Open Air Museum Bokrijk

Only one thing on the agenda today and it opens at ten, so we take our time with breakfast. This includes finishing the last chapters of my book, that’s how much time we had! The weather predictions are encouraging, though we keep a sharp eye on the national news service to follow up the status of the rogue soldier who’s hanging around in the neighbourhood, with an unknown number of weapons and an unknown plan. They know which weapons he took from his base and at least they found the heaviest ones (including a rocket launcher, can you believe it) in his abandoned car. A manhunt has been ongoing since the day before and the area he’s in – the national park we visited on Tuesday – is in lockdown. Kids are being kept home from school and some mosques are temporarily closed. We’ll have to check online now and then during the day to make sure we’re staying out of the area, but we’re not worried for our safety: the odds of encountering the guy are tiny.

We had bought tickets for Bokrijk a week ago and we arrive promptly for our entry time slot at 10. Not many cars in the parking lot yet, hopefully it’ll be a quiet day. I’ve been here a few times before, but it must have been a decade or two ago and I don’t remember much about it. We did some cycling in the neighbourhood and enjoyed the woodland atmosphere, so we’re looking forward to exploring the park. We had already looked at the routes online and are set on doing the long one, passing all the exhibits. It’s an open air museum with old houses, barns and churches brought together from different parts of Flanders. Some were rescued, as they were scheduled to be torn down at their original location, others were acquired because they are representative of a particular style or era, the oldest one being more than 500 years old. Some are even hybrids, where parts of several derelict houses were combined into one complete one, like using old cars for spare parts.

Aside from that, it’s a living museum, so there’s people making bread, herding sheep and cleaning the farm, as well as meadows with old breeds of cattle.

It takes us five hours to do the 4.5 km walk, because we stop at each and every one of the structures to read the information panels, visit the interior and listen to the guides. Each info panel has both the timeline of the structure itself – when was it built, who lived there, how was it acquired and moved from its original location, with pictures – and some general information about crafts, building techniques or locations. I love it. I peer at the straw roofs (one of the buildings required 60 tons of straw), observe the crew creating wattle and daub walls and try to figure out how the roof beams are held together by wooden pegs.

The weather remains dry with sunny periods and we do the whole tour in a sweater and sunhats. I carry my camera backpack and the camera with 24 mm lens on the harness, Arne has a day pack with some water and the rain jackets – just in case. We look a bit overprepared compared with other visitors, but I don’t care, I’m comfortable! We have lunch on one of the terraces and a pancake at the other, at the end of our tour.

Home around six, pizza delivery, ice cream and the second semi-final of Eurovision on TV! If you’re not familiar with this phenomenon, go ahead and look up some of the acts on YouTube, it varies between incredibly camp, deliberately sober and plain drama, so much fun to watch, if only to comment on all the clothes. Or watch the movie EuroVision Song Contest: the Story of Fire Saga. Don’t know what’s up with the shoulder pads this year, is that a thing again? And is there a secret competition for wearing the least possible clothes?

The EuroVision symbol, with the flags of the competing countries

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