It was the perfect storm. A cold front had dumped almost half a meter of snow overnight. We arrived late into Brussels and picked up our hire car, not knowing the chaos we would encounter.
I love a good weekend trip, particularly those that involve international travel. This one was destined to be all the more exciting as our first European driving experience. Late on Friday evening, adjusting initially to driving on the opposite side of the road, we cheered at an unexpected sight. There was snow everywhere! Soon after, caution set in as we realized the highway was partially covered in both snow and ice. We quickly discovered the lack of a speed limit, much like the famed German autobahn. Following our handy Google maps directions, at least we knew exactly where to go.
Time flew by. As we traveled further south east, the roads became more and more remote. With this, came beautiful scenery of large pine trees and little houses covered in snow. Gradually, the roads became single lane in the absence of any lighting. Getting concerned that sections of the map marked with main roads were quite the opposite, we meekly continued – but not for long. Our fears were confirmed: we encountered a “road closed” barrier in the middle of the night.
It’s 10pm in the snowy, dark & rural areas of Belgium. We’re nowhere near our destination, and our only GPS has taken us on an impossible route. We can’t download another route without WiFi. Panic!
Luckily, we remained focused and were able to trace back to the nearest town. From there, we followed the nearest highway south to manually bypass the closed road. An hour and thirty minutes late, we’d arrived at our accommodation. Crisis averted.
The rest of the weekend was decidedly less drama filled, but certainly more spectacular. Driving through the snowy regions of Belgium is a dream. Fields that were ordinarily amongst the greenest areas in the world, covered in snow as far as the eye could see.
Belgium is of course world famous for its chocolates and waffles – but that’s not all it has to offer. The hidden gems of Belgium are its culturally vibrant towns dotted around in rural areas. In two short days, we explored a number of quaint towns in southern Belgium. We started with Durbuy, the self-proclaimed smallest town in Europe, as well as Dinant, home of the Leffe beer. Each had their own charms, with famed Belgian waffle and chocolate shops alike.
An early morning start on Sunday gave us the opportunity to explore Bouillon – an absolute treat. It gave us a rare insight into the inner workings of a fortified castle, perched above the town. Complete with a functional well, moat and an impressive watch tower, it was the most comprehensive castle tour I’ve seen. The surrounding area was an impressive sight too, with tree-lined roads covered in snow.
Before long, time had sadly run out – it was time to return to the airport. Throughout the weekend, we’d sampled much of the delicious local cuisine, completing the cultural trifecta of food, history and scenery. We were surprised to learn that much of Belgian cuisine is derived from neighbouring countries with a little local flair. We also discovered that Belgians themselves are generally kind natured too, all of which will certainly warrant a longer trip for exploration in the summer.
Inspired by this list of beautiful Belgium towns, we’ll certainly be back to explore Belgium’s other hidden gems – the towns of Spa, Damme and more.
What’s your favourite part of Belgium?