Hidden History

My friend Elizabeth buys the coolest books. And she likes to explore. This combination is very awesome for me.

Her latest find is “Secret Brussels.” So one day in October she invited me on a walk from our neighborhood to some hidden gems in the Sonian Forest and the commune of Auderghem.

The first part of the trek took us through the grounds of the Red Cloister, a place I know well and have been to many times. I have yet to really get great shots of this place. But my husband enjoys going there, so I will have more chances to succeed in the future.

We made our way from the Red Cloister, under the 411 highway towards our first “secret” destination –  the Chateau/Prison de Trois Fontaines – or rather what is left of the estate. Today, only the lodge remains beyond the old gate (and modern fence). The more intrepid might have hopped the fence to check it out more closely, but I wasn’t feeling so brave that day! In its day the Chateau also served as a prison for those caught poaching in the forest or stealing firewood.

Our next destination was the far newer Chateau of Solitude. This chateau was built for the Princess Marie Ludmille Rose de Croy after becoming widowed, and was a place in the Sonian Forest near Auderghem that she could retreat to deal with her grief and commune with nature. Now it is home to an organization for sports.

A quick walk through the neighborhood, then ducking back under the 411 up the Chausee de Wavre brought more gems. A particularly interesting house we happened upon was the home of Belgian impressionist painter Auguste Oleffe. A dentist has set up shop in the house these days – the only indication that it was home to a painter a plaque upon the wall.

Further up the road, we mounted steps in search of two little streets that the book claimed to be picturesque. In earlier times the area was a rural village identified by the unflattering name of Loozenberg which translates to “Hill Lice.” Understandably the residents changed the village’s name to Bergoje – which basically refers to “houses on a hill.” The book’s author was correct and the streets (or at least the Rue de la Pente) did not disappoint. They are little more than alleyways, lined by old walls and quaint houses – some old, some newer.

On our way back towards home, we chose to continue our journey on the back roads. It’s amazing how much you can feel like you are miles from everything just a few streets in from the main thoroughfares here. We passed yet another chateau-turned-club before finding ourselves at the official entrance to the Val Duchess. I haven’t figured this place out yet, but you can see some amazing houses and buildings from the Boulevard de Souverain and I have been dying to get inside this fenced property and explore. That still hasn’t happened. Instead we continued on until we found a street that we were relatively sure took us in the direction of Elizabeth’s house. The road was a narrow alley (but car sized this time) and at the end I realized where we were and just how close to home we were.

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The fact that the forest is just resplendent this autumn only added to a most enjoyable walk and treasure hunt.

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