Visiting Visé Bridge, Visé, Belgium: structurally important, but more broadly in a psychologically complex situation
Symbolic antidote to excessive regionalism?
This substantial, even sedate, bridge of the Meuse River, in Belgium, has spanned the banks of this great fluvial artery at Visé, Liège province, in the Walloon region (French: Région wallonne) for several decades. Executed in reinforced concrete, and with a total length of approx. 200 metres, Visé Bridge (French: Pont de Visé) has four arches, which carry the N618 — known locally as Avenue du Pont — across the Meuse river. A suburb of Visé even lies across the Meuse from the downtown area, the Bridge thus providing a vital link within the town itself.
This all seems straightforward and unambiguous enough.
It is, however, when one starts to examine its geographical situation, and some of the underlying psychological issues its geography evokes, that the Bridge's setting suddenly seems rather more complex.
The bridge is in Belgium, but only just: within walking distance of the Bridge is the border with the Dutch province of Limburg. At least, this international border is accessible on foot close to one bank of the Meuse River: the eastern bank.
The western bank, however, continues in Belgium for several more kilometres. The western bank of the Meuse (called the Maas in Flanders and The Netherlands) subsequenly forms the border with the province of Limburg (yes, really!) for many kilometres. There are thus two provinces called Limburg: one is in Belgium, one is in The Netherlands, and both are Dutch-speaking (1).
But back to the vicinity of Visé Bridge.
A striking feature of Belgium's border with The Netherlands, lying within walking distance of Visé Bridge, that there is a narrow strip of land linking the Voeren / Fourons municipality with the Maas / Meuse River. This municipality, which was transferred in 1963 from Liège province to Limburg province, is actually situated east of the Maas / Meuse river, rather than to its west, as is the case with the remainder of the Dutch-speaking Belgian province of Limburg. As if to say: 'at least' the Voeren / Fourons municipality is contiguous with the Maas / Meuse river, if not with the remainder of the province into which it has been incorporated.
So it is the case that the Dutch border, which lies within a few minutes' walking distance from the Visé Bridge, is separated from Liège province by a narrow strip of land which is formally within the region of Flanders (Dutch: Vlaams gewest).
Interestingly, also, a few kilometres north of Visé Bridge is the Dutch town of Eijsden, lying on the eastern bank of the Maas; at Eijsden, the opposite bank of the river is in Belgium.
Thus, the Bridge links together the suburbs of the Francophone town of Visé; it also provides a link between the discontiguous parts of the officially Dutch-speaking, Belgian province of Limburg; it also provides the fastest road access to the side of the Maas river bank opposite to the Dutch town of Eijsden. In terms of spacial pyschology, therefore, the situation of Visé Bridge is rather interesting and even intriguing. (A symbolic antidote to the radical regionalism of some Belgian politicians, maybe?)
January 14, 2014
(1) Dutch-speakers refer to Visé as Wezet.
Also worth seeing
In Visé itself, the Town Hall (French: Hôtel de Ville) is an historic, 17th century building with a striking, bulbous roof.
Eijsden, The Netherlands (distance: 7.4 kilometres) has an impressive, moated castle.
Liège, Belgium (distance: 17 kilometres) notable sights include: the Bueren Mountain; the Zénobe Gramme Monument; the marina at the Quai de Rome; the Fragnée Bridge;the Cointe Basilica, and many examples of fine, church architecture; the former Prince-Bishops' Palace; the 'Perron' steps; and many others.
How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York (JFK) to Brussels Airport, where car hire is available (distance from Brussels Airport to Visé: 103 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company SNCB / NMBS maintains a service from Brussels to Visé. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Travellers are advised to check with the airline or their travel agent for up to date information. It is also advisable 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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