Visiting the Lake of Overijse-Genval, Belgium, and its castle: waters, boundaries and languages
Enjoy the view and choose your language carefully
In Flanders' scenic Meer van Overijse-Genval , views of the lakeside castle are striking. I walked around the entirety of the elongated lake, and other visitors would probably agree that its northern shore is probably the best location for views of this structure, which in Dutch may be referred to as the Kasteel van Genval . The Meerlaan (Lake Avenue) is a lakeside road which runs along the northern rim of this picturesque location, and I am glad that I took the opportunity to walk this route.
The lake is bordered by trees and is on the edge of an historic forest known as the Zoniënwoud .
It has to be mentioned, however, that the castle itself is situated in a different municipality from two-thirds of the lake. While the northern part of the lake and its shore are in the Flemish municipality of Overijse (hence the lake's name: Meer van Overijse-Genval), the southern part is situated in Genval, part of the municipality of Rixensart , in the French-speaking Walloon region. Thus the castle itself is known in French as the Château du Lac de Genval (Castle of the lake of Genval) or simply as the Château de Genval. The late 19th century castle, with its prominent turret, has had a variety of owners, but its current function is as a 5 star hotel.
Thus, the name Overijse does not feature in the castle's name, because it is situated on the lake's French-speaking side, whereas, because the majority of the lake itself is in the Dutch-speaking Flemish region, it is often referred to in Dutch by the name Meer van Overijse-Genval. But there came a point on my walk along the Meerlaan when suddenly its name changed to avenue du Lac. The historic forest, which the lake borders, is known in French as the Forêt de Soignes .
The Zilverbeek / Argentine and the linguistic boundary
Actually, the lake at Overijse-Genval is at least partly artificial, although a pond existed in the vicinity of the current lake, and was thus enlarged. The local hydrography also traditionally served as the demarcation between the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking areas. A local stream known as the Zilverbeek has long been regarded as marking the linguistic boundary between the Dutch- and French-speaking areas; thus, on its northern bank, the stream is officially known by its Dutch name. On its southern bank, it is known as the Argentine.
So the lake is mainly in the Flemish region, while its most well-known feature — the castle — is situated in the Walloon region. These observations may not seem to matter overmuch to the foreign visitor, but to Belgians they are important because every last square metre of the country has been divided officially between its linguistic communities; a few areas being designated — in vairous ways — as bilingual zones. Here at the Lake, however, the linguistic boundary is regarded as clear-cut.
Even the province of Brabant has been divided into two separate provinces, Flemish Brabant (Vlaams-Brabant) and Walloon Brabant (Brabant wallon). Thus, any map which purports to show Genval-Overijse's lake as being supposedly wholly in either one or other of these provinces, or supposedly linked administratively with exclusively one of them, would be regarded as being inaccurate, according to Belgian institutional sensibilities. (For this reason I am supplying two maps!).
Other nearby features
Overijse has a striking Town Hall (Gemeentehuis), Medieval in origin, restored in the 1960s. Its stone parish church of St. Martin is also of note.
The railroad station at Genval contains some interesting Art nouveau features, including ceramic tiling in floral pattern. The former town hall (Maison communale), is of note architecturally, with its pillared stone front entrance, and tower.
Also worth seeing
Rixensart (distance: 2.6 kilometres), to which municipality Genval belongs, has a picturesque Mérode castle, which, in its present structure dates from the 17th century, although the original castle was from the 13th century.
Waterloo (distance: 12 kilometres) contains the massive memorial to the historic battle of Waterloo, which has long attracted many visitors.
Brussels (distance: 21 kilometres) has important historical and cultural sites which are too many in number to mention properly here, but be sure to visit the Grand' Place . The Royal Palace (French: Palais royal ; Dutch: Koninklijk Paleis ) has a façade, seen to impressive effect from the Park of Brussels (French: Parc de Bruxelles ; Dutch: Park van Brussel ); a wing of this Palace, the Hôtel Bellevue, contains a museum of Belgium's royal dynasty. The Erasmus House (Maison d'Erasme ; Erasmushuis ), Anderlecht, is dedicated to the life of the Renaissance scholar, Erasmus of Rotterdam.
How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. The Belgian railroad company SNCB / NMBS maintains a railroad link to Genval station, which is situated approx 1.5 kilometres from Lake Overijse-Genval. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
Other of my hubpages may be of interest
- Visiting the Palace of Justice at Brussels, Belgium: gigantic building, huge issues
The enormous Palace of Justice (French: Palais de Justice ; Dutch: Justitiepaleis ) building in central Brussels looked so new and different when completed in 1883 (having taken since 1866 to build) that...
- Visiting Anderlecht, Belgium: historical gem in bustling Brussels
Anderlecht is a bilingual municipality in the Brussels Capital Region of Belgium. Among Brussels's many historical and cultural treasures, the Erasmus House in Anderlecht is certainly very significant. I...
How can a hill covered in trees be partly French-speaking and partly Dutch-speaking? Answer: this is Belgium. It happens, trust me. But do the trees speak French or Dutch (or any other language, for that...
- Visiting Bruges, Belgium: dizzyingly high towers and powerful, Medieval memories
There is so much for the visitor to see at Bruges (Dutch: Brugge ), in the Belgian Province of West Flanders (Dutch: West-Vlaanderen ), in the Flemish Region (Dutch: Vlaams Gewest ) that he or she may well...
- Visiting Bouillon, Belgium: memories of Godefroid, styled King of Jerusalem, and his castle
So this Medieval castle is in Luxembourg? Well, yes and no. Some geography The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, with its many castles, is an independent state, which neighbours Belgium....
For your visit, these items may be of interest
More by this Author
- 0Visiting Lougheed House, Calgary, Alberta: a National Historic Site of Canada, this sandstone mansion dates from 1891
Lougheed House, Calgary, has been a real witness to the history of Alberta. Associated with a dynasty of Provincial leaders, its 19th century sandstone walls have harboured many distinguished visitors
25,000 people are said to have perished at this concentration camp on French soil, functioning between 1941 and 1944. 25,000 people. Albert Speer, later Hitler's production supremo, was linked with it
- 0Visiting Laguna del Sauce: An Uruguayan 70 square km reflecting pool of multidimensional refractions
An inland lagoon in Uruguay reflects light, hills and history. Nearby Punta del Este - whose airport is named for Laguna del Sauce - served as an ideological crucible pitting JFK against Che Guevara.
No comments yet.