• René

Train station for a King.

In 1874 King Leopold II of Belgium built a giant castle in Houyet (Ardennes region). The castle was used as a luxury hotel and a holiday destination for the international jet-set. A railway station in the corner of the park made the remote castle accessible to the Kings guests. During the first world war a famous German rock band “Wilhelm II and the Fritz” stayed in the hotel and left it in a bit of a shambles. It was rebuilt, but during the second world war another German rock band “Adolf and the Krauts” stayed for almost 4 years, left without paying the bill and borrowed my grandfather’s bike to get back to Germany in 1945 (and never returned the thing). In 1968 what was left of the the castle burned down and not much later it was completely demolished. Only the “Tour Léopold”, a pavilion in the beautiful park and the eerily abandoned ruins of the royal train station in the middle of the Ardennes forest, remains of the vast castle. By the way the whole region is a dream for hikers and bikers. There are a few more posts next to this one to suggest a few more visits with spectacular natural and man-built landmarks. Hike along the Lesse and the surrounding hills and valleys and you will recharge yourself with good energy, your lungs with clean air and your eyes will feast on romantic views. But better avoid the holiday season months of July and August of course, it can get way too crowded when half of the population of the Netherlands join the Belgians already present in great numbers. You’ll find a lot of useful information on the website www.valdelesse.be and an App guiding you to several nice hikes giving interesting information about what you see.

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