The Belfry, recognised for its architectural qualities (the only baroque belfry in Belgium) and its history. The Doudou, a masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity. How many ducasses have lasted through the centuries like the one in Mons? How many ducasses have its popular energy? At Spiennes, it’s human creative genius that won over the UNESCO judges... 6,000 years ago, prehistoric man dug wells several metres deep to mine flint. Yes, you heard me right, 6,000 words ago! The Mundaneum, now known as a “paper google” has been recognised by the “Memory of the World” programme. Last but by no means least, at the Grand-Hornu, it is the whole mining village that has been included on the World Heritage of Humanity list.
So basically, my wonderful homeland of Mons is absolutely packed with riches, each one totally different from the next. So this summer, I had the idea of rediscovering these UNESCO sites. I see them every day, but do I really know them? The Pôle Muséal de Mons has just launched three routes to help you explore them. Very handy.
On your marks, get set, go!
The first route is for walkers. Two kilometres, starting from the Belfry, you’ll be walking in the footsteps of the main sites of the Doudou. The Collegiate Church, the Sainte-Waudru ramp, the Rue des Clercs, the Grand-Place, the courtyard of the town hall... This route is perfect if you want to introduce your friends to your hometown! They will not fail to be surprised to see how Mons has held on to its soul.
The second is slightly more energetic! You need to get on your bike. From Mons, you cycle to Spiennes through the surrounding countryside. A bit of pedalling and the city already seems a long way away. Old farmhouses, ancient churches, meadows as far as the eye can see... The Trouille Valley that you cross to get to Spiennes is particularly pretty. Nestled in the midst of green fields, the archaeological site has now risen to the surface. From April 2015, an interpretation centre will explain how prehistoric man dug down to mine flint. Even better, you can even go down into a former mine! Bring on spring... But for now, you’ll have to settle for picking up a few pieces of flint – there are still thousands dotted around the fields here.
Last but not least... The third route is for sporty types or serious cyclists. You can choose whether to set off from the Belfry or the Grand-Hornu. Whether you start from the former or the latter, you’re embarking on a 20 kilometre loop along the RAVEL. For nearly two hours, you’ll be pedalling through the heart of the Borinage exploring the region’s mining past. Lush green slag heaps, idyllic little valleys, not to mention a fascinating rail heritage with distance markers, beacons and bridges. The railway was crucial for the coal industry. At the Grand-Hornu, you can discover one of the most beautiful and oldest mining villages in the country. Inside the former coalmining site there is now a design museum and a modern art museum.
Mons never fails to surprise!
Descriptions of the routes are available from the Office du Tourisme and the Grand-Hornu: €1