24.07.2017 - 24.07.2017 18 °C
Day 61 Monday 24 July
Bad Herrenalb to Namur / 400 km
- Fortunately church bells do not disturb. Nothing does. We sleep like proverbial logs, even with the windows open.
- We are long out of the climatic zone where aircon is considered a necessity during summer months. But a ceiling or stand alone fan would make all the difference in most places. Shame so many hotels & B&B's seem reluctant to invest.
- After the weekend's nightmare of congested motorways, AG is concerned that his scheduled driving time for today is grossly underestimated.
- Its not the odd day of long driving that tires AG, it is the accumulative effect. And it's now beginning to take its toll.
- Fortunately holidaymakers seem to have made good their escape. And commercial traffic is less - now that many of them are on vacation too.
- We cross imperceptibly into Luxembourg. We only realise that the border is behind us because at the next service station we visit, French is the main language of communication, not German.
- The garage is busy - fuel & cigarettes are cheaper in Luxembourg. Locals crossing to & fro the two countries are taking advantage.
- This perhaps partially explains the complete lack of service stations on the actual motorway in this area of Germany. It's best to start your motorway journey with plenty of fuel.
- We arrive in Namur early enough to be able to request a rear facing room at the Ibis Hotel. Both of us feel incredibly fatigued. The momentum that has been driving us along for the last 2 months, at such an incredible pace, has finally run out.
- The hotel window has a 'security' chain that only permits a small amount of natural ventilation. Children's safety or adult suicide?
- Why stop in Namur?
- We originally planned to stay in a B&B in a small village down river from Namur - Profondeville where there seem to be some good local restaurants. When Plan B was put in action we were unable to change our reservation. So the IBIS in Namur it is.
- In any case neither of us have been here before and we have nothing yet to celebrate. We still have nearly 500 km or so of driving ahead of us tomorrow. And perhaps the worst of all traffic in 2 months of travel - the M25 on Tuesday evening. AG does not wish to tempt any fate.
- Then there is the house sale - 8 weeks later and there is still no exchange of contract on Bramhall. We're close, very close but the deal is not yet done & dusted.
- By the time we reach Namur even SG has lost her sightseeing mojo. However a few interesting facts present themselves:
- A roundabout on entry to the city is embellished with tall bronze figurines on stilts. And a large impressionist painting of men on stilts adorns the walls of our hotel bedroom .
- What's that about? Well since 1411 there has been a tradition of stilt walker fights in Namur. It happens on the 3rd Sunday in September every year on the Place Saint Aubain.
- It is a team contest but the members of the winning team then 'stilt' it out to ascertain the overall champion. The prize is a golden stilt and huge kudos. Namur stilt walkers are world famous and travel internationally to give 'stilt walking' performances.
- Immediately opposite our IBIS hotel is the African Museum of Namur.
- Why? In the middle of Belgium and in a small city like Namur.
- Maybe it is a kind of attonement for King Leopold's brutal treatment of his personal colony in Africa between 1885 - 1908. Known nowadays as the Democratic Republic of Congo it only became a State colony from 1908 onwards. Until that time, the blame for atrocities committed against the Congo people and the plundering of their country's rich natural resources, lay squarely with the Belgian king. Read the history books or fact based novels about this era and you will discover that Leopold 2 was not a benign ruler - at least not in the Congo.
So it is not so surprising that Belgium has museums dedicated to African culture.
- Another claim to notorious fame is also of a political nature. In December 2011, with 589 days on the clock, Belgium broke the record for a developed and democratic country without a formal functioning government. There was stalemate between the parties, an election result that divided interests so equally that no controversial decisions could be made and nothing but routine administration tasks could be achieved.
- There is no place for schadenfreude here, no last laugh to be had. In reality the current situation in the UK seems uncannily similar.
- Belgium is perhaps fortunate to have Brussels and the EU headquarters within its national borders.
- So with nothing particular planned, we walk the short distance into the old town of Namur, wander the streets and try and identify a suitable place to eat supper.
- Many restaurants have now closed for an extended summer break or just because it is Monday.
So the task is by no means easy - especially if you wish to avoid pasta, fast food, Chinese or kebabs.
- Namur has an old town and several large churches. It is located at the confluence of the rivers Meuse & Sambre but the architecture is quite sombre in a North European sort of way. There is a reasonable pedestrian zone with shops, cafes and bars - but we're not sure whether it's seen better days or is now on its way up. There are many vacant commercial properties.
- We end up in Bistro Francois on the Place Saint Aubain, where the stilt fight competition will happen in September. The restaurant is crowded with locals and actually serves a meal better than anticipated. Now for the last sleep of our trip.