ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Visiting Signal de Botrange, Belgium: at 694 metres, the highest point of the country

Updated on July 16, 2013
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
 Lieutenant General Hermann Baltia 1922
Lieutenant General Hermann Baltia 1922 | Source
Signal de Botrange, Belgium
Signal de Botrange, Belgium | Source

Heights and Germans; tower- and myth-building

700 metres sounds better than 694 metres.

This is why Signal de Botrange, in the Liège (German: Lüttich) province of Belgium has a peculiar history. Belgium as an independent kingdom dates from 1830, and so for Belgians to internalize which point in their delineated territory was their highest involved some soul-searching.

Soul-searching?

Well, yes. because some people really thought that it would sound a lot better for Belgians to say that the plateau point 694 metres aboive sea level, at what is known today as Signal de Botrange, was of 700 metres in height. (If the country had happened to use feet and inches insteat of the metric system, then breaking the psychological barrier of 700 metres would presumably not have mattered!)

(Do you remember — in feet and inches — what 'happened' to Mount Everest? Its height was once calculated to be exactly 29,000 feet, but in order to make this figure seem more plausible, an extra 2 feet were added, to make 29,002! Then came the day when by revised, scientific calculations its true height was reckoned actually to be 29,029 feet - 8849 metres.)

Back to Belgium's 'Everest'.

The local Governor of the Cantons of the East, Lieutenant-General Baron Hermann Baltia (1863-1938) thought that it would be good for Belgium to have a point which attained a height of 700 metres above sea level. With a background in military cartography and in Belgian colonial administration, he was anxious to cement a significant feature of what were Belgium's new territories (near Eupen and Malmédy) into Belgian national consciousness. Thus, close to what is now Signal de Botrange he built a stone monument 6 metres high, artificially taking the height of the point to 700 metres! (Even if this was cartographically less than sound... )

But as a matter of fact, the immediate area around Signal de Botrange did not actually belong to Belgium until 1919. The Treaty of Versailles awarded Belgium the Cantons of the East (French: Cantons de l'Est; German: Ostkantone) — formerly part of Imperial Germany — as a kind of 'consolation prize' for the fact that Belgium was occupied during World War One (1); this was subject to the approval of a local plebicite. Indeed, it was the good Lieutenant-General Baron Baltia who organized the plebiscite, which overwhelmingly decided (or so it seemed) to make the Cantons of the East Belgian.

Except that this is not what actually seems to have happened.

Manipulating heights and boundaries

What the good General actually carried out was slick piece of old fashioned gerrymandering. In the wording of the plebiscite, those (i.e., local German-speakers) who might have objected to the Canton of the East becoming Belgian were required to write their addresses in order to make their negative vote valid. Whereas those in favor of the measure did not have to write their addresses in order to make their vote valid. (As if to say: any German-speaker who objects may receive a 'visit'...)

However, in 1934, a meteorological tower, excuted in stone, built at this point, gave it an alternative height that was even 'better' than the stone monument's height. The tower's height is 24 metres, supposedly bringing Belgium to 718 metres!

But in recent years, the cartographic unsoundness of such thinking has been set aside, and today the 694 metre height it again usually given as the genuine figure.

The tower complex is complemented by a restaurant on site, to which travellers across the surrounding Hautes Fagnes (German: Hohes Venn) frequently repair.

Interestingly, Signal de Botrange marked the language frontier between French- and German-speaking parts of eastern Belgium. While during World War Two, the Cantons of the East reverted to Germany, at the end of that war they were re-annexed again to Belgium, for the obvious reason that any innovation which was perceived to have been carried out by the Nazi invaders had to be reversed. (Today, a peaceful German-speaking community in eastern Belgium exercises language rights and has its own territorial parliament based at Eupen, to which a chief minister and administration are answerable. For its part, the neighbouring Federal Republic of Germany has shown itself singularly uninterested in encouraging irredentism among German-speaking populations beyond its borders.)

Signal de Botrange is located in Waimes (German: Weismes) municipality, at Route de Botrange 133, 4950 Botrange-Waimes, in Belgium's Walloon region (French: Région wallonne; German: Wallonische Region).

July 17, 2013

Map location of the Belgian municipality of Waimes, Liège province
Map location of the Belgian municipality of Waimes, Liège province | Source

Note

(1) At the end of World War One, there was also a myth encouraged by the Belgian government of the day about a tiny minority of Francophones living beyond the German border which needed to be 'rectified', the method of rectification involving the annexing to Belgium of territory largely containing German-speakers greatly outnumbering the Francophones in Germany on whose supposed behalf the Belgian government claimed to be acting.

Also worth seeing

In Waimes (German: Weismes) municipality, the restored Reinhardstein Castle dates from 1354.

...

How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York (JFK) to Brussels Airport, where car hire is available (distance from Brussels Airport to Signal de Botrange: approx. 154 kilometres). 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.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)