Belgium has two official languages, French and Flemish. This can add to the normal confusion of traveling in a country where the language is not the same as one's own.
Especially if you know the name of a place in only one of the languages and if the town is smaller or more remote.
Mons is located in the French area of Belgium and it seems that "Mons" is the commonly used term for the town. However keep in mind that some people may not know the French name, but rather only the Flemish name, in this case, Bergen.
This happened to me a few times and it was quite interesting. Finally I managed to remember both names to avoid any more sticky situations, because not only having one name to offer my accent with the name I did know, was "horrible!"
Mons is the French name for the city and Bergen is the Flemish name. Both are printed on many signs and especially while traveling by car or by train, keep this in mind, so you can get off at the correct exit or train station.
- Road Trip
- Historical Travel
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. In fact, since this trip I have really appreciated days with a certain chilly feel because every time I experience it the first thougtht that comes to mind is Mons.
This is a picture of a sun-room built by an artist at the back of his house. Many such sun-rooms can be seen throughout the residential sections of Belgium, as well as Mons.
What is really most interesting is how the residents have been able to obey the law of architectural compliance and still make such modern looking additions to their homes. I thought that this one was particularly well done.
- Budget Travel
- Study Abroad
There are several local festivities, such as ‘Ducasse’, originating from the 14th century, which takes place every year on Trinity Sunday.
The major events are the colourful Golden Chariot’s Procession with the reliquary of St. Waltrude and the ‘Lumeçon’, the fight of Saint George against ‘le Doudou’ (= the dragon). The aim of the young people is to tear out the hairs from the Doudou’s long tail, and in this way prove their virility.
- Arts and Culture
The Mons Monkey
On the left of the Town Hall, you can find the mascot of the people of Mons, the bronze sculpture of a monkey (Le Singe de Mons).
Nobody can say for sure why it’s there, but it’s believed to bring good luck to those who pet it with their left hand.
The name of the town
Name 'Mons' derives from a French word 'mont' for a hill or mound. 'Mont' then became 'Mons' with the help of time, invasions and different accents. In Flemish, the name of the town is 'Bergen' ('mountains').
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Historical Travel
- Beer Tasting
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 ;-)
On the same day as the Car d'or procession, the famous 'Lumeçon' battle takes place in Mons. The battle is based on the story of Saint George slaying the dragon.To illustrate Saint George's battle against evil, a play during which the dragon was killed became part of the entire Trinity procession in Mons. Saint Georges, dressed with a yellow helmet and white pants, is accompanied by helpers (les Chinchins). The green dragon is 9,5 meters long and weighs about 180 Kg.
It is said that if you manage to get some hairs of the tail, it' ll bring you luck. That's why hundreds of people take part in the battle.
Catching horse hair from the dragon during doudou!
This is a tradition during the legendary fight of St Georges against the dragon that takes place on the Grand Place on the Trinity Sunday. Everybody try to get some hair for the tail of the dragon because it brings luck!
See the travelogue "Mons, town of the doudou" for more info"
Caressing the head of the little monkey!
This little monkey sits on wall to the left of the big entrance of the Town Hall on the Grand Place. A legend says that caressing its head with the left hand brings luck. It is this a very common act for every person walking next to him and for the new married couples that just went out of the Town Hall!
It dates back from the Middle Age but its origins are mysterious
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...
Caress the monkey
It is said that, if a young girl who wants to get married, caresses the monkey with her left hand, she will have her wish come true in the following year. It is also said that if a young couple does this, they will know a fortunate event the following year.
You need proof?
Crown Prince Philip and Princess Mathilde of Belgium caressed the monkey on the 9th of February 2000. Half 2001 they announced the pregnancy to the Belgian population!
Monkey of the Grand Garde.
When in Mons, you have to pay a visit to this Medieval monkey. Nobody knows which is its origin, but they will tell you that if you pet it, it will bring you luck.
So many centuries of caressing hands have left its head really shiny. But it still works, at least it did for me. Or maybe I am a lucky guy. Yes, definitely.
If you meet weird people wearing a dirty coat and a long cap at the end of a big chain, don't be scared, they are simply traditional students.
Newbies who wish so are first going through a few weeks of "training" where they are thaught the usual student songs and how to drink beer.
Once they are gone through this process, they are entitled to wear the cap (called "une penne").
This is an highly controversial subject, some people are totally against it! True that sometime it may look like some scenes out of Full Metal Jacket. This is however highly different from an university to another and personally, I think anyone who don't know should not criticize. I went through it and if I had to, I would certainly do it again...
In short, if you are walking in Mons around september/october and you meet one of the new students (without a cap but probably disguised) trying to sell pens, bottle openers or other stickers simply support him and buy some...
- Study Abroad
Each city, town, village in Belgium has its own "Ducasse" (popular celebration).
In Mons, this is called "Le Doudou" and always occurs around the Trinity WE...
Friday and saturday, people are mostly partying all around the city (fireworks, concert,...). The religious and popular parades mainly take place on sunday.
The two main events are "La montée du Car D'or" and the "Combat du Lumeçon", when St George kills the dragon (the Doudou).
This is taking place on the Grand Place. Hint: don't bring the children too close, this is rather violent... Yet if you manage to get some hairs from the Doudou's queue, that will bring you luck for the coming year (for the same price, much easier to caress the small monkey ;-)
Feeling hungry in the middle of the night?
In this case, just do like most of the students (and others), get a "mitraillette" (litterally translated, "machine gun") chez Bily.
This is one of the most popular "friet kot" in Mons. Normal, they have the best belgian fries in the area...
During the day, you could easily miss it, but once it is open (from 10pm if I remember correctly) the queue is sometime ending on the street...
Btw, I let you discover what are these very healthy mitraillettes...
In short, a french bread with meat, belgian fries and different sauces...