I enjoyed Mons and the area around there very much in my 9 1/2 years of living there.
The people in the south of Belgium are so much nicer and friendlier than in the north as they have a southern European attitude.
Most of the people in the south were immigrants who immigrated to Belgium for work in the mining industry and are from Greece or Turkey.
Mons, a Southern Italian city
Yes, you've read correctly. I called Mons the Italian city.
Prior to my stint in Mons, I've never experienced living in Southern part of Belgium. I realize very quickly that the area is really Italian: not only Mons city but also areas like La Louvière, Charleroi... the whole Hainault is in fact very Italian (Southern Italian and Sicilian).
Yes, Italian families migrated to Belgium in early 50s to find work. Most of times, they used to work in coal mining. Now, we have the 3rd generation of Belgo- Italians in Belgium. As far as I know, still very Italian, esp. in the Southern parts of the country. They have kept the habits, as Moroccan families do, to spend holidays in areas where they come from in Southern Italy or Sicilia.
From their hard working in the mining sector, they have also kept a tradition of trade unions. Most trade union stewards from the Southern part of the country, esp. blue collar, are of Belgians of South Italian-Sicilian origins. They are really specialized in representing workers and revendicating. It may appear as strange but people in Mons and La Louvière are the ones who have darker hair I've seen here. I don't talk about one or two persons, it's about more than half of population who is dark-haired.
It's always amazing to see Italian flags in the streets with cars horning after Italian soccer teams won their matches. Flags are brought by the 3rd generation kids. Once, I've been stuck in a victory procession. Was it La Louvière who won a match or an Italian soccer club ? I can't remember but I saw people who lifted the car I was in and it was funny. They brought the Italian flag and used the horns very much :))
In Mons, you have tons of Italian restaurants, most of times, Sicilian origins and much less Northern Italian cuisine.
There are many Belgo-Italian kids there as well. They speak a French-Walloon language but with Sicilian expressions ! That was very funny to hear. One who is used to Brussels or Flanders would be amazed by that. Compared to the average in Belgium, they are noisy, speak loudly... just Mediterranean style, I guess.
Oooh! Mons' city bourgmester is of Italian origin as well: Elio di Ruppo.
Stroke the little monkey !
You may search to find it, it's really tiny and standing against the wall of the Hôtel de Ville on the Grand Place of Mons. But this little "Singe de Grand Garde" has a story... or even three... ;-) But the one that seems more likely to me is this one : it was first an old tavern sign and was put there as the tavern closed in 1897. The legend says that if a girl who wants to marry strokes its head with her left hand, her wish will come true in the year. The same for a couple who wants to get a child...
True or not ? Anyway, the legend is so cute ;-)
La Procession du Car d'Or
Every year around Trinity Sunday all the people of Mons witness the traditional and annual Car d'or procession. During the procession the wagon carries the relic shrine of Saint Waudru through the streets of the city, accompanied by musicians, singers, flag-bearers and horsemen. Legend has it that Mons will get in trouble if the horses do not manage to carry the wagon on the hill of St Waudru. In 1939, this mission failed, in 1940 the World War begun...
Sun Lovers Solution!
There are many over-cast and rainy days in Belgium, which I like very much, but my Belgian friends prefer a sunny day and frequently comment on the state of the weather.
Coming from perennially sunny San Diego, I do like sunny days, but also appreciate the coolness and over-cast.
This is a picture of a sun room built by an artist at the back of his house. Many such sunrooms can be seen throughout the residential sections of Belgium, as well as Mons.