Focal Point

Time travel…

Last weekend, in Belgium, my home country, I travelled through several time zones. In La Roche-en-Ardenne in the medieval castle, the XVIIth Century was commemorated. The medieval castle built in the 9th century, was modified in the 15th century to resist firearms. The troops of the French king Louis XIV occupied La Roche for 16 years from 1681, during which time the dungeon was demolished, and the castle changed into a modern fortress. The castle of La Roche was abandoned by Austrian Emperor Joseph II, and fell into decay in the 19th century.

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In Bastogne, about 31km drive from La Roche-en-Ardenne, the permanent exhibition of the ‘Ages of Life,’ in the Museum of Piconrue let me walk through the traditional society of the Ardennes between 1850 and 1950. Meaning baptism, first day school, communion, conscription, marriage…The Ardennes is a region of extensive forests, rough terrain, rolling hills, and river basins. Primarily in Belgium and Luxembourg, but stretching into Germany and France. Most of the Ardennes proper consists of south eastern Wallonia, the southern and more rural part of the Kingdom of Belgium, encompassing over half of the total area.

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Although this time is no longer, the exhibition reminds you in black and white photographs, with objects, with handicraft and industrial items, that the life of all these people and the way they were struggling, brought the Ardennes into modernity… In the permanent exhibition of the ‘House of Legends,’ a lot of myths, fairy tales, horror stories of the Ardennes come alive. It is the landscape, secret valleys, deep forests, the rivers, the castle ruins, that has given rise to many stories told from generation to generation. In this exhibition, for each of them, a space is determined and a map allows you to locate the places to which the stories are attached. In fact the whole museum is a ‘treasure box’ full of memories and stories that still are alive within the local communities of the Ardennes. The Museum preserves 120.000 objects and documents in the fields of ethnology, legends, religious arts and popular beliefs in the Ardennes and Luxembourg.

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