Local Heart, Global Soul

October 14, 2017

Lighting A Candle For A Friend Far Away…

Filed under: BELGIUM,Meersel-Dreef,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Our visit to the “Valley of Mercy of Our Lady of Lourdes” at Meersel-Dreef, the northern most village in Belgium continues.

Located less than a kilometer over the Dutch border and just south of Breda, the little huts that house the Stations of the Cross make a semi-circle around the grotto.

We arrive at the grotto from the rear, walking around to the front where a small stream of people come and go.

Some  light candles, some sit on the seats facing the grotto for a quiet moment of peace, prayer and contemplation, others are taking a general look around.

I take photographs for our family album (extras to these, not shown here for privacy reasons) as Himself buys candles and lights them for a Kiribati friend of ours who is a Catholic nun.

Although we are not Catholics ourselves we know that these places are very special to Sister “x”, and she appreciates very much that we remember her like this. We are far from alone in lighting candles, the tray is filling up fast and the other trays of candles a meter or so away are already flickering with the light of many candles. We have a dinner appointment back at the home of our hosts so can not stay here long, but it’s been an interesting place to visit and with so many other people also visiting, they obviously think so too.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

October 13, 2017

Silence Is Golden In The Maria Park…

Filed under: ART,BELGIUM,Meersel-Dreef,PHOTOGRAPHY,Statues / Sculpture — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

A few days ago I translated an information board in Meersel-Dreef about how the “Valley of Mercy of Our lady of Lourdes” was founded in 1895.

In todays post we are crossing the road from the monastery and entering the Maria park where the valley of mercy and Lourdes grotto are located.

Pilgrims have been coming here for more than a century, and one of the first warm spring days in 2017 saw the park busy with many visitors, so it’s popularity has far from waned.

The main path separates into left and right branches that curve around in a semicircle,  that meet more or less at the grotto in the middle.

Around each of these curved paths are a series of small hut-like brick buildings, each containing statues that pertain to a station of the cross.

The marble statues inside are beautiful, and it’s a perfect place for contemplation.

The Maria Park is a place where the public are requested to be silent during their visit so that proper contemplation, prayer, gathering of thoughts and finding of peace might be obtained. We visited in silence, and even though the the strength of the religious beliefs between the members of our party of six varied considerably, each of us came away with something from having been here.  They say that ‘silence is golden” and if our experience here is anything to go by, sometimes it certainly is.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

“Eerbied en stilte” (reverence and silence), the sign also requests that dogs be on leads.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

This was an additional shrine, but we didn’t take the wheelchair down this side path.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Hoogstraten  / Meersel-Dreef / Mariapark
Wikipedia  / Mersel-Dreef / Belgium (Dutch language only)

October 11, 2017

Cycling From One Post To Another…

Filed under: BELGIUM,Meersel-Dreef,PHOTOGRAPHY,THE NETHERLANDS — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Think about things typically Dutch and one of the things that immediately springs to mind is the bicycle. Not only do a large percentage of the population use their bikes as transport to work, they also use them for recreation too.

The demand is so great that thousands of official  “fietsroute” (cycle routes)  incorporating scenic, historic, city, village, beaches, nature reserves, castles, waterways, tourist spots, breweries, forests, wildlife and many other points of interest as their themes or focal points.

The duration of the cycle routes can be anything from a few kilometres to entire day trips, with most of the routes interconnecting so that it’s possible to almost navigate your way around the entire country without leaving a cycle path.

Of course the national system of country and city cycle paths is the key element that makes this possible. With more than eighty percent of cycle paths separated from vehicle traffic, the safety of the system is what makes it possible to have a nation that almost literally cycles from the cradle to the grave.

There are multitudes of cycle route books, both private,  government or local government  published, but these days a quick look on the internet and a push on the “print” button is just as an effective way to plan a trip, or indeed download an App and connect the information into your phone or travel GPS system.

Such is the interest in recreation cycling and importance recognised in keeping people fit and healthy that investment has not just been made in the making and upkeep of cycle paths, but many information boards and special markers also line almost every route.

These markers carry a seemingly strange code of numbers and arrows but it’s really simple, once you have your route, or combination of routes, all you have to do is follow the relevant numbers on the route posts.

