On the 6th of June 2014 we left Bergues (Sint-Winoksbergen), going towards Dunkerque (Duinkerke) again, this time planning to be in Belgium for about a fortnight, or even shorter. Belgium because of being part of a gathering organized by the Dutch Barge Association (DBA) at Diksmuide to commemorate the outbreak of The Great War – 100 years ago. Preparing the blog page today, Sunday the 29th of June, it’s safe to say that we have been in Belgium for over three weeks, and enjoyed it immensely. We have visited the towns/cities of Veurne, Diksmuide, Nieuwpoort, Brugge, Gent and Kortrijk. All the time we could use our mother tongue to communicate! This blog tells you something about our adventures in wonderful Belgium. More about the individual towns/cities later on – it’s too much to go into detail now.

From Bergues, France, we moved towards Veurne on the 6th of June 2014. After five hours of cruising and only one lock we moored in Veurne’s pleasure-craft harbour at 2:39PM. We were accompanied by ‘Neeltje’, ‘Tartuga’ and ‘Arran’, all on their way towards Diksmuide. ‘Neeltje’ lacks on this picture, as she had already continued her journey. Perhaps you’ve noticed that ‘Arran’ looks a bit like ‘Hebbes’. You’re absolutely right as both ships, apart from Hebbes’s back cabin, are pretty identical and built by the same builder.


Veurne’s charming Market-place. Look, listen and enjoy!

Wednesday the 11th of June we left charming Veurne at 09:10AM and, after negotiating the (open) lock next to the harbour, we had to make a sharp 180 degree turn to be able to cruise into the Lokanaal of only 14,33 kilometers (close to 9 miles), leading towards the little river IJzer. This picture gives a good idea of this charming, by no means over-used, canal. ‘Tartuga’ is following us in the distance.

After around 2,5 hours of cruising, including a few bridges we passed Lock Fintele and turned left onto the river IJzer. The first part, going downstream is really lovely and, on the left bank, scattered with flowers. Note the poppies between the yellow ones (name?)

Diksmuide, reached after over 6,5 hours of cruising, required some manoeuvring before all the barges –at least 20 in total- were moored and safely tied up. In case one wonders: we are in the right-front.

The river IJzer served as a natural barrier during The Great War. The aggressors remained on the east-side, the defenders on the west-side. Numberless casualties were claimed by this cruel and senseless war. The so called ‘dead trench’ is still in situ, as this picture shows. Original photos are on display and clearly show the horror of the trenches.

One of the things to do when in Dixmuide is a visit to the IJzertoren (Yser Tower) and the Paxpoort (Gate of Peace). We can highly recommend Wikipedia’s page for more information.

Here’s the pack of ships as seen from the IJzertoren’s top. In case you are interested: we are 4th from the right, moored on the inside.

A little incident to end the ‘Diksmuide-episode’ with. An unlucky fellow DBA-member slipped while securing a bike on his boat’s roof. The bike ended up on the bottom of the river IJzer. After some searching and using a long boat-hook the bike was recovered. Phew!

Diksmuide was left after exactly a week, on Wednesday the 18th of June, 10:30AM. One bridge, two locks and only 3 hours of cruising made us and up in Ieper, our planned destination. The canal is a dead end at Ieper anyway. Here we are, for visiting one of the severest devastated areas during The Great War.

This is what Ieper’s centre looks like today. 'Again' one might add, as the next picture shows what it looked like at the end of World War I.

The same area in, say, 1918, seen from a different angle. It’s beyond imagination how Flanders suffered during The Great War and admiration is the feeling one gets when seeing the rebuilt town nowadays.

We left Ieper on Friday the 20th of June at 9:57AM, together with three cruiser-style boats. Here we are in lock ‘Boezinge Dorp’ with one of the cruisers. A paradise-like surrounding.

Nieuwpoort was reached after 7,5 hours of cruising. Making progress in Belgium is easier than, say, in France because Flanders is flat, so hardly any locks there. A load of pleasure boats in Nieuwpoort’s harbour, causing hardly any space for a ship like ours. We discovered, however, a space at the far end between two long floating pontoons and it seemed just right for us. Well, it was! La capitaine moved into this tight space without hitting the wall, nor the boat behind ours. Chapeau!

Nieuwpoort was not visited because of the remoteness of the town and our plans for the remainder of the journey. So away we went, the next morning, 21 june, at 09:03AM. Destination: Brugge. This bridge during the journey of course caught our attention. We’d never seen this concept before. It would be a dream for any kid to use it as a play-swing for some time.

On the approach towards Brugge this bridge was moved for us, too. After some waiting indeed but nevertheless. Admirable designs the Belgians have made, we think.

