Wednesday, June 15, 2005

To Leuven and back (Part 2)

Part 1|2|3|4

Thursday evening--after the first day of the conference--one of the organising professors brought the visitors round for a walk, showing us some of the city sights as we make our way to dinner at the Groot Begijnhof (more below).

We began at the Stadhuis (Town Hall), right at the Grote Markt (Great Market), construction of which began in 1448. The statues were added later in the 19th century (first two pictures). Just at the other corner of the Grote Markt is the Tafelrond (Roundtable), started in 1480 under Matheus de Layens, who also did the Stadhuis (third picture). The present building is, however, a 1927 reconstruction. If you look carefully, you'll see a large poster of a scene from V-E Day 1945. They are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII. We also stopped by the University Chinese Cultural Center (fourth picture) where a celestial sphere (fifth picture) is also found.

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Along the way, I was deep in conversation with a couple of the conference participants and didn't take many photos. But the Groot Begijnhof ("Beguinage" in French) is another thing altogether. A Begijnhof is a sactuary for the Begijntjes, a lay Catholic sisterhood who lived like nuns but did not take monastic vows. This particular one is a UNESCO World Heritage monument. It consists of about 70 houses and convents with the oldest dating from the 16th century. The lay sister who use to inhabit the place are no more and the buildings have been since converted into hostels for the university--only female scholars need apply and there's a waiting period of one year (pictures below).

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The restaurant where we had our first dinner is right in the middle of the Begijnhof (pictures below). There is also a garden with tables for alfresco dinning, but we were booked indoors. Dinner was excellent, and someone commented that a waiter looked a little like Anthony Hopkins--much to his amusement.

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(to be continued...)

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