Visiting Burg-Reuland, Belgium: Monumentality in the German-speaking Ostkantone
Imposing castle in eastern Belgium, where history and cultures meet
German-speaking part of Belgium? Yes, eastern Belgium has a German-speaking area known as the Ostkantone (French: Cantons de l'Est, a phrase which will be familiar to Canadians, given the existence of an historic and picturesque area of Quebec of the same name). The outstanding scenic and historical qualities of this relatively forgotten corner of Europe truly deserve to be better known.
Not least among the treasures of Belgium's Ostkantone is Burg-Reuland, a town named after the monumental castle of the same name. Situated near the northern border of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Burg-Reuland's ancient castle dominates the area. While a fortification is said to have existed in Roman times, much of the existing castle dates from the 12th century.
To the north of the town lies the scenic Hohes Venn (French: Hautes-Fagnes) area.
Historically frequent map changes: a veritable crossroads area
In the south-east of Belgium's Liège Province, and in the extreme south of the German-speaking Ostkantone, Burg-Reuland is 20 km from French-speaking Gouvy. This town contains the last railroad station in Belgium before the border with Luxembourg is crossed, on the Liège-Luxembourg line. Once over the border of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, one is in officially trilingual territory: French, Letzebuergesch (known as Luxembourg's national language) and German. 17 km from Burg-Reuland in Luxembourg is Troisvierges, a town with three names, depending on which of these three languages one is speaking: Troisvierges is French, Elwen is Letzebuergesch, and Ulflingen is German. Not far to the east is Belgium's border with Germany's state of Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pflalz). Prior to the end of World War One, the Ostkantone area belonged to Germany, which largely occupied Belgium during that war. In 1940, Germany re-annexed the Ostkantone, whereupon after WW2 Belgium re-re-annexed the area.
Having visited this town with its imposing castle, I feel that the cartographic and linguistic complexities of the area around Burg-Reuland contribute to an interesting territorial psychology indeed: monumentality amidst historical fluidity and cultural multiplicity, might one say?
Also worth seeing:
The village of Ouren, situated 10 km away in the Our Valley, is linked administratively to Burg-Reuland; in this picturesque village, a small park marks the location where the borders of three countries meet: Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg.
Bastogne, scene of some of the fiercest fighting during the Battle of the Bulge toward the close of World War Two, is about 50 km to the south-west of Burg-Reuland, and attracts many American visitors. Bastogne is situated in Belgian Luxembourg province (yes, Belgium has a province called Luxembourg, too! and this province was formerly united with the Grand Duchy of the same name; they officially split in 1839).
How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York (JFK) to Brussels Airport, where car hire is available. The nearest large international airport is Luxembourg (Aéroport de Luxembourg), at Findel. For North American travellers making the London, England area their touring base, airlines flying to Luxembourg include Luxair (from London Heathrow Airport and London City Airport) and CityJet (from London City Airport). Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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