Geraardsbergen, breathtaking in any sense
Cycling up the infamous Wall of Geraardsbergen, a 1100-metre precipitous cobbled climb, may seem a punishing routine to some people rather than a rewarding experience. But the battle against exhaustion is definitely worth it when you finally reached the top. The view over Geraardsbergen and its municipalities is simply stunning. And, to catch a breath, you can always enjoy a pint or a local dish at the convivial tavern ’t Hemelryck that welcomes every brave soul who reaches the top of this unforgiving hill. Also worth a visit is the Oudenburg chapel on the very top of the hill. The Congolese priest assigned there is very welcoming.
Geraardsbergen is one of the oldest cities in Flanders. The cosy town of approximately 31,000 takes pride in its traditions and in its many historical monuments. Located in the Flemish Ardennes, the southern part of East Flanders province, the city shares a border with the Walloon province of Henegouwen and is close to Flemish Brabant. Brussels is a 40-kilometre drive away.
Upon arrival, getting to the market place first is essential, where the tourist centre Permanensje is the place to be for travel tips and conducted tours of the Flemish Ardennes. Neighbouring the tourist centre is the stately, neo-Gothic town hall, which is worth a visit for its collection of 19th-century paintings and other works. The highlight of Geraardsbergen is a statue of a little boy urinating, just outside of city hall. It is the city’s very own Manneken Pis and is said to date from 1459, making it 160 years older than its Brussels counterpart.
Geraardsbergen is particularly known for its three Ms: the Muur (the Wall), Manneken Pis and the renowned local delicacy, the Mattentaart. The mattentaart is the first local dish in Flanders to be granted Protected Geographical Status by the European Commission, something it has its rich history and unique flavour to thank for. The preparation is said to descend from the middle ages when farmers wanted to find a useful purpose for their unused curdled milk. The curd was added to pastry, and voilà, the mattentaart was born. The top and bottom consist of puff pastry, the middle of a mixture of curd (which they call mat), eggs and almond. Be sure to have one – its sweet and is the perfect food for for conquering the Wall of Geraardsbergen .