It has been almost a month now since my friends V. and S. from the UK were in Belgium and spent a day with me visiting Leuven. I still owe you the rest of the story: what did we do after lunch and the link with the book I’m (was) reading, the amazing visit, the wobbly knees and how we tried to forget the latter.
I had made a list of things to see in Leuven. There are many, and all are more or less within walking distance. As we only had a few hours, we decided on the most challenging item on my shortlist. More about that later.
First we took a quick tour of the ‘Grote Markt’ with its amazing town hall and Saint Peter’s church. A quick search on the internet will teach you that the town hall is one of the most famous Gothic town halls in the world. The construction started in 1439. It took thirty years and three master builders to complete it.
The Gothic town hall of Leuven.
The façade features a ‘Hall of Fame’, 236 statues which were only added to the building in 1850. The statues are those of 220 men and 16 women who at some time played an important role in Leuven’s history. On the first floor you’ll find scholars, artists and historic figures in ‘Burgundy’ attire. The second floors hosts the many patron saints who have a connection with Leuven. Top floor is reserved for the counts and dukes of Brabant, while biblical figures adorn the towers.
When I was attending secondary school in Leuven between 1969 and 1975 the bus stop was just across the road from the town hall. So I’ve seen it many, many times. However, at the time it was all black and dirty and many of the statues were headless of even completely missing … as a ’souvenir’ from WWII. Twenty years ago it was beautifully restored and the white stone is – in colour only – not unlike the stones that were used to build the Loire Valley castles.
After admiring the town hall, we visited the inside of the Saint Peter’s church. We didn’t linger long, though because we wanted to get to the main attraction as soon as possible. We crossed the ‘Grote Markt’ again and went into the Tourist Office to buy entrance tickets to … the Tower of the University Library. The Tower has only recently be opened to the public again and the five stories promised an interesting exhibition, plus … a little extra for those who make it to the top: a panoramic view of Leuven and the surrounding countryside.
What’s the link between the Tower and the book I have been reading? The book’s title is ‘The Book Thief’ by Marcus Zusak, a story set in (pre)WWII Germany about a girl who can’t read, but who’s eager to learn and will steal books I order to do so in a country where, at the time, books were being burned. I finished it in no time (400 pages), and it’s absolutely brilliant! I really recommend it!
More about our visit of the Library Tower and the wobbly knees in my next post.