Things To Do In Bastogne
The two horrific world wars wrought much destruction in the name of passionate nationalism. Many towns in Europe suffered permanent scarring, at the hands of either side during the course of the wars. One such town, reminiscent with the fierce battle fought on its land and yet, successfully rebuilt into a beautiful tourist destination is Bastogne, Belgium. Located in the Luxembourg province atop the Ardennes plateau, Bastogne bears the mark of World War 2 in the form of beautiful and respectful war memorials, antique museums that seem to narrate stories and old religious havens.
Right from the 16th century, Bastogne has been a productive and rich province due to its agricultural and animal husbandry-related prosperity. During the war, this town was reclaimed by the Allied forces. Looking to split the American and British army, German troops laid siege to Bastogne and a week of fierce fighting in fog and cold ensued. When the fog cleared, American back up arrived and Hitler’s forces were vanquished at this very town. With such an exciting and crucial event in the course of history, having taken place at Bastogne, it is no surprise that the remote town is frequented by a throng of tourists each year. The museums of Bastogne house real weapons of warfare used by the Allied forces.
The town is also famous for two of the most popular bicycle races conducted in all of Europe. The Liege-Bastogne-Liege is a race that was conducted right from the end of the 19th century. The Circuit des Ardennes used to be the name of a car-racing event where participants would drive over 600 km! Today, the same has evolved into yet another cycling event. These cycling events are attended by people from all over Europe and if you plan your trip accordingly, you can witness the master cyclists battle it out.
When To Go:
The weather at Bastogne is generally quite pleasant, but it can get very cold in the frosty months of winter. It is not uncommon for the temperature to its sub-zero levels during the latter months of the year. Not only is this temperature a challenge to deal with, but extreme conditions also mean you may have to miss out on certain cherished sights and services. The best time to plan a trip to Bastogne is between May and September. The temperature is fairly steady and oscillates between 3 oC and 12 oC. While this may still need to get accustomed to, the town is equipped with fuzzy cafes and a heater-equipped lodges to keep you warm.
Before leaving for Bastogne, one must be physically prepared to endure the cold and walk quite a lot. The war memorials and museums have beautiful pathways for peaceful strolls taking in all of the edifice’s beauty. Vehicles are not allowed to approach the memorial for the most part and so, one must be prepared to stretch those calf muscles and walk through stretches of chilling aesthetic architecture.
Let us take a look at things to do and places to visit at Bastogne:
The Historical Centre of Bastogne is one of the most popular tourist destinations and shelters In its throes, crowds of tourists that flock to the town each year. The historical centre claims to be the finest war museum in the world. A description of the centre will leave you in no doubt of how true the claim is. To begin with, the Historical centre is built with complete architectural flair, in the shape of a five pointed star. At the very centre of this star is a dome that resembles an amphitheater. Within this dome, the entire war scene has been rebuilt for all to see and relive the moments of war. Right outside the dome are large screens with photographs.
These screens emit commentary in six different languages for all to learn of the story without difficulty. The effect is added to by a rich collection of weapons, tanks, military vehicles as well as uniforms. None of these are replicas, all the exhibits date back to the famous war and bear its mark. A visit to the historical center is sure to send a chill down your spine.
Road to Freedom
It is said that the very roads and the stones used in building those roads speak of the Allied victory over German troops which was a turning point in history. This is not just a beautiful selection of words, but the description of a monument that holds tribute without distinguishing itself from its surroundings.
The road to freedom, also called ‘Voie de Liberte´ in French, is the central path of Bastogne and has been maintained with perfection as a tribute to the Allied march starting from Normandy to Bastogne. The impeccable stones embedded to make this road celebrate the victory of the allies.
The dreary old town of Bastogne has a grand town square where tourists often collect in groups to chat and discuss their experience in the city. It is also an excellent landmark to navigate your way through the town from. This central square of Bastogne, called Place McAuliffe, is named after the US General McAuliffe, who was responsible for leading the American troops to a victory and liberating the town from Nazi domination.
To make the honor more perceivable, Place McAuliffe is also host to a grand US Sherman tank used in the war and a monument erected in tribute to General McAuliffe. One can view and pay respects to the wizened strong soul here.
Musee original au pays d’Ardennes
The musee original au pays d’Ardennes, which means Original museum of the country of Ardennes in French, is located a mere 50-55 yards away from the Place McAuliffe. In stark contrast to the war monument that symbolizes only the war-torn and strategic events of the town, this museum is unique in giving equal importance to all trades practiced in the town of Bastogne.
With several implements and stuffed animals on display, one instantly understands the diverse spirit of the town after visiting the musee original au pays d’Ardennes. At the museum, they have weapons used during the war to signify the battle as well as tools used in agricultural activities to depict the importance of farming in the economy of Bastogne. This is one of the tourist destinations one absolutely must visit.
Despite being located thousands of miles away from the American land, the town of Bastogne is replete with statues and honorific edifices to pay tribute to the Americans to whom Bastogne owns its freedom. These monuments today are major tourist attractions due to their architectural beauty and rich stories.
Monument Patton is another example of this attraction. Built in the form of a relief as a tribute to US General Patton, the attraction is soothing and goes to remind all who visited it of the sacrifices made during times of war.
Porte de Treves
Porte de Treves is a saddening reminder of the war, being the only tower left from what used to be majestic ramparts. In English, Porte de Treves means the Treves gates. The tower is square and large, made entirely of sandstone.
This means that the late-medieval ramparts of Bastogne were built using sandstone, enhancing the strength and beauty of a crucial building. The building itself, however, was burnt to the ground by the French in 1668. The tower, located near a famous church, is the only remnant of the ramparts.
