Friday, August 17, 2007

Bokrijk Open Air Museum, Belgium

Today we spent the day with the lovely Lut and her daughter Nele, wandering through Belgian time and space.

Lut is a native of Limburg and she had invited the 3 New Zealanders to Bokrijk, an open air museum very close to the place where she had grown up. It was stunning. Thank you so much for taking us there, we loved it.

There are more than 100 historic buildings taken from locations all over Belgium and restored to their original condition piece by numbered piece there in the park. The buildings are open to the public with original furniture, tools and authentic household goods inside and even better, often in use.

Note to anyone thinking of making the trip, the bakery food inside the village is truly sublime.

The history of Bokrijk goes like this ... in 1252, Arnold IV Count of Loon and Chiny sold a wood known as 'Buscurake' to the Cistercian Abbey of Herckenrode near Hasselt. The wood was situated between Genk, Zonhoven and Hasselt.

For two centuries Bokrijk was cultivated by lay brothers attached to the abbey. Then during the second half of the 14th century the abbey rented out its 'grangiae' to tenant farmers who worked for half the produce.

In 1447 Bokrijk became an ordinary tenant farm and the abbey remained the owner until the French occupation.

In 1719 the land first appeared in the registers under the name of 'Bouchreyck'. April 1797 and the land was sold for 90,000 francs to a resident of Maastricht. It went through frequent changes of ownership in the 19th century.

In 1938 Bokrijk was sold to the Province of Limburg by the Socialist Farmers Co-operative Credit Union. The person pushing the purchase was the then provincial governor H. Verwilghen, who had for many years cherished the idea of a project that would bring together culture and nature.

On 6 October 1953 the Provincial Council of the Province of Limburg decided to found an Open Air Museum in Bokrijk. It was an important and historic decision because of the post-war industrial revolution and the increasing prosperity of the Fifties meant the imminent threat that Flanders' lifestyle environment would be drastically altered.

The first conservator, J. Weyns, ensured that a scientific approach was in place for the development of the Open Air Museum. In the first instance, a building would be thoroughly inspected and dated on the spot before being disassembled by experts and brought over to Bokrijk. In less than 20 years some 100 buildings from the Flemish agricultural landscape were saved from destruction.

Creating an authentic reconstruction of a village was groundbreaking in the field of open air museums.

In 1960 work started on building up an urban area known as 'The Old City', with the intention of creating an overview of the evolution of urban architecture from the late Middle Ages to the 19th century. Some superb old houses from Antwerp give an insight into the development of the city in the late Middle Ages, namely the transition from timber to stone construction, and why people left the countryside to try their luck in the city ... and that was the village square where we stopped for drinks.

I took most of this information from the Bokrijk Open Air Museum website where you can also take a virtual tour in Dutch.

I can't do anything but recommend that you visit Bokrijk.


Shannon said...

I went to an open air museum in Alsace.. I just loved it and it was one of my favorite things about my week there.. I'm sad that I didn't hear of Bokrijk in the 2 years that I spent in Belgium. It sounds like something I would really enjoy...sniff =(

womanwandering said...

Hey you, we'll take you when you come back ... so work hard there and come back soon!!!

V-Grrrl said...

I went there last summer with my girlfriend Lynn and her family. It was one of the blistering hot days of summer so I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I might have. We loved seeing the dogs herd the sheep.

Shannon said...

Well, I want to come back in January.. unfortunately that's when it's cold, rainy, and being outside sucks.. but I'm sure we could occupy ourselves indoors with the Mister, the daughter, and little Miss 3 and some vino tinto... missing you d'aling

womanwandering said...

Ahhh blistering hot could be the stuff of nightmare. We had an 18-20 celsius day and it was just fine v-grrrl. Hmmm, I must remember to factor in weather next time I think about taking someone there.

Hmmm come back in January anyway Shannon, we'll do the vino tinto and make marvellous pastas and do stuff that means we don't freeze. LOOKING FORWARD TO YOU FLYING BACK IN ... and good luck in the weeks ahead as you settle back into life in New York. xx0