Presentation of the destination
The Belgian namesake of the Serbian capital is located in the city of Namur – itself an important medieval town which would throughout the history belong to a number of European powers, and the current capital of the province bearing the same name, and the Walloon region. One of the 24 city districts nowadays, Belgrade had for as long as 80 years been a town in its own right. In 1897 it parted ways with a fellow commune of Flawinne, and it was not before the merger of municipalities in 1977 that Belgrade ceased to be a town and became a district once again. As a result, in 1973 it was still eligible for the twin-city program – and unsurprisingly, the Belgian Belgrade chose to twin with its very image in Serbia. That created a rather unique situation 4 years later: the Serbian capital participating in the twin program found itself twinned with a district rathen than a town!
Points of interests / things to see
Being a part of Namur, Belgrade is only a stone throw away from an array of prominent architectural sites. One of them is Saint Aubain, the only academic Late Baroque cathedral in Belgium and a distinct voice of Italian architecture in Belgium. Art lovers visiting the cathedral will appreciate an opportunity to see several paintings by such prominent masters as Anthony van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens, as well as Rubens’ student Nikolai. Cathedrals are traditional for the medieval architecture – and so are fortifications. In 1542 that Emperor Charles V undertook to build “La Mediane” that might be viewed as a real predecessor of the 21st century famous Citadel A number of museums can boast a strong local flavour. For instance, the Museum of Ancient Arts displays masterpieces of Mosan art (named after the river Meuse whose valley is divided between the modern territories of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands) by a 13th century painter and metal worker Hugo d’Oignies; there is also an local archeological museum, located at Rue du Pont 21 5000 Namur,phone number +3281231631; and a separate museum is devoted to a prominent local 19th-century printmaker and book illustrator Felicien Rops who was a friend of Charles Baudelaire ( Rue Fumal 12 Namur, Belgium +32 81 77 67 55)
While engaging in arts is a spiritual need, food is a basic one. No wonder that catering traditions are often as strong – if not stronger – than those associated with art. Many places around the world have carnivals and other culinary festivities – and yet the little Belgrade is pretty unique in this respect. The roots of this uniqueness date back to the 19th century when the community decided to specialize on catering. Belgrade was abounding in taverns and other eateries, and none of them was kept idle for too long – in particular, on Sundays. An influx of Sunday visitors inspired tavern-keepers to invent a special Sunday treat – a tart that numerous customers would wash down with a beer or two. Success breeds success – so more customers resulted in more tarts, and the tradition had been strongly established. Later it was immortalized in a saying “It is always a fair-time in Belgrade!” It is the word “always” that is responsible for the above-mentioned sense of uniqueness because most – if not all – of the other culinary fests are seasonal. The culinary tradition is preserved nowadays by a number of restaurants some of which have excellent customer reviews. One of them – La Plage d’Amee – even looks like a liner!
Just how important taverns are for Belgrade’s identity, can be judged by the fact that once still being a hamlet within the commune of Flawinne, it received its very name from a tavern. To be more precise, it was a brewery with an attached pub that had been given this name in 1717 when the Austrians under Eugene of Savoie defeated the Turks near the banks of Save and Danube. The battle was decided by almost an accident when a mortar shell struck a powder magazine within the fortress and killed about 3000 defenders on the spot. Seen as a favourable sign, it emboldened a surprise attack that took the defenders completely aback and decided the battle. The fall of the fortress of Belgrade proved to be an important turning point in the Austrian-Venetian-Ottoman war, and when Prince Eugene’s soldiers were returning home from the battlefield, they were greeted all over the Western Europe. Naming of the brewery must have seemed an appropriate idea to the owner who wanted to show respect for his military customers. In other words, the Serbian connection of the Belgian hamlet/town/district is no coincidence but rather a heart-warming sign of international solidarity that can be well appreciated by history buffs.
It’s always a fair-time in Belgrade but some fairs are just more traditional than the others. To start with, they are held annually and at a particular time of the year. As every healthy community knows, entertainment is a very serious matter – for that reason there exists in Belgrade a special Cultural Activities Committee that is responsible for annual (as opposed to ongoing) fairs and other similar events. Judging by the available descriptions, it seems that the Committee is set upon a task to revive the spirit of medieval fairs with their unmistakable party atmosphere. Party-lovers would feel home in Belgrade in May when there is food and music everywhere – from communal dinners to karaoke and mass dancing. Those who enjoy observing rituals and ceremonies might also enjoy a different kind of mass – one held to honour couples that reached an anniversary of their married life. The September fair is somewhat similar but it has an unmistakable historic touch – with hoisting of the provincial flag and costumed reenactment of past events. Numerous rides make this fair children-friendly as well. The same Committee is also involved in organizing such less local/more universal events as Halloween party and New Year’s Eve celebration.