I have (somewhere on the masses of folders on my computer and backup hard drives) photographs taken of single cycle path route makers, but of course as per Murphy’s Law despite searching I can not find them now that I want them. It’s only natural that cycle routes in the Netherlands and Belgium interconnect and since our visit to Meersel-Dreef is fractionally into Belgium, and we have open borders, the Dutch routes continue on as one. the information board is in only in Dutch and translated into English reads:

The Provence of Antwerp Tourist board selected the most beautiful and safest cycle routes in the province of Antwerp and drew a map of the cycle route network of nearly 3000 km. The routes are interconnected and each intersection of the network has a number. Based on those numbers you decide your route, you decide yourself how long your route will be and for how long you will go. Look on the map before you leave, make a list of intersections you want to go to, measure and add up the distances between the intersections and then you know how long your tour will be.

During the tour you have only to keep track of the numbers, the excellent road signs do the rest. At crossings, side roads and junctions between intersections, are rectangular signs with an arrow indicating the direction, and the number of the intersection you want to go to. The whole network has sign posts marking two directions. Do you fancy a trip along the cycle work network? On the basis of this section of the map you can decide on a route in the area. At the tourist offices you can get detailed maps of the cycle network in the province of Antwerp. You can order online maps via http://www.antwerpsekempen. be ‘

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

October 10, 2017

A Monastery Where The Devil Is In The Detail…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Continuing our visit to Meersel-Dreef, the information board describing the buildings history was so long that I have broken it up into two parts: posted yesterday and today.

The board was only in Dutch so I’ve translated it here: “The French revolution: When the French revolution spilled over into this area, the State taxed all religious goods.

In early 1797 the monks were driven out of the monastery. After the Belgium independence was proclaimed, Trappist monks from Westmalle started to use the monastery on 3rd May 1838.

About 30 years later the Kapucijnen monks returned and spiritual life in Meersel-Dreef returned. The Maria Park and the Lourdes grotto date back from 1895. Foundation of the “Valley of Mercy of Our lady of Lourdes”.

After the Maria appearance in Lourdes in 1858 and the renewed interest in pilgrimages, Meersel-Dreef was also given it’s ‘Valley of Mercy’.

Father Jan Baptist, Provincial of Belgium left on a mission to the Punjab in English India in 1895. On the way his ship came into a big storm during which he promised to make a grotto for Our Lady of Lourdes so that he would reach shore safely. He managed to arrive safely so he decided to stand by his promise. In June 1896 he laid the first stone for the Lourdes grotto at Meersel-Dreef in the garden opposite the monastery.

The watermill. In general it is thought that the watermill if Meersel-Dreef already existed in the 14 century, evidenced from a document which describes the renting of the mill “Meerselmolen’ and the farm de Eyssel from Jan IV Van Cuyck, Lord of Hoogstraten.

Like all mills in the duchy of Hoogstraten, the mill of Meersel was a “banmolen” (which means) a mill owned by the feudal lords where the locals where obliged to mill their grains (and pay for the privilege).

The mill was rented out early in the 17 century, and a canal was dug to bypass the mill allowing boats to sail further up the canal. At the beginning of the 20th century the mill burnt down (again) so in 1911 the mill was restored and modernised. This grinding installation is still operational. Opposite the mill is the mill house which was built in 1894. The old mill store house, next to the house, is still used as a house today.’

Try as we might, and with our short walk around just part of the buildings, we found it hard to pinpoint exactly where the mill now is. There was an abundance of outbuildings, some of them possibly dwellings but if one of them was the millhouse, or just part of the buildings and monastery from the Kapucijnen monks, we could not tell.

That said, there was probably a lot more possible to explore but we of course stayed where our hosts lead rather than branching out separately on our own. The Meersel-Dreef buildings continued to delight and as usual I was interested in not just the complex as a whole but also the details. For instance, I love that one window that has diamond shaped panes, opens with nine of the diamonds near the center opening out as one small window. It proves that function and practicality need not ruin the beautiful design, you just work with it and get a quirky diamond-shaped window! Brilliant!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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