Flemish Ardennes: Hiking Walhalla

Escaping the hustle and bustle of the city is something I should do more often. I can so enjoy the feeling of space and calmness and being in nature. Even a quick weekend trip can already revitalise the senses. 
A few weekends ago I had the chance to visit the Flemish Ardennes together with my sister (Njamelicious blog). We were invited by the Tourist Board to discover the hiking routes around Brakel, a village surrounded by fields and forests. 

The Flemish Ardennes is a region of Belgium that is well known to us because we were born there! When we were younger we didn't always appreciate the rolling hills and forests, we always wanted to go somewhere else. But now we do, typical isn't it? Distance makes the heart grow fonder.

To start with the right ecological footprint, we traveled by public transport. After two train rides, a bus ride and a short walk, we arrived and left the city behind us with every step. 

I love hiking. The satisfying feeling you get after a day of walking and map reading is really rewarding. The Flemish Ardennes have more than 850 km walking trail, plenty to choose from! Our choice brought us to the herbal route around Brakel. The region is known for agriculture and farming. In the 19th century the farmers made some extra money by planting herbs on a corner of the field that they sold to city pharmacists. That is why there are still herbs growing in the wild around Brakel. Bed & Breakfast 'De Groene Weg' has plenty of information on the walks and gave us a book with photos and descriptions of all the herbs you can find along the road. We took it with us on the walk and tried to look for colours and shapes of flowers and leaves. Unfortunately at the end of July most herbs were already out of bloom but we did manage to find some! Proud as punch we returned with a basket filled with herbs.  

Following the road signs, while looking everywhere for herbs, we discovered such a fascinating landscape. We passed an old windmill (Verrebeekmolen), saw lots of cows, three beautiful horses, walked along an old miners track, got completely drenched a few times by summer shower rains and even saw some wild deer. Yes, bambi in the Flemish Ardennes! The good giggle we had when we got soaked was exactly what we needed after some really tiring weeks. 

B&B De Groene Weg was a true discovery. From the moment we walked under the willow tree (see video below) we were charmed. You arrive at a farmhouse surrounded by modern refurbished stalls. We slept in one of those, a master bedroom on two levels with private bathroom. The farm runs further into an orchard with apple trees and sheep grazing. There you find the wooden 'pods' with beds, glamping style. 

We arrived all dusty and a wee bit tired, so the welcome drink from the house was extra refreshing: homemade apple juice from the apples in the orchard, so good! 

Breakfast at B&B De Groene Weg was such a treat, everything was homemade or local. Freshly baked breads, yogurt and cheese from the goat farmer, fresh juices from the orchard's fruits. Jams: too many to choose from! I tasted a spoonful of five different flavours and they were all top class. You can see that the lady of the house loves cooking. She prepares everything with love and passion and the best thing is when she starts talking about it: I loved listening to the story of the man who comes to the village every year with the mobile apple juicer and the amount of grapes she gets from the vines hanging from the house. More than 80 kilos! Grapes in Brakel who would have thought. 
When you stay in the pods you get breakfast delivered in a basket at your door, how sweet is that?

The B&B honesty bar only has local beers, organic wines and homemade juices. Beers, oh yes, the Flemish Ardennes are also known for the local breweries and country pubs. They have the oldest brewery of Belgium, Roman Beers, which dates back to 1545. The brewing tradition is here handed over from generation to generation. Picture this: us sitting outside near the orchard under a star studded sky, the only sound we hear is from sheep in the distance, drinking a cold Pater Lieven beer (blonde for me, dark for my sister, see video). You see it? That was a really relaxed evening.  

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at De Groene WegWith the warm welcome, the great beers, the lovely walk and peaceful calmness we can say it was the perfect getaway to relax. Anybody in need of some time off we can warmly suggest the walking walhalla of the Flemish Ardennes, on their website you can find all the different routes for hiking lovers! Enjoy. 

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