All old towns with a rich culture possess their very own mystic church and Saint-Pierre fills the role for the town of Bastogne. This church was built a staggering 1300 years ago in the early 7th century. Sadly, today, none of the architecture of the original church remains, everything that the church boasts of was rebuilt at a slightly later date to make up for vandalisms and natural erosion. The altar and the tower are the oldest parts of the church. The tower dates back to the 12th century and the altar was also rebuilt at the same time. The nave of the church underwent damage due to a fire breaking out in the 13th century. It was rebuilt with a Gothic style in the 15th century.
The main attraction of the church is the nave vaulting. It depicts colorfully and artistically etched scenes from the Old as well As New Testament of the Bible. The pulpit built in Baroque style, Romanesque fonts used in construction and the centuries-old altar is other major attractions that make the Church a must-visit site.
Yet another famous museum lies near the church and the tower in the town of Bastogne. This museum, called the Maison Mathelin serves as a better guide to learn the history of Bastogne than any guide or book can hope to offer. Upon entering, one gets started with a story of events unfolding in Bastogne starting from the Gallo-Roman times from eons ago. The museum guides a tourist throughout the history of the town with epic stories and displays from the Middle Ages and the Second World War.
It is of particular interest to note that this museum does not speak much about the foreign troops and inhabitants of the town to which the other monuments are dedicated. Instead, the museum seems to have erected to remember and speak of the indigenous people of the Ardennes plateau. The rural communities that practice agriculture and cattle rearing have found an expression of their stories and culture at Maison Mathelin. Do not miss out on this rich and educating experience when touring the town of Bastogne.
Musee en Piconrue
Now here’s a museum that stands out from everything you would expect a museum to be. Though it is called a museum, it is not built in a traditional block-building manner. The musee en Piconrue is housed in a monastery. This monastery used to be a fully functional monastery of Bethlehemite faith until its 15 rooms were refurbished and put to use to display various exhibits of the musee en Piconrue.
Even when it comes the exhibits, the museum carves an image for itself. This museum is not dedicated to war relics or even the arts and trades of the natives of Bastogne. Rather, the musee en Piconrue celebrates different religions that are popular in the region and their expression in folk arts. A collection of faiths and their beauty, the museum is a perfect example of deriving aesthetic pleasure from diversity.
Mardasson Hill American Memorial
When you are done visiting all the tourist attractions of Bastogne, the one that most tourist visit at the end will probably be the finishing touch to your tour too. There are two reasons why the hill war memorial is often visited last. Firstly, the memorial is located 3 kilometers outside the town of Bastogne and can prove to be quite a walk. Secondly, the nature of the Mardasson Hill American Memorial is such that one is humbled and finds it difficult to return to a cheerful state for a while after having had a taste of what the war was like.
To view the memorial, you have to walk on the kilometer-stones of the road to freedom. Along the way, one comes upon the majestic and intimidating hill with a wonderful view of the surrounding regions. On the top of this hill is constructed the American Memorial. This memorial was built in the 1950s and is constructed much like the historical centre. Bearing influence of the same five pointed star, the magnificent memorial atop the hill bears the marks of 76,890 brave American warriors that laid down their lives for the freedom of Bastogne.
The memorial depicts the names of all the units that took part in the war. The crypt of the edifice is decorated with beautiful mosaics. It is complete with three comprehensive altars; a Catholic, a Protestant and a Jewish one. You cannot afford to miss this monument, the heart and soul of the spirit in Bastogne that still remembers war cries of brave Americans.
Battle of the Bulge guided tour
In the town of Bastogne lives a well acclaimed historian who offers to take tourists for what is called a guide of the town but actually turns out to be an accurate passionate reliving experience of the war. This man’s name is Roby and he runs the battle of the bulge guided tour. Every single tourist to have taken this tour speaks favorably of Roby and many claim to want to return just to take the tour again or expose their children to the intelligence and passion with which Roby takes you around.
If you have a distant relative who met their brave end at the town of Bastogne, this tour helps you find them and their unit down within a matter of hours. According to tourist ratings, the battle of the bulge guided tour is one of the favorite activities to be pursued in the town of Bastogne. The guide has spent his life studying and building upon the events and effects of the war and shares them in the most comprehensible and interesting manner.
Bastogne barracks is another museum located in the town of Bastogne. The specialty of this museum is that it has exhibits of life sized soldiers in still life forms arranged to duplicate scenes from the war.
The soldiers are clad in complete uniform and there are also pictures of famous soldiers from the war put up. The tour is often given by soldiers of the Belgian army that recollect first hand experiences from the war times. Find this and more at the Bastogne barracks.
101 Airborne Museum le Mess
This museum is host to the famous Battle of Bulge re-enactment of December which attracts large crowds to the town. Dedicated to the aerial warfare that won the Allies their victory in Bastogne, tourists love this three-floored museum and the many exhibits it has to offer. Browsing the entire course of the museum can take a while but the wax displays have been highly commended. The museum is easily accessible and located right on the main roads of the town. The chilling replicas of soldiers are sure to haunt you for many days to come.
If you are a war-time enthusiast, the various museums and monuments are sure to excite you and give you enjoyment beyond measure. The general spirit of the town as well as the stories narrated by veterans and the town folk are worth travelling any distance for someone passionate about history. However, even if all you are really looking forward to is an enjoyable vacation in a peaceful location with family and friends, Bastogne will click in the right place. Complete with tranquil avenues and weather that appeals to children and adults alike, you just cannot go wrong when you plan a trip to Bastogne. Make sure you purchase war souvenirs for those back home that wait to hear all about your trip. The guided tours here make excellent experiences too! So what are you waiting for? Book your tickets and fly to Bastogne and you are going to have great holiday here.
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