Europe

Natural jungle vs urban jungle in the province of Liège

The Ardennes. I don’t think I’ve ever been as much to that area of Belgium as the past year. It was one of the only options available in our current situation after all. Fortunately it still manages to capture my attention and distract from reality, which is one of the main reasons why I travel and leave the comfort of home.

So time to dump the small suitcase in the trunk of the car again and head for the other side of the country with its lush forests and rolling hills for a short weekend getaway.

This time around, we left only after lunch on Saturday, added a stop in Brussels to pick something up and another stop in Hageland for a short stroll through the orchards where the blossoms were already starting to bloom. It’s the season after all, and the ‘Boomgaardenwandeling‘ (Orchard Hike) in Glabbeek was a lovely walk, but nothing much too write about so this is all I’m going to say about it.

Late afternoon we continued towards the province of Liège (Luik), which was our playground for the next day. Since there wasn’t much day left, we just drove straight to our B&B for the night; Chez Yoyo in Stavelot. Very unlike me, we decided to refrain from exploring more of the area that evening and instead just relaxed on the lovely terrace with river view. A lovely sunset, a glass of wine and a take-away pasta from around the corner; what more could one wish for?

The next day, after a delicious breakfast at the B&B, it was time to get active. A big hike on the menu! But first, another item to check off my bucket list. Yes, the busy traveler in me is still very much present!

Along the road to the start of our hike, we passed the Waterfalls of Coo, the largest natural waterfall in Belgium. One of many places in my own country that I hadn’t seen yet, so it would have been a disgrace not too stop and check it out. After all the falls that I’ve seen in Canada and Norway, this one seems rather pathetic, but nonetheless I’m still happy we made the stop. Bucket list, remember?

At exactly 10am we finally arrived in Nonceveux, at the trailhead of the Ninglinspo hike, the place to be for nature fix. So boots on and off we go! There are many trails and hiking opportunities in the area, but we opted for the longest one; fourteen kilometers of hiking along the Ninglinspo and Chefna stream. For that we followed the signs with the red rhumbus.

Immediately the hike climbed uphill. Up, up, up we went, through the forest. The first few kilometers were mostly through the trees, which offered amazing views with the sun breaking through the foliage. Somewhere in the Bois de Porrallée, we ventured off the trail for a while to follow a bit of the short Ninglinspo trail, along a beautiful forest stream.

Back on track, the trail opened up, giving us an opportunity to fully enjoy the sun and eventually some beautiful open fields. We continued south until Ville au Bois where we took a right turn to follow the Chefna stream. We could follow the water all the way to the Amblève river, from where the trail then continued north again to the parking lot.

With the dense forest, open fields, panoramas, little streams and river views a very diverse and never boring hike. Definitely one I will remember!

Now that I’d gotten my nature fix, it was time for the urban jungle. And even more extreme; my first dip into Urbex. Urbex is short for Urban exploration and is exactly that: the exploration of ruins or abandoned man-made places. Many of those places are hidden and often secretive, so you won’t be getting a lot of specifications on the place I’ve visited. That’s all part of the game!

We set out to discover an old blast-furnace dating back to 1958. It used to be one of the largest and most advanced factories in Europe so it’s not exactly a small site. And that’s exactly what makes it interesting. The complexity of the place, knowing it was once a busy, running factory, combined with the decaying state of it now; mind blowing.

What struck me most is how dangerous it must have been for the people working in this factory, not only structure-wise, but also healthy-wise. Of course, treading on these grounds also held a certain danger for us, but when you stay focused and don’t climb anything too wobbly, you’ll manage just fine. Just use your brain! I personally would probably have a higher risks of falling down while hiking through a forest as my attention wanders a lot quicker then. And I won’t deny it, wandering around a slightly dangerous place; a pretty big thrill! Sorry, mom!

I assume this site will be demolished sooner rather than later, as it will become more dangerous which each year the structure ages. It will be a shame to see such an interesting place disappear as it’s truly a photographers’ wet dream and mostly a piece of our history.

Fully intact we said goodbye to the steel jungle and set course for home. I don’t think I could have managed to find two more opposite places to visit in one day. Nature at its finest followed by the power of a man-made structure. Another successful exploration of my own country!

♡ Ellen

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