Belgrade people are Belgians but they seem to be influenced by their spiritual heritage. The initial Belgrade is a capital of a country where sport is nothing short of a religion as a source of success and an important foundation of national pride– and the little sister goes a long way to follow suit. The district has a universal sports centre for the most popular ball games – such as basketball, volleyball and tennis – and a whole score of sports teams. Remarkably, the teams names reflect the double heritage of the district they represent. Namely, while the football team is a full namesake of Serbia’s most popular club Red Star Belgrade, the basketball teams split allegiance. One of them started as BCB (Basketball Club Belgrade) but later added “Future Namur” to the initial abbreviation. Another club started under a name of New Belgrade but then the two clubs merged into one and combined their names creating a new entity BC New Belgrade. The history of this sports club mirrors in a way the history of Belgian Belgrade as a whole – an 18th century hamlet that would change its status but at the same time it has throughout several centuries preserved its amicable international spirit.
Belgrade’s current population is 5000 people and the district is just too small to hold many natural oasises. Yet in 2011 a 7-acres garden was laid out at the intersection of Avenue des vignes and Rue des Fraisiers. The garden is to be used mostly as a vineyard where 30 vines will produce red and white grapes. While there might be but a splash of green in Belgrade itself, the area is abounding in natural sights, and many of them are close at hand. There is even a special chapter in Belgian tourist-guides that is titled “Castles and Gardens”. One of those is located in Annevoie.
The Gardens of Annevoie are considered to be the one and only of their kind. Laid out and owned by Charles-Alexis Montpellier, a representative of a wealthy family of iron merchants, the Gardens were created in accordance with three major philosophies – competing with and complementing each other at the same time. The French approach “Art corrects Nature” focuses on long and majestic perspectives. The Italian motto is “Arts adapts to Nature”, and it considers water to be the “soul of the gardens”. Finally, the English style insists that “Art imitates Nature” and reproduces natural effects artificially. The Gardens were opened to the public in 1930
Namur seems to be eager to show its hospitality by sharing its past and present with its numerous guests. A popular tour “Discovering Old Namur” takes place every Monday in months of May, June and September. It starts at 14:30, is run in three languages – French, Dutch and English – and costs only 3 Euros (free for children under 12 years old). The time and the price remain the same in the high tourist season (July and August) but the activity intensifies six-fold as the tours are being conducted every day but Thursday. The tours begin at Square Leopold, near the House of Tourism
Contradictory in terms, as it might be, that is the only way to describe what’s annually going on in Temploux (only 10 kilometers North-West from Central Namur) during the third weekend in August. Just imagine a second-hand market that is spread over 6 kilometers – with more than 1500 stands on display. Sellers who come not only from Benelux and neighbouring France and Germany but also from Denmark and Britain – and from 200,000 to 300,000 potential buyers eager to see what those sellers have to offer. And to make the similarity to a festival even more striking, the action is continuous: the market doesn’t close even for the night-time!
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How to get there ?
Belgrade is in Namur, so in order to get to Belgrade it’s necessary to reach Namur first. An easy task, too, as Namur is only about 60 kilometers away from Brussels. A scenic car ride to the south-east shouldn’t take more than an hour, and going by train (only 9 Euros for a round-trip ticket on any weekend) is an excellent alternative. Those choosing a car can rent it right at the train station. Namur is also easily accessible from neighbouring countries: it takes only 2,5 hours to come from Paris on the Thalys bullet-train, and Luxemburg is only 2 hours away. Within the town there is a lot of transportation choices: one can take a bus (local buses are operated by TEC located at the Place de la Station – and that’s also where regional buses leave from)a boat (as Namur is situated on river banks) or simply go on foot as everything is nearby. The river also offers some scenic regional routes – such as to Wepion (a return trip would cost 9 Euros for an adult and 7,5 for a child) or Dinant (19 and 16 Euros correspondingly). Finally, any questions about the area can be answered at the Tourist information Office that is located at Square Leopold (tel# +32 81246449)
Belgrade twins towns, sister cities
Discover the belgrade's international relations with partnership cities and friendship cities.
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