By the 27th of December, the Americans of General Patton's 3rd Army had broken back through to Bastogne, and the German 'bulge' was squeezed back across into Luxembourg. A pretty big honour for a little Ardennes town, and its gritty American defenders. Although sitting quite far from the big cities and towns of Flanders and Wallonia, Bastogne is a town that remains well-connected. Well, it is if you are coming by road. Rail users are not so fortunate. Bastogne lost its last rail connections in the 's, and the nearest station is Libramont, 30 miles south-west.
You can get there from the line connecting Namur and Luxembourg.
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From Libramont, there's a limited bus service every 2 hours into Bastogne. The public bus options in and around town are also limited. But if you're coming without car, the flat plateau and long country lanes are great for cycling, so get down to the hire shop. There are also several smaller hotels and lodge-houses for those on a lower budget.
And campers do well here, with a number of well-equipped camp-sites scattered in the countryside around town. The town itself hosts a large static-caravan and camp-site, with pitches for 60 tents, at Camping de Renval. Looking for the 'odd' in accommodation? Bastogne does that too, with a cluster of gites at the local bison farm. Yep, you read that right. The La Ferme des Bisons, in the village of Recogne, is home to Europe's largest herd of the Plains-dwelling herbivores. Stay here and you get to wake-up in your converted 18th-century stone-walled gite greeted by a herd of American Bison behind the opened curtains.
It's fair to say that Bastogne is more about the Bulge than the beer. That's far from saying there's nothing to interest the keen beer tourist, however. But for most visitors, it's the nearby Brasserie d'Achouffe that'll pique their interest. It sits in the village of Wibrin, just a minute drive away. Achouffe is one revivalist brewery that got into the game early — back in — and has carved out a good reputation on the back of its La Chouffe strong ale. It has since gone the whole hog when it comes to embracing and selling to its many consumers.
The brewery is open to visits and free on certain days of the week and there's both a tavern Brasserie Lamborelle's Airborne assault.. The shop is possibly bulging more with merchandise than actual beer. But the beer itself stands up well amongst the red gnome hats.
Back to the 'in-town' locals. Brasserie de Bastogne is a worthy brewer for this plucky little town, having come up with a four-pronged assault on the beer drinker's taste-buds — La Trouffette Junifer 7. The Junifer is particularly interesting, being a 4-malted dark ale with a difference — juniper berries. They have been added for a real dry undertow to its hoppy headiness.
Bastogne - Wikipedia
A good place in Bastogne to start that search? The Brasserie Lamborelle on Rue Lamborelle. The nice thing about this place is that while dark and subterranean, it isn't a dive, having been recently renovated in the best possible taste, of course. Lookout for the house-brewed beer, Airborne Bier.
Named, naturally enough, after the American parachute division that came, saw and wasn't conquered. A fitting drink for a toast to Bastogne, we thinks. So 'game is good' here, and you'll find dishes rich in hare, venison and boar, as well as the fruits of the forest that complement them. Bastogne itself isn't overburdened with rustic or experimental restaurants, though. It caters more for tourists interested in battle-field tours than local terroir. If you're prepared to go out of town, though, the choice is a little more flavoured with local specialities. And, as is often the case in Belgium, some of the best restaurants are found housed in the rural hotels and auberges.
If your pockets are deep enough, and your tastes refined, south of Bastogne, in Fauvillers, the Chateau De Strainchamps has a menu ready-made for gourmands. Just clear it with your bank first. Inevitably, if you come to Bastogne, you are going to want to explore its connections to that fateful fortnight of December , when battle raged all-around town.
Which is as well, as the town itself, charming though it is, isn't as brimming with beauty or history as some. First stop for many is the Mardasson Memorial, which lies on the eastern gate of Bastogne. It is a towering monument, shaped as a five-pointed star, that honours the memory of the American casualties of the Battle of the Bulge close to 80, were wounded or died across the whole Ardennes battlefield. While the Mardasson conveys the solemnity of the sacrifices made in the Second World War, the human experience of it all is stressed by Bastogne's 'I was 20 in '45' exhibit.
