Sunday, October 11, 1987

1987 Low Countries: Battlefields (10/10/1987)

Saturday, October 10, 1987
Today we left at 9:00, with everybody in the Ls’ marvelous blue Volvo 740 series sedan. It was sunny and comfortably cool, as Tom drove us out on the Ring and headed south through the Forêt de Soignes, one of the largest green spots in Brussels, full of hiking and bridle trails. We saw a couple horses, and passed the Hippodrome. The trees were just beginning to be tinged with color. We went beyond the town of Waterloo to the Butte du Lion, with a huge bronze lion statue made from molten French cannon, which faced south “menacing France.”
Butte du Lion/Butt of the Lion (just kidding)
It was placed on top of an earthen mound, tremendously steep and high, which was supposedly formed pail by pail by local housewives on the spot where the Duke of Orange fell in 1815. It opened at 9:30, and we followed the guard in.  Tom and Dot sent us up the stairs, and Kent set a torrid pace. Stopped about halfway up to have our photo taken. Not a place to stop if you don’t like heights, plus the wind was fiercely blowing! Once at the top, we viewed the underside of the lion, where the base is marked “18 Juin 1815,” the victory day of the Battle of Waterloo. Here, the Duke of Wellington, with the help of the Duke of Orange and Dutch troops defeated Napoleon. There were 220,000 troops versus 120,000 French.
Head of the lion
We surveyed the farmland below where the battle took place, and saw a map showing troop placement.
Waterloo farmland
The stairs
As we descended, we counted steps, and I came up with 218, and Kent had 236. The guidebook says there are 226 steps. Since we kept hold on the railing, we ended up with orange dust on our hands from rust. At the Panorama we paid 60 BEF/$1.60 each to see the huge mural in the round, depicting the battle, with important figures and places marked. There was a tiny museum that included a copy of Napoleon’s death mask.
Panorama ticket
We returned to the car and once back on the highway, several driver blunders were pointed out to illustrate the incompetence of Belgian drivers who, up until 1974, were able to apply for a license through the mail. Now there is a road test to pass. The roads are excellent, but the drivers are not. Looking down from the Ls’ apartment, we saw people stopping in the middle of the rotary!

We passed flat farmland, where they get three plantings per year. Saw many a farm “hof,” farm buildings around a walled-in courtyard, like the picture at the farm of Huguenot, where British troops holed up at Waterloo. Crossed the Meuse River with the city of Namur to the right, and steep cliffs of the gorge to the left. We were moving along a quite a clip, 135 kmh/85 mph. Went from route A4 to N4 towards Bastogne. The countryside became hilly as we approached the Ardennes region, the area of Shakespeare's “As You Like It.” Drove through the town of Bastogne, and followed our noses to the Mardasson Monument on Mardasson Hill, a monument to the 70,000 US soldiers who fought in the historic Battle of the Bulge in the bitter winter of 1944 under Brigadier General Anthony MacAuliffe, who responded to the German demands for surrender with the word “Nuts!” American troops held an overwhelming number of German troops at bay until weather conditions improved for Allied reinforcements to be flown in.
Mardasson Monument
The 101st Airborne Division kept Hitler from turning the tide and perhaps winning the war. The star-shaped gallery memorial had the names of the states and branches of the Armed Forces units involved. It was designed by Georges Dedoyard and dedicated in 1950.
US Sherman M4 (105) tank
Tom, Dot, and Kent with German Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer tank destroyer
Town of Bastogne
I used a restroom for 6 BEF/15 cents, and the attendant asked if she could exchange quarters for dollar bills, as the local bank did not accept coins.
We saw mole trails,

