History saturates the Old World in a way unlike that which I’ve experienced ever before. Bouncing from city to city, town to town, country to country, there was always something unique to learn about Western Europe’s seasoned past. Dinant was no exception as this southern Belgian town has seen its fair share of vibrant prosperity as well as some darker times which have left a more tragic stamp on the community. It’s been over a century since the Imperial German Army committed a series of atrocities here at the onset of the First World War. Teresa and I took our own personal walking tour of the town and its surroundings to learn a little more about it.
Centred smack dab in the middle of town is the Citadel, a unique architectural specimen set against a rocky backdrop and looming from nearly every direction it’s observed from. Rather than entering from the front, we took a zigzagging hillside trail to get to the top of the cliff that lines Dinant against the Meuse River. It didn’t take too long to emerge on top and from here we walked along the cliff edge.
Before coming to the top of a fortified area, we came across an old ski-lift type apparatus that looked like it hadn’t been used in quite some time. The cables were rusting away and the whole area looked long abandoned. We continued on for some time until we came across a military cemetery. Here lies twelve hundred French soldiers who battled the Imperial Germans in defence of the people of Dinant as well as the strategic geography of an area that neighbours France. Flanked by a French and Belgian flag, this area underscores the solidarity between the two nations during a time of war.
A little further along we came to the entrance of a fortified area situated above the Citadel. A spanning view of the town and countryside below is phenomenal from up here. Tours are provided for those who’ve entered (for a nominal fee) where guests can learn about the history of Dinant, in particular the atrocities which took place during World War I and the battle at the Citadel. It is suggested in this particular telling of the history that, due to the scattered resistance put up by the locals against the German Army that the latter took such resistance personally and thus committed a series of mass slaughters once the city was taken after a bloody battle involving infantry as well as heavy artillery shelling. According to one scholarly work I’ve looked into, the Imperial German apparatus later claimed that civilian resistance was a collective effort as an attempt to justify the slaughter of thousands of innocents. This accusation of a collective effort has been widely refuted in the literature I’ve come across thus far.
Dinant has a solemn history but the present is bright and beautiful. After leaving the Citadel, we continued our walking tour along the cliff-side and back down into town. We approached the front of the citadel but decided to cross the Pont Charles de Gaule Bridge to get the classic view of the city that we’d seen in so many pictures beforehand. Upon crossing, we came across a series of artistically designed saxophones about two to three times the height of an average person. Each saxophone had its own theme and emphasized the musically-inclined aspects of the city. Moments prior to reaching the bridge, we actually came across some kind of horn museum, a small open room dedicated to different horn instruments. Before arriving, Teresa and I had no idea the town had these musical underpinnings.
From the opposite bank, Dinant looks picturesque to say the least. We took a walk along a canopied trail before turning back and heading to where we’d parked. There were still a few hours left of daylight so we decided to head over to the rural areas near our B&B.
We’d driven around the afternoon we’d first arrived in the region and came across a series of rolling hills, some with high vantage points that would provide very spanning landscape views. This afternoon we decided to drive to one of those peaks, park it up, and take a walk through some of the villages that dotted the area. After passing through Feschaux (which couldn’t have more than a few hundred residents) we came across a winding road in some of the most scenic countryside I’ve ever witnessed.
Heading back for the evening, we decided to dine in where we were staying, at Auberge Grill le Freyr. Here I enjoyed some freshly caught fish and Teresa ordered a rack of barbecued pork ribs
As quickly as we’d fallen for Belgium, we would be on our way out, crossing a southeastern border that would take us into Germany’s western stretches. The first half of our European adventure was nearing an end with only a couple of days left before our flight out from Amsterdam into the Scandinavian gateway of Denmark. Thus far, we’d done our utmost to maximize the short time we’d have in this beautiful region of Europe and our intentions never wavered moving forward.