Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of the twinkling lights of Christmas in homes and streets, reflecting in our eyes and making our hearts glow. However, when that last week before the big day sets in and craziness and too many people hit the shopping streets and the supermarkets get overrun, I seek refuge: in our own home, the kitchen, nature, smaller less crowded cities and sometimes that little peace and quiet I was looking for is just in the very heart of busy city life!
On all the many occasions we visited Lier, situated southeast in province Antwerp in Belgium, we had never paid an actual visit to the local beguinage, which is a true shame as it is on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site! The beguinage itself found its origin in the 13th century though most houses date from 17th and 18th. The last beguine died in 1994 but walking the alleys gives a pretty good insight on how life must have been. Once you walk through the monumental gateway it’s like walking inside a history book and the peace and quiet are such a lovely companion on this discovery walk!
You might even, with a little imagination at a certain moment think you’re in London’s Notting Hill, well Flemish style, of course!
Though there is a meaning behing the colour scheme, it was custom that the house closest to the church had the colours of it’s patron saint, in this case Margaret yellow…
The system of long-lease makes it possible for civilians like you and me to even ‘own’ a house there, or at least the use of it as the ownership returns after the stipulated time, which is the thing with these long-lease contracts. Many houses have already been restaured, within very strict limititations and keeping authentic details of course…and you need a serious budget!
The entrance to the beguinage is free and will lead you through 11 alleys and 162 houses and at the centre you will find St Margaret’s church. Throughout your walk you will discover some references to Felix Timmermans, Flemish writer and poet, born in Lier who often came to the beguinage in search for inspiration. He nicknamed the place ‘The almond bean of Lier’.
A lot of water pumps to be found too in the lovely alleys, or as Timmermans once wrote about them ‘statues dedicated to no one’
If you find yourself close to Lier, do visit this unique place, you won’t regret!
And for those not into the peace and quiet, no worries, plenty more things to see and do in Lier, more on that in another post!
Not sure if I will find time to write another post before Christmas, so wishing you all already everything you wish for, peace in your heart, joy and passion in what you do, peace for the world, love and warmth to fill the lonely, cold or aching hearts, all those small and little things that should be obvious and don’t need a shiny paper or much bling bling, just a genuine smile and twinkle in the eye.