope you will enjoy the fascinating history and stunning locations of this country. I will also introduce something completely new as well, also on our movie website.


The Tragic Story behind The Grieving Parents by Käthe Kollwitz

In the early 2000s, a good friend and I spent a marvelous weekend in Cologne. We indulged ourselves in food, drinks, art and especially, the spa of the hotel. One of our plans was also to visit the Käthe Kollwitz Museum, but somehow we didn’t make it. But the name stuck in my head, and when I returned to the city some years later, I was finally able to visit the museum. And I was blown away…

Käthe Kollwitz was born in 1867 in Königsberg (Prussia), a city that is now known as Kaliningrad (Russia). As an artist, she worked with sculptures, printmaking, and paintings. She was heavily influenced by Realism at the beginning of her career but is nowadays mainly seen as a representative of Expressionism.

In the museum in Cologne, I saw a lot of her prints which usually depict the influence of war and poverty on the working classes. I did not have permission to photograph anything though so I had to make do with some postcards of her work. One of them depicted a statue called The Grieving Parents, but at that moment I just looked at it and pinned it on the wall of my living room when I was back home. And then… it became part of my many travel memories.

Fast forward to the summer of 1917… I am perusing a touristic magazine, looking for some inspiration for a weekend excursion, when I make 2 big discoveries. First of all, there is actually a small museum in Koekelare (West Flanders, Belgium), dedicated to Käthe Kollwitz and her son. And moreover, the statue of The Grieving Parents is located in a nearby World War I cemetery. But little did I know then that there is a sad link between the two places…

Anyway, our first stop that same day was the museum in Koekelare.

If you don’t know anything about Käthe Kollwitz, her life and her work, this place with its small collection is a good introduction, although I strongly recommend a visit to the museum in Cologne as well. But the most interesting part of the museum here in Koekelare is the video presentation about Kollwitz and her youngest son, Peter. And the origins of The Grieving Parents…

Just before World War I, Germany was in a state of economic, social and political turmoil; some intellectuals even thought that a (world) war would be the best solution to rebuild the country. Käthe Kollwitz and her son Peter shared these thoughts as well and when World War I broke out, she supported his wish to go to the front in Belgium. Although the father was against the idea, Peter finally went to the war… only to be killed less than a week later.

Overcome by grief and guilt, the death of her son sent Käthe Kollwitz in a long and severe depression. Soon though she wanted to express her feelings and newfound pacifism into art, but between the original idea and the final result lie more than 15 years. The first home of the sculpture was at the cemetery in Roggevelde in the early 1930s, but nowadays you can find it near Peter’s grave in the Vladslo German war cemetery.

The address of the Käthe Kollwitz Museum is Brouwerijstraat 13/15, 8680 Koekelare. It’s actually part of a cultural center. And there is also a cafe…

When in Belgium, always make time for beer. Local beer…

The Vladslo German war cemetery is only a couple of kilometers away from the museum site.

In Belgium, there are actually only 4 German war cemeteries: in Hooglede, Menen, Langemark, and this one which contains the remains of more than 25.000 people.

The two statues are so magnificent…

The gaze of the father is eternally fixed on the tombstone of his son.

By the time I took the following picture, I had tears in my eyes…

Address: Houtlandstraat 3, 8600 Diksmuide.

Keep on following us and join us on our next trip in another corner of Europe!

In the Company of Rats – The Sewer Museum

Want to see Brussels from a (literally) completely different angle? And you are not afraid of occasionally running into a rat? Then why don’t you pay a visit to the Sewer Museum and learn everything about the history and infrastructure of the sewage system of the Belgian capital!

Brussels has actually had a sewage system since the 17th century. But in the beginning it was far from perfect; the network was incomplete and inhabitants of the city kept on throwing garbage into the river Senne. As you can imagine, this led to a lot of pollution and in the 19th century drastic measures had to be taken: the vaulting of the Senne in the centre of Brussels. This explains why you can’t see any river (anymore) in the heart of the Belgian capital.

The museum also pays a lot of attention to the infrastructure of the sewers in Brussels. Building this system must not have been an easy task, given the presence of traffic tunnels and the metro and pre-metro system. In the 19th century, the sewer network was about 45 kilometres long, nowadays it’s more than 350 kilometres! In the museum, you can also learn everything about the installations such as the pumps, pumping stations, siphons and so on.

The Sewer Museum is not located in the heart of Brussels. The exact address is:

Pavilions d’Octroi – Porte d’Anderlecht
1000 Brussels

You can come here by public transport: take tram 51 or 82 or bus 46 and get off at the stop Porte d’Anderlecht. You can also come by car, of course, because there is parking space in the area. Just a word of warning: this is not exactly the fanciest neighbourhood of Brussels, so be really careful with your valuables. Anyway, at your arrival at the Porte d’Anderlecht, you will see 2 pavilions: one is the entrance and the other one is the exit of the museum. Finally, if you want to know all about the entrance fees, the guided tours, activities for children and the like, better check the official website of the Sewer Museum.

The part of the museum that I liked the most was the small fraction of the sewer system that you can visit. It’s like being in a completely different world. The personnel in the museum is very friendly and most of them know French, Dutch and English. Another fun part of the Sewer Museum is the gift shop; don’t hurry or you will miss the hilarious collection of rat dolls. All in all, my visit to this museum was a very pleasant one. Moreover, according to some other visitors, the Sewer Museum in Brussels is more interesting and more fun than the one in Paris.

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