Mole hills
slugs, and a sign saying “Do Not Urinate” in three languages, but in English it said, “Commit No Nuisance.”
Saw cows, rolling countryside, and peeked into a crypt. Three tanks stood outside the museum.
We drove back through town to find the road to the Duchy of Luxembourg. Stopped at a red light at the border, but no one seemed interested. We continued into the charming country where we felt like we were on a road through a national park, with mountainous forest and campgrounds by the river. There were new shoots in the fields even up here. Stone or stucco houses with shutters or exterior blinds, whereas Belgium had no window protection. Wound through the town of Ettelbruck and found the statue of General George Patton with an eagle on the pedestal, and a Sherman M4 A1 tank nearby.
General George Patton
The statue is a copy of the one (1950 by James Earle Fraser) at West Point. Apparently all of Luxembourg was a WWII battle ground, but it doesn’t look it.
Also saw a thatched roof house. We made our way to the castle town of Vianden in a little river (Our River) valley, looking a bit like Switzerland. Stopped at a point to look across the valley towards the castle.
Vianden Castle
Vianden Castle close-up
Lower castle tower
We drove through the crowded town to a park, and ate at a terrace restaurant looking out on the swift running river. It was very sunny. The others had Diekirch beers, and I had Rosbot sparkling mineral water. Three of us had the Truite/Trout Meunière with salad and French fries, fried and served whole. I shared mine with Kent who had the Jambon d’Ardennes/smoked ham like prosciutto, also with salad and fries. Kent and Tom had second beers and the bill came to 1455 Luxembourg francs (LUF)/$38.30. Belgium and Luxembourg are on the same monetary system, although LUF are not accepted in Belgium. Kent tried to pay, but Tom prevailed (Dot and I were in the restroom).
Went to see the bust of Victor Hugo who died in Vianden.
Bust of Victor Hugo (replica of 1902 bust)
by Auguste Rodin
Castle and bridge
Drove back to the other side of town and Kent and I were let off at the castle. We paid 80 LUF/$2.10 each to enter the castle that had been gutted in 1871, but restoration work began in 1978. It was first constructed about 1100, with additions built into the 13th century, with a final addition in 1621.
Vianden Castle ticket
Vianden Castle guide
Made a quick tour through the rooms, some empty, and some furnished. Apparently the lower chapel was for prisoners who could at least hear the Mass in the upper chapel.
Kent at Vianden Castle
View down on the town
View of Vianden Dam (1959-1964)
View of countryside
View of the River Our and Vianden
A few of the bigger halls were set up for a wedding and banquet reception, with something that looked like waffles on a vertical souvlaki-like skewer. As we left, we noticed police and army personnel, and crowds of people who looked like they expected someone well-known to arrive for this event.
We walked down the main road to meet Tom and Dot at 15:15 at a café, then hopped in the car to drive to Luxembourg City. A woman guided us in backing out of the crowded parking space. We have seen several women sweeping the street in front of their curbs. It was getting cloudy.
I finally got the fishbone out of my throat, which had been stuck for most of the afternoon! Kent said he missed the TV antennas on the rooftops.
Luxembourg City was a challenge with one-way streets. Saw a flea market at Place du Theatre. Went to the Liens’ secret parking space below the Adolphe Bridge, where the tourist train usually begins. We walked up to follow the casemates to Place de la Constitution, and looked down the steep ravine at the trickle of the Pétrusse River in a concrete trough. Kent said there was an Adolphe Bridge in Cleveland. OH. I think he meant there was an open spandrel bridge like the Adolphe Bridge!
Adolphe Bridge (1900-1903) designed by
Frenchman Paul Séjourné and Luxembourger Albert Rodange
The casemates in Luxembourg are said to have miles of tunnels. In Place de la Constitution, there was the Monument de Souvenir/Remembrance, a memorial to the Luxembourgers who died in the first World War, which the Nazis tried to destroy.
It started raining when we entered the Cathedral of Our Lady of Luxembourg, built in 1613-1621 in Gothic style with a Renaissance entrance. It contains the crypt of the royal family. Pilgrimages are made to the miraculous statue of the Holy Virgin. There are some paintings and stained glass windows.
Next the large Place Guillaume with the City Hall to one side, normally the place for the Saturday market. Then Place d’Armes where we were to meet the Ls in about an hour, but it seemed like only 15 minutes! The rain had let up, and there was an Apple Festival going on, with a band on a mobile bandstand. People were squeezing apples and I had a cup of very fresh apple juice for 20 LUF/52 cents. Why, it tasted just like apples! The others had a glass of Mousel beer, and Kent and Tom had Thuringer sausages with caraway seeds on hard rolls. Dot bought an apple kuchen to take home. We started heading home at 17:30, and it was already dark. No one at the border. The whole highway is lighted with yellow or red street lights. We arrived in Brussels and the Woluwe area where the Ls live, drove up Avenue de Mai to an Italian restaurant called La Romana. The three others got Maes-Pils, and I had a Spa. Dot had the avocado stuffed with crab salad and Tom had a pizza Quattro Stagione. Kent had the tortelloni (the big ones!) with pesto sauce, and I had spaghetti carbonara that was very rich. The others had a second beer that came in Carlsberg glasses. Beer is supposed to be served in properly decaled glasses, and my water usually comes in a plain glass. At lunch, I did have Rosbot glass. Again Tom took over paying the bill of 1450 BEF/$38. We noticed that Tom leaves the coins from the change.
Back at the Ls', Kent tried a Pauwel Kwak beer, an Oud Hoegaards, and a Bush beer. The Kwak was very berry fruity. The Oud was very light but cloudy, and tasted orange-y. The Bush was a very strong beer.

