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Adorable Chick

HIGHLIGHTS OF EUROPE diary : Day 3 - 17th April 2016

Dinant, meaning "Divine Valley", a city with rich history since the neolithic times, lies to the south of Brussels, in the province of NAMUR. It lies above river MEUSE and is the birth place of the renowned Sir Adolph Sax, inventor of the Saxophone. A "one of a kind" blackish , bulb domed, sleek church, sitting amidst colourfully lined up European style buildings on its either side, fitting well within the backdrop of a mountain, that houses a fortress from its peak, running the length of its slope and this scene in entirety, reflecting itself on the River running below is the standard picture that shoots up at the mention of "Dinant". This unique picture picked our interest and hence got added into our itinerary.

The Idea was to spend the first half of the day here and the second half exploring Brussels Central. Using our Eurail pass, we boarded a train from Brussels Nord to reach Namur. Namur is the gateway to the Scenic side of Belgium, in contrast to the country's Industrial look in most of its Northern region . Thereafter we took another train from Namur to reach the Gare de Dinant (railway station) by 10 am that morning. The first leg of the journey lasted for an hour and the second leg took about 30 minutes. At the Gare de Dinant, we took a right and got to the cross road junction ahead. A left from this junction, brought us in front of the CHARLES DE GAULLE bridge, that arched over River Meuse, connecting this part of the city to the main Cathedral . We took another left just before the bridge. We found the statue of GENERAL DE GAULLE here and Bingo ! The exact location of the "symbolic shot" of Dinant, unfolded before our eyes. We were elated . Taking a few pictures here, we moved over to the iconic bridge.

The arched bridge , looked all colourful with huge saxophones installed atop triangular pedestals, at regular intervals, on its either side. To further add to the colour, there were flags of each country of the European Union installed diagonally behind each saxophone, on the railings of the bridge. It is said that in 2010, 28 saxophones were fixed here, each representing one country of the EU. Overall, the bridge is a tribute to both Adolph Sax and the EU. We crossed the bridge to get to the Church , called the DINANT COLLEGIATE CHURCH OF OUR LADY, or simply - COLLEGIALE NOTRE-DAME. We opened the Solid, ancient, door of the Church and walked in to find a prayer service in progress.

Tidy Desk

Surprisingly, its interiors looked way bigger in comparison to the small area of land it stood on. The huge , central , stained glass window is said to narrate stories from the Bible. The church is said to have been reconstructed twice, after being severely destroyed during each of the world wars. We offered our prayers and saw ourself out quickly. Sadly, we couldn't take pictures inside, due to the ongoing service. At the side of the church was the Cable car station, to reach the fortress on top. We purchased our return tickets for the ride, inclusive of the entrance to the Citadel. The journey upward, didn't last for more than 3-5 minutes. We were simply speechless at the city views all along. It only got more better at the top. The black, onion shaped dome on the steeple, looked close enough. Our cameras were on the job.

The fortress, now a museum, was split into various rooms, each detailing the History of itself in depth. The deep dark stories of the place, unveiled itself , as we moved from room to room. The mighty canons, peering through the fortress walls were a story by themselves. The History shocked us. The original fortress was built in 1051. During the period of the first world war in 1914, a few battles were fought here, especially between the 15th & 24th of August that year.

The Battle of Dinant was fought between the Germans and the French, when the Germans invaded Belgium. The Germans captured the fortress on victory, but soon the French counter-attacked and managed to recapture the fortress. Thereafter, the French ensured fortification of the surrounding area, covering the river Meuse and remained vigilant. Despite best efforts, the Germans struck again. This time probably, a counter-firing occurred within few of their own men in error. On realising the absence of French men in this attack, they blamed it on the civilians in the area, condemning them of helping the French. When a few civilians revolted, it lead to the biggest Massacre ever, where the Germans burnt down people, bridges, houses and even the village.

Around 650 odd, unarmed innocent civilians died. This lead to a further revolt by the civilians and the degree of Massacre only got severe. This is referred to as the " the RAPE OF BELGIUM". Dinant was looted and many public buildings lay totally destroyed.