When it comes to being Flemish Brabant born and bred, Myriam is the real thing. She's never lived anywhere else. She spent her childhood in the Pajottenland (west of Brussels) and love landed her in the Hageland (east of Brussels) once she'd grown up. In addition to working as a social worker, her favourite pastime is working as a guide. She knows how to weave an interesting tale and loves a good time that comes paired with a nice glass of wine – from the Hageland, of course...
[Myriam:] The route is right on my doorstep. All that’s left is to hop on my bike and follow the nodes.
The nature is stunning and never disappoints. On top of that, there are tons of apple, pear and cherry orchards to pass along the way. Few people know that the Hageland is a premium fruit-farming region.
In honour of this fruit-farming tradition, a handful of magnificent art pieces were unveiled in 2018. They’re simply stationed here and there by the side of the road. This route doesn’t disappoint with its impressive four along the way! It’s definitely worth stopping for a breather (and a look!).
Finally, there’s my personal favourite on this route, the statue of Eddy Merckx, Belgium's cycling hero! He was born in Meensel-Kiezegem. The statue is right across from the house he was born in.
[Myriam:] If you're leaving from node 78 and cycling towards node 77, then you’ve got a real treat in store. You'll follow Tramstraat, which is where the first artwork on our route is: De Reis [The Journey]. Once upon a time, this area was covered in tram rails, mainly responsible for the transport of goods. This work highlights the different essential journeys of fruit farming, for example, the journey that pollen makes. When the sun is out, the beams reflect off the metal, which is simply gorgeous! What's more, you have an overlook of the Vanhellemont Fruit Company and their orchards from here. You should be sure to stop by their fruit shop, where they sell their own local produce.
Not too far from here, on the corner of Binkomstraat and Heibosstraat, you can visit the brand-new Museum44, where you'll come face-to-face with the gripping story of how World War II devastated the region.
Afterwards, we’ll make our way back to node 78 and continue on to the south (towards node 71). That’s where we'll come across the next art piece: Symbiose [Symbiosis]. The open house around the walnut tree symbolises fruit farmers as family people. From this point, there’s also a gorgeous panorama of De Zijp Valley.
A little further on, you'll find de Canapéer [a play on words, canapé + pear]. This one-of-a-kind bench consists of various playful, abstract shapes that when seen as a whole, look like a pear. You'll find this one just off the beaten path. Do be careful though. If it's been raining, it can get a little muddy.
Your bike trip continues on to the north now. The landscape never ceases to astonish! I really get a lot out of the peace and quiet and the beautiful countryside here. You'll be biking along the Tafelbos (Table Woods) and continue winding through the hearts of the villages ahead.
Once we get to node 47 it’s time to grease up our calves for the climb up to Heuvelstraat. That means you'll need to persevere for a little while on what otherwise is really an idyllic cobblestone road. Once you’re up top, you'll be rewarded with the last work of art on this route, De Bijéénraad [The Council of Bees]. The collection of hexagonal beams are symbolic of bees. It’s perfect for catching your breath and basking in the view of the orchards.
[Myriam:] Eddy Merckx himself has declared his hometown, Meensel-Kiezegem, to be the most beautiful village in the world. So, when the Tour de France took a detour through his hometown in 2015, especially in Eddy's honour, he was bursting with pride.
[Myriam:] It goes without saying, really. Go during blossom season when the orchards are in full bloom. You'll cycle past row after row of orchards full of pears, apples, and cherries, scattered with tiny pink and white flowers.