It's housed in a newly-installed museum on St. Peter's Square, and tries to tell the story of the soldiers caught up in the fighting — as well as putting the Battle of the Bulge into the historical context.
A monument of a different sort, one you can't really avoid, is right in the centre of town — the Sherman Tank. Another poignant reminder of the battle is to be found out of town — the Wood of Peace. It was planted in , on the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. It consists of 4, trees, each one planted to remember one of the victims — civilian and military — of the conflict immediately around Bastogne.
There is also the Bastogne Historical Museum, which is dedicated to the siege, and which re-opened after renovation in the summer of The 'Museum en Piconrue' has gathered together much of the local Ardennes religious art, and also tells something of the mystery of Bastogne's medieval folk cult — the piche-cacaye.
This ancient brotherhood, which may or may not have been formed by cathedral builders was a secret society, even in the Middle Ages.
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It is now an excuse for the locals to dress in traditional black-and-white costumes, bizarre face-masks, and indulge in mysterious rites — and to generally have something of a party. A small town set in a wide expanse of countryside, much of the fun to be had in Bastogne involves getting out, and getting active.
Cycling is popular and easy, because although Eddie Merck biking in Bastogne this is one of the highest points in the Ardennes at over 1, feet, or m the town is on a gently rolling plateau. That has also made it a point of reference for professional cyclists. The meadows, woods and streams also make for great strolling, and there are many routes marked out to various points of interest.
You can amble up the Wiltz valley towards Recogne, where you may come across the locally-rare bilberry bushes.
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Or you could take the path to Villers-la-Bonne-Eau, where the spring-water is said to be so clear and pure that it can cure eczema or oral infections. They have made the village of Recogne their stomping-ground, after being brought here over two decades ago.
The enterprising Ardennes couple behind the La Ferme des Bisons haven't stopped with bison either. That involves an Indian camp, plenty of tribal drumming and dancing, and even a dose of Country Music — US-style. It seems a little piece of the American soul has taken root, long after the dark and difficult days of Bastogne's famous last battle. Beer and travel guide for anyone visiting Poperinge, the hops capital of Belgium. Where to stay, visit, eat and drink in or close to Poperinge. A beer, travel and tourism guide for the Belgian city of Ghent Gent. Where to stay, visit, eat and things to do when visiting Ghent.
The canals were crossed and a bridgehead established, but fierce counter-attacks by the enemy forced them to withdraw with heavy casualties. Further east, the 1st Polish Armoured Division enjoyed greater success as it moved up from Ghent heading northeast. In country unsuitable for armour, and against stiffening resistance, the Division managed to smash its way to the coast by September This allowed them to occupy Terneuzen and clear the south bank of the Scheldt eastward to Antwerp. But these achievements also clarified the situation facing the First Canadian Army.
Any further ground captured from the Germans in the Scheldt would only be made at heavy cost. It was also evident that the Breskens pocket was strongly and fiercely held by the enemy. It extended all the way along the coast from Zeebrugge to the Braakman Inlet and inland to the Leopold Canal.
75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE
The plan for opening the estuary involved four main operations. The first was to clear the area north of Antwerp and secure access to South Beveland. The third, Operation Vitality, was the capture of South Beveland. The final phase would be the capture of Walcheren Island. On October 2, the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division began its advance north from Antwerp to reach South Beveland and then advance into it.
Initial progress was made, despite stiff opposition.
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By October 6, with the town of Woensdrecht less than five kilometres away, the objective of the first phase seemed within grasp. The Germans, however, were determined to hold Woensdrecht, which controlled direct access to South Beveland and Walcheren Island. There were heavy casualties as the Canadians attacked over open, flooded land. Driving rain, booby traps and land mines made advance very difficult. October 13, on what would come to be known as Black Friday, saw the Canadian 5th Infantry Brigade's Black Watch battalion virtually wiped out in heavy fighting.
Finally, on October 16, the final attack on Woensdrecht was launched, with the support of an immense artillery barrage.