High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

Publications

High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

Article

Along the Belgian Coast in a Streetcar named Desire

The author sets off on the longest tram ride in the world, all the way along the Belgian coast from De Panne to Knokke: 67 kilometers, 68 stops. A strip of fantasies. Now and then he gets out of the vehicle to glance at a nudist beach, a f...

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The Lost Highway. Journey along the Kortrijksesteenweg

The plan was to drive from Ghent to Kortrijk on the old Kortrijksesteenweg. Houses in various eclectic styles, hypermarkets, car showrooms, roadside brothels, bars and forgotten hotels, churches and a statue of a caribou perced on a rock. ...

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Ode to Mechelen

On a trip to Mechelen, Derek Blyth discovers lost mediaeval rivers, Beethoven’s Flemish roots and the world’s oldest carillon school.

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Horsing Around in Vilvoorde

Derek Blyth discovers a monument to an English martyr, a traditional horsemeat restaurant and a waterfront that looks like Brooklyn.

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The Ghost Village

Derek Blyth ends up in a deserted village that refuses to die.

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Home Sweet Caravan

Derek Blyth hits the road in a very Dutch phenomenon, the caravan.

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A Concrete Pyramid to Pray In

Derek Blyth visits a church that looks more like a pyramid from a science fiction film than a house of prayer.

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The Sweet Pleasures of Lier

Derek Blyth discovers a wedding that changed history, the world’s most complex clock and some of life’s sweet pleasures.

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The Little Bookshop on the Corner

Whenever Derek Blyth visits Amsterdam, he can't help but pop into the iconic Athenaeum Boekhandel. ‘Buying a book there is almost a religious experience.’

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Gear Up For Oudenaarde

Derek Blyth discovers a battlefield that shaped European history, a cafe dedicated to cycle racing and a tapestry with a secret message.

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A Sea Change in Ostend

On a visit to the Flemish coastal town of Ostend, Derek Blyth discovers grand architecture, a world-famous soul singer and the perfect shrimp croquette.

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Don’t Worry, Be Hasselt

On a trip to the capital of the Belgian province of Limburg, Derek Blyth finds comforting food, innovative architecture and 25 places to be happy.

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The Strange Art of Pieter Bruegel

Walking through Brussels, sooner or later you will come across Pieter Bruegel the Elder and his enigmatic art. Derek Blyth would join you in a minute.

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Mad about Geel

On a trip to Geel, Derek Blyth discovers a murdered Irish saint, a community that cares for strangers, and a mellow city that is simply crazy about reggae.

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Where Rubens Laid His Head to Rest

Looking for exciting places in the Low Countries, British journalist Derek Blyth stumbled upon the castle where baroque painter Rubens spent the last years of his life.

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The Leuven Is Easy

On a visit to the university town of Leuven, Derek Blyth discovers one of Europe’s smartest cities, some of Belgium’s best bars and a walk that takes you to the edge of time.

Article

Welcome to Utopia

Utopia is not always an imaginary place. That is what Derek Blyth discovered when he entered the stunning city library of Aalst.

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The World According to Gerardus

Derek Blyth pays tribute to the man who has shown us the way for more than four hundred years: the Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator.

Article

Never Get Lost Again in Utopia

Abraham Ortelius’ map, inspired by Thomas More’s book, is dotted with amusing place names that suggest the whole thing was a joke.

Article

A Whiter Shade of Car

The bicycle and car sharing that we know today can be traced back to the ‘White Bicycles’ and ‘White Cars’ initiated by the Provo movement.

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Utrecht Is More Than the Birthplace of a Cute Rabbit

Utrecht is so much more than a pleasant day trip from Amsterdam. Discover its picturesque canals, lively pub culture, the world’s largest bike parking garage and a cute little rabbit that pops up everywhere in town.

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Art in the Chapel

An abandoned sixteenth-century chapel in Ghent was given a new lease of life thanks to internationally renowned artist Berlinde de Bruyckere.

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The Battle of the Gravensteen

The only remaining medieval castle in Flanders with a virtually intact defence system faces a new threat.

