We’re in southern Belgium at the moment, in a town called Charleroi. You can see it on this map. This morning we said, “How about we drive to Dinant? It’s not far, and the castle there is pretty interesting.”When we described it, the kids were interested in seeing a castle set high on a hill, so we packed a picnic lunch and set off.After driving for a while, we realized we were off track by quite a bit.I didn’t think we’d make it to France on this trip, but surprise, surprise… For a short time, we visited France after all.We saw a pretty park and stopped for our picnic by a pond.Look, some swans! One girl and The Boy run down to check them out (click on any photo to see it larger–same with photos from previous posts).The kids run back to eat their sandwiches.Hey, look! The swans came closer:And closer:Whoa, the swans are getting out of the water:They hissed at the kids. We’re thinking, “Swans can be dangerous, can’t they? Careful, kids!”I’m just sitting there enjoying my gouda cheese on Belgian bread, and this guy walks right up to me. He doesn’t hiss. He’s begging, I think. No way is he getting a single morsel of my Belgian sandwich. No way.But he tries. He curves his beautiful neck and shows his profile. Yes, you’re beautiful, but you’re not getting my sandwich. I flew a long, long way to eat this sandwich. It’s mine.This photo is not telephoto; I did not blow it up in any way. Seriously, he was this close to me–I could have reached out and grabbed his neck:Later, at the dinner table, The Belgian Wonder’s brother-in-law said that a swan can break a leg with a snap of his wings. I have to admit, I didn’t quite believe him. So I did a quick search and came up with this.And so I’m glad I didn’t know, or I would have gotten up long before he was an arm’s length away, showing off his elegant beak.Okay, so we roll back into Belgium from our “oops” detour into France:And we head toward the castle (citadel) in Dinant. As we swing into town, I snap this picture through the van window:It’s not postcard-perfect, but you get the view. The pretty church in the foreground, and the citadel up high on the cliff.We can climb 400 steps, or ride the “teleferique,” a cable car that whirrs up the cliff.Given the choice, we readily pay for the teleferique.Here’s the view from the teleferique:So we get up to the pretty castle and take a tour with someone who speaks Flemish and French, but no English. I took photos of the signs in English, to study later.Castles are filled with history, so having a tour is very helpful to appreciate what the structure has endured. But, as with so much history, it often involves wars. And wars involve defense and attacks and quite a bit of killing.Our kids were engaged and interested as we embarked on the tour. Along the way, to illustrate what happened, the citadel caretakers had posed mannequins in mini-scenes dressed as soldiers, bakers, or smithies. We arrived at a section depicting a war scene from WWI.Here’s what the placard said in English:It’s very sad. Some French soldiers got cornered in a dead-end tunnel by the Germans, and they fought hand-to-hand combat with bayonets.Here’s the memorable scene they created to help us feel like we were really there:Oof.”This is pretty gruesome,” one of the girls remarked to me quietly.”I agree,” I said.The purty castle is riddled with stories of war and death. The walls, in fact, are literally riddled with bullet holes:And she thought the bayonet-stabbing was gruesome–we hadn’t yet arrived at the torture and death penalty room:There’s a mannequin head lying on the other side there.”No demonstrations today,” the guide said. Ha-ha. Very funny.There’s one room that was hit by a bomb in one of the world wars, and the entire room is tilted so that it feels like you’re walking in a crazy carnival room. It’s hard to explain the sensation. I don’t know if this photo shows how everyone was walking:We make it out of the citadel alive and walked back to the van along “rue Adolphe Sax,” named after the inventor of the saxophone and born in Dinant. One of my kids has played saxophone, so she was particularly delighted to sit on the bench next to his likeness.Then we snapped some shots of this saxophone fountain:We drove home more directly to Charleroi this time, staying in Belgium the entire time.As we put the kids to bed tonight, I couldn’t help but wonder if they’ll dream of gunfire and guillotines.I’m pretty sure, however, that I’ll be dreaming of this:Too bad we couldn’t take time for a snack….
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[…] we were in Charleroi, Belgium, or wandering briefly through France en route to Dinant where we saw the gory citadel scenes set up to depict historical accuracy. We were avoiding swan-attacks and eating […]
Thanks for taking us along with you 🙂
Seriously, who knew?! I just always think of “The Ugly Duckling” when I see them, but now, I’ll think of broken tibias! And, castles also seem less romantic, and more gory. Thanks! Thanks alot! 🙂
Oooh! I love Europe! I hope you get to visit Brugge while you’re there!
Katrina (Callapidder Days) says
I’m loving these posts! I almost feel like I’m right there with you. (And I wish I really was!)
I’ve really enjoyed reading about your trip. I don’t know much about Belgium.
Believe it or not, I was actually attacked by three swans when I was in college and visiting the Miami U campus. A friend had me pose in front of them to get a photo. Next thing I knew, they were raised up and whapping me with their wings and knocking me over. I had no idea swans were violent. No broken bones, though–I was able to run away (screaming!).
So now we joke that I’m “swan-phobic.” I actually got a little nervous when you said that swan was that close to you, Ann!