De Groene Gordel (The Green Belt)
This is a network of parks and gardens in Flanders, encircling Brussels. Biking and walking paths can do the whole tour, and it is an excellent place to visit and explore on foot or by bike. The Green Belt takes in everything from Affligem Abbey, Grimbergen’s watermills, the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren and the hills of East Flanders. This includes the area where Breughel did much of his work, and for those gastronomically inclined, it’s where the best Gueuze and Lambic beers can be found today.
De Groene Wandeling/Le Promenade Vert (The Green Trail)
This is a specific bike and walking path, 60 kilometers long, constructed by the Brussels Institute for the Environment. It also encircles Brussels, but this time within the Brussels Region. The Green Trail was officially initiated in 2009, and the overall path covers sixty kilometers of old tramways, forests, and urban parks, divided into seven different sections to highlight some of Brussels’ natural diversity. It is an excellent way to see just how green Brussels is (it is one of the greenest European capitals, in fact), and it is so well marked it can make a great way to explore the city.
So then what’s with this last one? This is a Flemish political event which takes place every September, organized by the ministry of sports of the Flemish region. The event brings crowds of up to 100,000 people to the roads of Flanders, once more encircling Brussels. When the event began in the 1980’s, it was an overt attempt to assert the Flemish nature of this region – hence the route, which passes through many of the mixed-language communities which are at the heart of Belgium’s current political troubles. Since its origin though, the event has changed some, and while it’s still a political moment, many of the crowds which come out today are as drawn by the free concerts and events as anything else. Still, it’s a different bird entirely from the other two paths!
And so with that in mind, feel free to get out and try to make your way around Brussels. Happy pedaling!
This article was first published in the June 2009 edition of the Sunbeams Newlsetter.