Meet Walter! There’s no denying it. He’s a creative jack-of-all-trades and a busy bee on top of that! As a singer, poet and author – nobody tells stories quite like him. He and his band ‘Arjaun’ perform songs in the local dialect. Walter has become one with the Pajottenland (to the southwest of Brussels) to such an extent that he's become a symbol of it himself. The first thing he says, tells you the kind of person he is straight off: ‘Hobbies? I haven’t got time for them. I’ve only got time for passions!’
[Walter:] This walk is the perfect reflection of the region most dear to my heart, the Pajottenland. I know every nook and cranny, every legend and...dare I say it? Every inhabitant. There’s something for everyone on this route with its grand Zeppos Mill, the peaceful footpaths through the fields and even a small wedge of forest.
[Walter:] We set out from Café Den Haas, where you can park your car. From here, we head north into the vast fields and the colourful countryside, towards the direction of the beautifully restored Zeppos Mill. This is the last windmill in the region that still works. It’s a centuries-old monument that towers over the landscape like a sentry. It just so happens that on Sundays you can see the mill in action and visit the mill museum.
[Walter:] Next, you'll start walking west along Hertboomstraat, where you’ll be treated with a gorgeous view out over the Dender River Valley.
[Walter:] At node 805, head towards node 810; that’s where we'll take a short stroll through part of the small Berchem Forest. This is one of our hidden gems! Every year in April, droves of tourists head towards the famous Blue Forest to wonder at the sea of violet-blue bluebells. However, we don’t need to drive to Halle, because there are violet-blue blossoms just as lovely shining beneath the noonday sun in our own Berchem Forest.
[Walter:] Once we’ve made it to node 814, taking a slight detour from my recommended route is worth the effort. I recommend walking to node 211, for just a tick. It won’t be long before you spot the beautiful Desert Chapel (Woestijnkapel) on the right, situated on the former Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route.
Really, don’t be afraid to explore even further. Right past the chapel, you’ll hit a fork in the road. Such a tough choice! If you go the Bettestraat route, there’s a farm where they sell freshly churned ice cream just a mere 100 m up the road. It’s the perfect pick-me-up! On the other hand, if you go the Woestijnstraat route, you'll spot a unique piece of 19th-century heritage to your left, a dog-powered mill. In the past, dogs would be made to drive the wheel, putting the gears in motion and beating the buttermilk into butter.
[Walter:] Back at node 814, we’ll turn onto the Wijngaardbosstraat which takes us back to our departure point, Café Den Haas. It's the perfect spot to enjoy a snack or something to drink. There are loads of regional dishes on the menu. Oh! Make sure you ask to take a peek at their ‘Bollebaan’. It’s where you can still practice the traditional folk sport of ‘bollen’ (a sport that resembles pétanque).
[Walter:] Our village gained instant fame in Belgium in the early 60s when the wildly popular TV series Captain Zeppos was filmed. I was in primary school at the time. I remember well how these were the days when, as an altar boy, I was allowed to leave class to serve during wedding or funeral masses. On my way to church, I all of a sudden found myself face-to-face with Senne Rouffaer, the lead. That left quite an impression! On top of that, there were cameras suspended from cranes and there were police everywhere. Our village had never experienced anything like it!
I overheard that they'd be coming back the following week to shoot more footage. Full of conviction, I approached my teacher again with the message that regrettably, another funeral had been planned and that my presence was required for the liturgy... A harmless white lie, naturally, since I just wanted to be able to see the TV show being filmed.
[Walter:] I’m somewhat of a romantic, so autumn is my favourite season. The light is glorious that time of year!
[…] The romantic within surfaces for us to see, as Walter immediately begins reciting a few lines of poetry verses dedicated to autumn. Delightful![…]
[Walter:] It goes without saying that the walk is also well worthwhile when the bluebells are blossoming in April.