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Visiting the railroad station at Wervik, Belgium: in a town joined to Wervicq-Sud, strictly Dutch-speaking only

Updated on May 23, 2013
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Wervik station
Wervik station | Source
Wervik station
Wervik station | Source
Map location of Wervik, West Flanders province
Map location of Wervik, West Flanders province | Source

Belgian administrative and linguistic nuances

If one looks at the map, and finds Wervik, a small town in Belgium, and located it joined, as it is, to another small town with a clearly French name: Wervicq-Sud, one might reasonably expect that travellers to Wervik's station would be able to expect to be addressed in French.

But this is not sound reasoning according to Belgian officialdom.

You see, although 'Wervicq' is indeed the French equivalent to the Dutch 'Wervik', 'Wervicq' does not have official status actually in Wervik itself; only when one walks a few minutes along the road and over the Lys bridge, and into the separate municipality of Wervicq-Sud, located in France, not Belgium, is this form used.

The station's facilities at Wervik are entirely Dutch-speaking. Thus also, the station signs all spell the town's name in the Dutch spelling only (see the photo which I have supplied, right).

Interestingly, the line which passes through Wervik station runs between Kortrijk (entirely Dutch-speaking) and Poperinge (also entirely Dutch-speaking), but also passes through Comines/Komen, which is officially bilingual. Thus also, if a train guard speaks to passengers when the train is travelling in the vicinity of Comines/Komen, he or she is permitted to initiate discussion with them in either French or Dutch, whereas if the train is still in the vicinity of Wervik (and irrespective of the fact that many Francophone people live within walking distance of Wervik — albeit in France) then he or she is supposed to speak with them in Dutch only.

This is how Belgium works!

Anyway, features of the current building, which dates from circa 1924, include: its execution in red brick and the use of hewn stone for window corners and threshholds. A previous station dated from 1853, when a service was introduced by the Société des Chemins de fer de la Flandre occidentale(1). (But isn't this in French?) Yes, indeed. (But does this mean that Wervik was French-speaking after all in the 19th century?) Well, no.

Everything clear, then?

Wervik is situated in the West Flanders (Dutch: West-Vlaanderen) provcince of Belgium's Flemish region (Dutch: Vlaams gewest).

May 24, 2013

Note

(1) The service is now administered by NMBS / SNCB.

Also worth seeing

In Wervik itself, the Sint-Medarduskerk has a 15th century tower with a 19th century spire with a total height of 81 metres.

In Wervicq-Sud , France (joined to Wervik by a bridge), its local church building has an imposing spire (see also, above), and dates from 1875

Menen , Belgium (distance: 7.2 kilometres) has a city hall (Dutch: stadhuis) with an octagonal tower.

...

How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. Brussels is the nearest large airport to Wervik (distance: 124 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company NMBS/SNCB maintains a service between Brussels and Wervik . For up to date information, you are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent. For any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities, please refer to appropriate consular sources.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada

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