Despite some turbulent events in its past, the quality University city kept on attracting students in all fields. The Belgians first. Then, the international students who come here for the Erasmus and other programs.
The city and the University paid huge tolls of French plundering (for inst. books were brought to France) under Napoleon, of German furors (Fuhrer?). The city was devastated during the WW I, then reconstructed, then was massively assaulted by German troops again during WW II. For those reasons, Leuven has many rebuilt buildings, sometimes looking like the ones from 16 century. But they are not renovated ones, they were rebuilt, sticking to the original styles.
Apart from that, the city houses the University premices (residence and Library included). It offers some student nightlife (Kinepolis complex, pubs) impregnated with beer, of course. It is the city of Stella Artois and Domus, after all. Can also rely on cheap eateries.
Shopping is possible as well with international brands in clothing, silver jewelry (oooh!) and bookshops.
Fondest memory: The international beguinage area
Escaped from the Middle ages, it was entirely renovated to house the international students and the visitings professors. So, not-Belgium-based students can be housed there. I would recommend it as your accomodation. It's really nice.
A decade ago, the Erasmus student exchange program was a real asset for it being rare at that time. Since students understood the interest in international exchanges, the language immersion, foreign students are now flocking in Belgian universities. Erasmus program has become a must-do amongst European academics though it is not that cheap (subsidied but not entirely).
Top destinations amongst Belgian students seem to be the US and remote countries like Andean areas (not sure whether those are part of Erasmus programs). Classic and cheaper destinations are Germany, France, Spain, UK, The Netherlands. Northern Europe should be nice as well though I've only seen one who went to Uppsala University. Would it be because of the cost?
I lived in Leuven for six months in 1999. During my stay, I frequented the movie theater (on Bondgenotenlaan a few blocks from the train station). This theater has the BEST popcorn in the world. It is unlike anything I have ever had!
It is not butter popcorn. It is SUGAR popcorn! No, not carmel corn! SUGAR corn!
I suggest you get a big bag.
1. Thai house is to die for (by holiday inn) There is a "sampler" deal that is exceptional. Also, if you like the shrimp crackers at all, they sell them by the bag at the store behind the restaurant.
2. There is a bakery at the corner of Bogaardenstraat and Ravenstraat that has the BEST sandwiches and truffles.
Sandwich: Get kip curry (curry chicken)
Truffle: White chocolate
Fondest memory: Well, I lived there as a student for 6 months when I was 21. I am now 25, back in the states with a full-time job. What I wouldn't give to be 21 and in Leuven!
I used to go and toss a football with friends in Donatus's Park. This is a park where students and families go to relax. I got a kick out of their reactions to some dreadlocked-female playing football....American football.
Take a walk and get lost in Leuven. I still remember my walks vividly. Quoth John Denver, it fills up your senses.
The first time I was in Leuven is dated back in 1994 when I stayed in Brugge for a 3 month exchange programm.
I remember Leuven as a nice and lovely city. What I remember best is the bench "Kotmadam"
If you want some more info about Leuven try this link: www.leuven.com
In leuven there's always something to do. Every day there's somewhere a party, a concert, a festival, ...
From 6 untill 8 june Leuven will turn into an open air theatre scene with streets lighted by fire and flames, marketplaces decorated by modern art and bamboo structures. And of course you, if you don't like theatre or you just need some 'refreshment' you can escape to the beerparty. More info on www.leuveninscene.be
During the summer there are the 'Beleuvenissen' a range of concerts on fridayevening. Classical, Jazz, Folk, Tropical and blues. More info on www.beleuvenissen.be
From 13 untill 15 august than you have the Martrock Festival with this year K's Choise, Urban Trad, Brainpower, ... More info on www.marktrock.be
Favorite thing: Louvain is the 'hometown' of the beerbrewer, Interbrew, who owns brewerys all over the world. Nowadays 1 in 5 beers is Interbrew's. So its not for nothing that the people in Leuven drink lots of beer. The old market is thé place where students come in the evenings to drink a beer and talk a bit with their friends, but of course the're many more cafés than just those on the ol market! The're plentry of them...
Favorite thing: Marktrock might be the most famous event in Leuven, it is certainly not the only one. Of course its a must for every selfrespecting student who is not traveling around (another side of) the world. Marktrock is a yearly festival organized in the historical centre of the city. You'll find more about the programm of this year on the website.
The Univercity is of course the reason why many foreigners know Leuven. It is one of the oldest still existing catholic universities in the world, founded in 1425. The univercity buildings are not concentrated in one building, but in many locations in and around the city.
The students make of Louvain a mess, but they also make louvain live. There's always something to do...
