Mechelen is a city near Brussels that you can't miss if you have few days in the country. The first thing I noticed when arriving in Mechelen was St Rumbold's tower that is part of St. Rumbold's cathedral and it is visible while walking around the city.
Rumbold's tower is 97 metres tall and has two carillons, an old one and 30 years ago a new one was added. Each of them contains 49 bells and you can hear them ringing all around. You can go up to the top of the tower, there are 513 steps so you know but after a good belgium beer you won't remember the climb up.
I was surprised about the melodies that the carrillon played, Did I imagined that or it was an Abba song? You will hear contemporary melodies in Mechelen played by the carrillon, if you are around for some time. The carrillon plays eight times per hour so you have plenty of chances.
Museum Kazerne Dossin
The museum shows a dark period in the history of Mechelen. during the second world war Jews and Sinti were in its courtyards about to be deported to Auschwitz by train. Of course, only few returned as we know the history...
A wagon of a train shows how they were at that time, the museum sits opposite to the old barracks in town.
Market square and walking around Dijle
It is the main point of gathering in the city, the Saturday market fills in the square with food, flowers and other products. The place is full of restaurants and shops and this is where we had our great lunch at Honoloeloe
The river Dyle in Mechelen can be walked along through a wooden footpath on the water, to do the whole lenght it takes 45 minutes. From April to September you can also discover the city on boat. We went in March so we didn't have the chance but we always need to leave something for next time!!
Women in Mechelen: Margaret of Austria and the carrilloneur
For some reason this city has extrordinary women that left their print in town. From the first carrilloneur lady, Adèle Colson who started in the carrillon profession that was before exclusivley masculin. In the important Royal Carrillon School Jef Denyn, a russian carrilloneur Elena Sadina has taught there as well.
She was married off three times, she was acquainted of artists, musicians, poets and humanists. She was known to be an inteligent woman ahead of her time. Mechelen chose Margaret to be the symbol of the city, the only city in the Belgian state to choose a female symbol.
Women and more women: The small and large Beguinage in Mechelen
I have to be honest here and say that I didn't know what a Beguinage was before going to Belgium. In Spain there were non of those as by the inquisition were being abolished.
At that time, men left for war and never returned and all women were left alone, orphan children too. One solution for women was to remarry or go to a convent. Unfortunately, convents were selecting only women from well-known families or aristocratic. Those who could not be accepte didn't have much of a choice. Due to this situation, is where Beguinages began, women started to live together to sustain themselves. A beguinage is a community of women and the main difference between them and convents is that they did not take live lasting commitment with poverty, obedience and chastity.
If they wanted the could leave the beguinage or stay. At the begining the church treated them as heretics, but in the end they accepter them under the confition that they led a devout life. A beguinage was headed by a Grand Mistress, who was the visible head of the community and was in charge of the organization and the daily life. Beguinagues had their own bakery, nursing home, church etc..
The Beguinage in Mechelen has steeped in history, nowadays is home of families of the city but in the 16th century it was home to 1800 beguines that lived there. In the 16th century the beguinage outside the city was destroyed, from that moment the beguines established in the city walls where the Large Beguinage grew. The Large Beguinage is a UNESCO heritage site because of the unique architecture.