Just before reaching our final destination that day we climbed one lock, named ‘Dammepoortsluis’, a triangular one equipped with three entrances/exits. (It’s fair to say one of them is out of use, but the lock’s shape of course is still there.) We had never been in a lock like this one. The difference in level is only 1,73 meters (5,7 feet) but it took all of us –the boats- over a quarter of an hour before the locking-process was over. A huge amount of water is needed to fill the lock and then there are the bridges on either side.

Brugge, reached after 7 hours of cruising. Only. Yes, since we are in Belgium for the first time (by boat) we want to visit as much as possible, perhaps with a view on our future as well… The pictured harbour is named ‘Brugge Coupure’ and, next to the city, we loved its setting. Turning is impossible here, so all the barges have entered in reverse.

Brugge is an utterly pretty city. Coming winter or so, when we’re out of subjects, we’ll certainly come back on it (her? him?). The central square is pictured here. All postcard pictures, wherever one looks.

One of the visited spots in Brugge was the city’s beguinage. More about it later – probably. For the moment there’s this expression of devoutness. Unfortunately it is too complicated to translate all that is written around the cross. We’ll try to do the one on the right hand side of the cross – so on the left hand side for us, viewers. ‘All of thou passing by, stand (still) and consider whether there’s (only) one sorrow, comparable to his sorrows.’ It’s all in –a bit antique- Dutch. Flemish if you like.

One for the road, so to speak. Brugge is soooooo charming! One cannot object against living there, we’re sure.

The ‘Brugge-experience’ was followed by a journey to Gent. Departure-time 10:05AM on Monday the 23rd of June, arrival at Gent 4:36PM – so 6,5 hours of cruising, all of them lock-free. This time we forgot to make a picture of the mooring spot, situated on the river Leie. For everyone who wants to determine where we have been during two nights in Gent, on one side of our ship a man tried to jump on top of our ship…

…and on the opposite side a woman tried to do the same. We were exactly in between the two. Repeat: exactly. So anyone with some local knowledge is informed now.

Although Brugge tops it all, Gent is absolutely attractive and charming in its own right. Here’s an example of Gent’s attractiveness. Possibly more about this city later on.

Yet another one of Gent’s crowd pullers. You’ll have to excuse us: we have forgotten the name and there is no time for research, the reason being the World Championship of Football. (Our fellow countrymen just beat the Mexicans. Phew!) Note the tram by the way; a variation of the theme 'young meets (very) old'.

Mentioning the tram with the last picture was an introduction to this one. We’ve discovered where Gent’s tram terminates. It’s right here!

After having done a day of sightseeing in Gent we left on Wednesday 25th of June, 08:25AM. Rather early, because we knew that a fairly long journey was awaiting us. We kept following the river Leie. Charming, attractive, quiet, winding, beautiful houses and gardens, this little river has it all. For some 30 kilometers (almost 19 miles) that is, from Gent’s centre to the junction where the Leie continues indeed, yet heavily canalized. On the way we met this Tjalk-like ship. It makes for a lovely picture.

Lock/bridge on Leie river

That day we were confronted with only one lock – on a river! And in an open position too. The lock obviously is only closed in times of flood. We had to call the lock keeper (bridge keeper) beforehand though, for opening the bridge. He advised us to use the hooter when approaching the bridge. We did. It worked perfectly.

Kortrijk, our last destination in Belgium before returning to France. Arrived at 4:17PM, so almost 8 hours of cruising, But believe us, it was a real treat, especially the non-canalized part of the river Leie. We’re still here (Sunday now), planning to leave tomorrow after having stayed for five nights. The aforementioned Football-event is, well, rather important to watch –yes, we fancy the Dutch team- and the trees are here on the south-side of the waterway. That’s blocking the ‘outlook’ of our satellite-disk. The very friendly harbour-master, our front-neighbour, offered to extend the cable and to connect it to his disk. It works already for five days. Bless him!

A very well-known landmark of Kortrijk, the pair of towers on top of the branch of the river Leie, close to where we are moored. The river is very quiet (even the current is sometimes slowly going the ‘wrong’ way(!)) but this morning the level had risen some 20/25 centimeters (2/3 of a foot) making us wonder whether we’ll be able to leave tomorrow, as the bridge at the entrance of the branch is pretty low. We’ll see tomorrow morning…

Kortrijk too has it’s beguinage. As the others we’ve seen they are islands of quietness – and all very well kept and beautiful.

To end with this time a statue of the Flemish Maiden, symbolizing Flanders being the victors of the Battle of the Golden Spurs (Guldensporenslag), fought the 11th of July 1302. The maiden raises her left arm in victory, at the same time keeping a lion at bay with her right one by just grabbing his hair (cool!). See for more information. This is it for the time being. Hope to meet you all next week.