Sunday, October 11, 1987
Up at 7:30 to shower and pack, managing to squeeze in everything. For breakfast we had the apple kuchen, with a cake-like crust and with raisins in it, and not as sweet as our apple pie. We left at 9:30 to the airport, where Tom dropped us off and went to park. We checked in and managed to take our bags as carry-ons. We met Tom and went to a café for drinks. I had hot chocolate, Dot had orange juice, and the guys had espressos. This time Kent was able to treat, a whole 300 BEF/$7.90! At 10:30 we said our goodbyes and thank-yous, and got in line for the border check. At the x-ray, they took Kent’s garment bag to check for a knife, but it turned out to be the hook for hanging the bag. In the duty-free shopping area, we bought a couple t-shirts and chocolate, spending another 1000 BEF/$26.30.
Brussels to Boston boarding pass
Boarded at 11:20 and left the gate 5 minutes late at 11:45. We were in another DC-10 that seems to need to run the length of the runway to take off, because of fuel weight. This time we both rented headsets for $3 each. We got our beverages, and Kent got a blue pin for his first beer, a Maes-Pils. Lunch was at 13:00, but 8:00 Eastern time! Light brown beef-tasting chunks in a white sauce with noodles and baby carrots. A salad of one piece of lettuce, a tomato wedge, an olive, lots of bean sprouts, and canned mushrooms in a white sauce. Also a roll with butter, crackers and Gouda cheese, a pear tart and Spa water. Kent got another beer, this time a Tiger beer from Singapore, sponsored by Heineken. Read an abbreviated version of USA Today available for free at the airport, listened to music, and dozed. Watched “The Fourth Protocol.”
At 17:00, or noon Eastern time, we had another meal; a sandwich with liverwurst and a slice of cheese, a boiled egg and a tomato wedge, fruit cocktail, and a tiny Godiva chocolate, with water.
Godiva chocolate wrapper
Kent got a Stella Artois beer. We landed in Boston 5 minutes late at 14:10, where it was cold and rainy. Things went smoothly through passport check and customs, and we were able to catch the 14:30 bus to Providence. Seemed like half the bus trip was sitting in the tunnel, even when taking the long cut to avoid traffic. Home in time for peak autumn colors, and some still-green trees. We arrived in Providence at 16:15, and I called Donna P who came right down to pick us up.

End of 1987 Low Countries trip.

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