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The Oldest Reading Table in Town

The reading table is a piece of Dutch heritage that has survived in lots of cafes, including the one named after writer Harry Mulisch in Café Americain.

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Duffel is the Modest Home of a Famous Coat

The British have a longstanding love affair with the Duffel coat. It is named after the cloth made in a small Flemish town, though it is hard to establish a link between the town and the coat.

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The Lost Cemeteries of 1917

The small cemeteries in and around Ypres provide a unique way of understanding the First World War.

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Remembering the V2 Attack on Cinema Rex

75 years ago, a German V2 bomb hit the popular Cinema Rex in Antwerp. 567 people were killed. It took more than a week to recover their bodies from under the rubble.

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Smoked Sausages and Sensible Knickers

Whoever visits the Netherlands, can't ignore them. Sooner or later you walk into one of the 550 Hema shops to buy a bicycle bell, sandwich or stapler. The brand is as Dutch as the tulip.

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Football Fans and a Farting Dog

Since it was established in 1971, ‘De Engelbewaarder’ has been known as the first literary café in the Netherlands. Not only John Irving once drank a beer there.

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The Busy Beehive

The oldest Dutch department store chain De Bijenkorf is celebrating its 150th year.

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Poems for Lonely Funerals

In 2002, the Dutch poet F. Starik came up with the idea of the Poule des doods – a pool of poets who write and read a poem for the people who have no mourners at their funeral.

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The Long Farewell

Every evening since 1928, a group of buglers has sounded the Last Post in Ypres to honour the soldiers who died in WWI in Flanders Fields.

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The End of Melancholy. Mechelen Revisited

It's early morning in Mechelen and the streets are empty. Derek Blyth is looking forward to wandering down the cobbled lanes, looking inside gothic churches, passing some time in the municipal museum, and ending up, as everyone does, in one...

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Hasselt: The Taste of the City

In Hasselt there's no big square, no great art collection, none of the sense of ancient history you feel in nearby towns like Tongeren or Maastricht. Yet it's somehow quietly appealing. At the end of his day in Hasselt, Derek Blyth took a f...

Article

Of Rabbits and Queens. The Hardship and Bliss of Learning Dutch

To the author, it is impossible to imagine living in the Low Countries without talking Dutch. Deprived of the Dutch teaching he had as a native speaker of English, he would remain baffled by Dutch street names, like Beenhouwersstraat, Hands...

Article

Love in a Cold Climate. Dangerous Liaisons in the Low Countries

Some people have gone to France or Italy in search of passionate romance, but others have fallen hopelessly in love in the unpromising dampness of the Low Countries. The stories of James Boswell and Belle van Zuylen, Charlotte Brontë and he...

Article

Let There Be Light. Discovering Eindhoven

Back in the 1880s, when Van Gogh was plodding through the Brabant potato fields, Eindhoven was just a small Catholic town. Now it is the fifth largest city in the Netherlands, with an acclaimed modern art museum and a world-class design ac...

Article

Middelburg. The Town in the Middle

When I visited Middelburg for the first time, back in the early 1980s, the town was an old-fashioned, religious place. It was a Sunday and everything was closed, except for the churches, which were full. It felt twenty years behind Amsterd...

Article

From Saint Arnold to Burp Castle. Beer in Flanders

Beer drinking in Flanders goes back a long way. The rich heritage of Flemish beer used to be a well-kept secret, but the efforts of café owners and writers have helped to promote the image of Flemish ales. As word gets around, the names of ...

Column

Postcard

British journalist Derek Blyth travels through the Low Countries and stops in cities that are worth visiting. Each time he looks at the place and its inhabitants through curious glasses.

Column

The L-Spot

You think you know Flanders and the Netherlands. But take it from us, you haven’t seen anything yet. British journalist Derek Blyth takes you on microadventures to L-Spots, hidden and exciting places in the Low Countries.

Series

Tour of Flanders

You may know the beautiful art cities Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels. But Flanders also has many other places that are well worth a visit. In this series, British journalist Derek Blyth crosses through the provinces and discovers the c...

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