A bike ride away from Brussels lies the Tervuren Park, that is home to the architecturally beautiful Royal Museum of Central-Africa. This park, also called Warande, is one of the entrance gates to the Sonian forest and a nice place to relax after a busy week in Brussels.
I had found a suggested 11 km hiking trail online that led not only through the Tervuren Park, but also through the surroundings. It is possible to check the trail on the website, but I prefer to have the trail on my phone so that I can also access it offline, so I downloaded the route and imported it in my beloved app Maps.Me.
Anyways, we started our hike at the Royal Museum for Central Africa, which was still being renovated at the time of our visit. The reopening is planned in December 2018. The museum was opened in 1904 as a place to display Leopold II's collections from the colonial period. Also, three African villages were built. Today, the scope has been redefined in order to be more politicaly correct, without hiding that dark period in Belgian history.
In front of the museum lies a large French-style garden with several ponds and floating water lilies, oaks and beeches, flowerbeds, and statues. Especially remarkable is the statue 'the Congo, I presume', built on the spot of the three former African villages during the colonial exposition. It could be discussed wether this statues pays tribute or -adversely- criticizes colonialism. The three warriors in traditional clothes seem to stand on guard, but they have no feet (a reference to the chopping off of hands?) And the lion, which could represent Belgium, turns away from king Leopold II, in the same way as many Belgians did when they learned about the king's inhumane actions in Congo.
Seen from a distance, while standing on the little bridge over the pond, the museum building brings to mind the architecture of large palaces, such as Château de Versailles in Paris or Peterhof Palace in Russia.
With our back to the museum, we turned left and walked along the long canal, lined by large grass lawns. This path brought us to a nice little bar, Het Spaans Huis, which is housed in an old water mill. Turns out it was time for a break! We found a spot on the outdoor terrace and ordered a drink and a salmon toast. From where we sat, we could perfectly overlook the next part of the park - a lovely view.
We slowly directed ourselves towards the east exit of the park, which is where the main parking area is. Many people had installed here (close to their car) with the sole purpose of being lazy and enjoy the peace and quiet.
After exiting the park, we followed a dirt road behind the park that led to the village of Duisburg, or rather its fields and farmlands. This is where we were suddenly surprised by two creatures that came running straight towards us. At first, we thought they were aggressive dogs, and we didn't know where to run. When they came closer, we understood they were deer, in the middle of a fight - which didn't make our situation better. Luckily, they jumped aside a few meters before us.
After a kilometer through the fields, we returned to civilization (so to speak). We had reached the church of Duisburg, which meant we were in the center of the village, although it was still super quiet and empty here. The next stretch of the hike was a bit boring, as we followed the road through a residential area with nothing special to see apart from big-ass villa's.
Finally, we returned to the park of Tervuren and went straight to a crossroad of lanes called 'Zevenster' ("Seven-pointed star"). In the middle, you can see the broken pieces of the so-called 'Dolmen stone from Duisburg', discovered in 1883. The stone's unbroken diameter measured about 2m45.
The next 'highlight' on my map was the 'Duke's Castle', but we had a hard time finding it, as apparently there is not much left of it... The remains hide behind the Saint-Hubert Chapel.
We were drawn away from the ruins by some cheerful music a bit further up. Looking for the source of the buzz, we found ourselves in the center of Tervuren, where a local event was taking place around the administrative center and the Warandepoort. An orchestra was performing happy music, so we decided to stick around for a while. More precisely, on the outdoor terrace of the ice-cream shop Mont Blanc, where we enjoyed our Dame Blanche while observing the buzz around us.
Did you know this dog is called after the village of Tervuren? I don't know why, but this Belgian Sheperd is the Tervuren, a social herding dog. A statue has been erected for this breed in front of the Tourist Information Center.
From here, we walked back to the Royal Museum of Central Africa, where we had parked the car. We had been walking for about 5 hours (when we were not drinking or eating ice-cream) and felt tired from the effort, but happy to have discovered this peaceful green area.