Favorite thing: This former Jesuit church was erected as from 1650 by the Antwerp Jesuit Willem Hesius. The church was finished in 1671 and consecrated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. After the order of Jesuits had been abolished by Pope Clement XIV in 1773, the church became the parish church of Saint Michael. In 1944, the church was almost completely demolished. Only the facade survived. The nave of the church was rebuilt after the war. The facade draws its inspiration from the Gesu-church in Rome, and is one of the Baroque masterpieces of Belgium. The interior of the church is reminiscent of the Gothic style but the decoration is unmistakably Baroque. There is a set of beautifully sculptured wooden confessionals and a communal bench. The pulpit, made in 1765 by Du Roy, comes from the Saint Michael and Saint Gudula cathedral in Brussels.
Favorite thing: Between the Saint Peter's Church and the town hall a medieval-looking building can be spotted. It's the 'Tafelrond'. This neogothic replica of a 15th century guild hall is now used as the Leuven branch of the Belgian National Bank. It was built in 1927 after the original one had been destroyed during the First World War.
In front of the town hall is the impressive St. Peter's church. Both buildings were constructed in Gothic style, although the church seems to be less elegant and flamboyant than its civil neighbor. This site was first occupied by a smaller Romanesque church. The new gothic church was built by the same architects who constructed the town hall. Sulpitius van Vorst erected the choir of the church before 1409-1410. After he died in 1439 architect Keldermans continued the work of his predecessor and afterwards architect Mathijs de Layens constructed the transept.
By the end of the 15th century the nave of the church was completed. In 1507 the construction of the towers started. This very important part remained unfinished. The soil under the church proved to be too unstable to carry the weight of the middle tower which should have reached an altitude of 165m. At the beginning of the 17th century the tower had to be partially demolished to prevent further destruction of the church.
During the 19th and 20th centuries different renovation campaigns were undertaken. The church suffered considerable damage during the bombing raids of the Second World War in 1944. Between 1945 and 1963 the Saint Peter's church was partially rebuilt. In 1992 the restoration of the Western facade was completed. Bij 1998 the restoration of the choir was finished. There are still renovations going on inside the church.
The most important painting, however, is Dirk Bouts' 'The Last Supper' (painted between 1464 and 1468), painted for the altar of the Holy Sacrament of the church. The painting is a triptych. The last supper can be seen in the middle panel. The four panels around the center show four representations of the Eucharist in the Old Testament: the Jewish Pasha, The sleep of the prophet Elias, The sacrifice by Abraham to Melchisedek and .
Favorite thing: Onother tourist attraction in Louvain is the Great Begiunage. The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is early Gothic. The date of construction, 1305, is carved into the right buttress of the north portal. Approximately 300 'Begijns' lived in the 'Begijnhof' in the 17th century. The 'Begijns' or 'Beguines' were women who lived a religious life but kept their own property and supported themselves. They did not make perpetual vows. The movement was very strong throughout the Low Countries.
Students rented rooms at a house and the lady of the house used to be a bit like their second mother: looking after them that they got food and that they were learning.
Nowadays students are independent but because it is still so typical, a statue was made to honour "de kotmadam".
This bench is standing on the Oude Markt.
It is however difficult to find it empty `-)
this statue is offered by the organisation "De Vriendenkring van de Jaartallen".
This is an organisation that had already offered or sponsored previous statues (Ballon van de vriendschap = Balloon of Friendship and Abraham, resp. the ones who became 40 that year and the ones who became 50 the year of inauguration).
Kamerood 60 (Comerade 60) might refer to the time of the arrow shooting organisation that was only allowed to have 60 members... so you had to wait until one died to be able to become member.
This statue symbols the edge between youth and maturity.
It has several little elements that all symbolises something:
The earth at your feet (the guy is litterary walking at the eart!); the rocket and the snale... times travels fast but sometimes seems to preceed slow... but it is always going on... without you noticing sometimes!
There is a head of a guy that is pointing at his noise... this is called the wise guy, refering to the 40ties of age that think they know everything, there is the old man who has his arm around the earth and is holding flowers, that is the wise man who wants to take care about the well beeing of the earth...
and a few more but that would take too long!
Leuven is so wellknown for its statues!
Once they stood upon a stone, out of reach, nowadays they stand in the middle of streets and squares where you actualy can touch them.
Every statue has its history and meaning.
I have gathered a few already for you.
Fondest memory: De Ballon van vriendschap
The Balloon of friendship
offered by the 40 year olds at the time of inauguration.
You can find it next to the university building.
There seems to be something of a "sculpture trail" in Leuven. Whether this is official or not I don't know, but wherever you wander you'll come across some pretty interesting works of art.
Fondest memory: This sculpture is (obviously) a hot air balloon, and it represents friendship, according to the plinth beside it.
That's quite appropriate because this trip that I made was all about friendship - meeting people that so far I'd only chatted with on VT. It was a lovely visit, and one of the nicest holidfays I've had.
(Bag time, Caro?)