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Favorite thing: University of Louvain can claim the title of the "first University in the Netherlands", being founded in 1425 by Pope Martin V. It is the oldest Catholic university in the world still in existence.
Jan, our guide at University Library, talked about some 28.000 students, in many disciplines. Since its debut, it has attracted top-level researchers. They contributed a lot into anatomy, chemsitry, all kinds of study.
Louvain theologists had some influence on the then Catholic world. The Popes used to seek for advice here to know about works to be accepted and printed. Yet, controversial Cornelius Jansenius (1585-1638) is a Louvain Theology University product and Ypers archbishop.
What was he wrote already? A whole thesis on Grace and free will: posthumously published "Augustinus" (1640). Jansen believed in absolute predestination: humans are, for him, "incapable of doing good without God's unsollicited grace and only a chosen few are believed to receive Salvation". Smells like Calvinism. Still, Jansen, when attacked by Jesuits and popes, claimed to be tied to Rome.
Jansenism was the most divisive issue within the Roman Catholic church between the Protestant Reformation and the French Revolution (from a French point of view). It was "raised" in France quite after the release of the treatise (Jansen couldn't see the evolvement of Jansenism).
At that time (18 century), it was a Church scandal. It didn't raise unnoticed by Royal French government either. Jansen, and his "followers", had the backing of Catholic philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal, an ante-Jesuit hardliner. After some longlasting success (till the persecution of French jesuits), the current declined end 18 century.
Jansen was not the only character from this University. I knew about the "Jansen- gate", from an interesting French lesson in my secondary school :) I just discovered that Jansen was based here. That made me wrote it. The tips sometimes leave room for reflection, so do travelling.
Fondest memory: By the way, the University was founded as University of Louvain. Yet, when it was fashionable to categorize insitutions (19 century), it was an obvious choice that the University was a Catholic one.
More about the university history, check http://www.kuleuven.ac.be/english/about/history.htm
Writing this tip, I just realized that I've been always into Catholic educational system. First, in a French-Swiss nuns' school (primary) then within a Canadian fr?res' school (secondary). Well, those schools are all Malagasy but run by/ under influence of those foreign religious categories.
Then in Belgium, I started with a Jesuit school in Brussels to study Maths for a year, then switched to International trade in a Catholic influenced school, then a Facult?s Universitaires Catholiques de Mons (for my B. Sc.) and finally Universit? Catholique de Louvain (for some specialized studies that I left, after some months, for lacking interest in the stuff. Ooh! I found a nice job too so the choice was clear).
Yeah! all of them were catholic.. Quite strange for a rouhgly Anglican-raised-girl who turns out to be a Calvinism-influenced-adult (by conviction). I am surprised realizing this Catholic connection. Oh well! It was not that bad :)) I learnt about tolerance, for having been, for years, the one (or one of the two) Anglican student in my class.
Updated Mar 7, 2004
Favorite thing: So far, none else of the Belgian cities and towns I visited celebrate friendship as much as Louvain.
First, for the city having been massively bombed during the two world wars (and seeing the central University Library torn down), it has benefited from solidarity moves.
The one that epitomizes this international friendship was the building of the University Library in the 1920s and the restauration of its book gathering. The USA took charge of building a new home for the mibrary. As for the book collection, apart from Germany who was required to donate 13 million DM's worthin books in reparation, many countries, Allied and neutral alike, took part in helping Leuven (and Belgium) to retrieve its status as a center of education, knowledge. Books flocked in to amount 900 000 volumes in 1939 from France, Japan, the US, UK... A year later, though, bombings would destroy the collection again...
See following picture? The main reading room was designed by a French architect; books, as I just said, came from every part of the world and the exterior was deisgned by an American architecture (following Flemish Renaissace standards).. finance came namely from the USA, as far as I understood our nice guide, Jan.
Other donations related to knowledge and education, sciences were made to the city too, like this bronze globe given by China.
Fondest memory: Then, while wandering through the city, you would notice some elements that celebrate/ commemorate friendship.
A hot balloon just at the back of the University Library... to celebrate friendship;
A tree in the city, the Vriendschapsboom... to celebrate friendhip between people who use to share same birthday (?)
Also, University was for me a place where to build friendships, share views, open one's mind to difference, newness and knowledge. That, for me, grants all University cities the features of Friendship cities.
Updated Mar 7, 2004
Favorite thing: Stella Artois, the beer widely known and spread is from Interbrew company, one of top5 world breweries.
The company is located in Leuven (near the train station). If I recall it well, it bears the brand and label of Stella Artois on its red-orange facade.
Stella Artois was a traditional brand that was brewed in Leuven from the 14 century. But only from early 18 century, it was given the name of Stella Artois (Artois being the family name of the master brewer. I don't remember of the initial name of the brewery, though.
This beer is now the flagship brand of Interbrew company. It gathers some famous beer brands here. To name a few Stella Artois, Bass, Leffe, Beck's, Jupiler and Hoegaarden (this is OK with mussels-fries, for me). Whether those are the best of Belgian beers is debatable but they are well-known and quite best-sellers. That's a debate I would not damp in for me NOT being a beer-connaisseur at all. I am not even a beer lover. I just appreciate some of those I could taste.
That's for Stella Artois/ Interbrew in Leuven, "beer capital city of Belgium".
Also, another brand of the area is Domus (domestic brewery), a beer from the tap with special pruduct around Christmas period. Never tried it. A visit here may interest you, check this http://www.domusleuven.be/
Fondest memory: When the voluble guide at the City Hall told us that around 200 buildings in the city belong to Interbrew, I suddenly realized why it is sometimes nicknamed "Stella Artois city".
For sure, the fact that Stella Artois has been brewed in Leuven for years and that Interbrew HQ are there have to do with that, but not only.
Part of the collection are some of the buildings on Grote Markt area. I guess not the City Hall, neither the Tafel Rond and Sint-Pieterskerk.. but very probably the brewer guildhouse and surroundings. :)
No pic of the Interbrew HQ (a right picture will come).
Update March 3: Just heard on the news Interbrew and AmBev group (Brazil based) just agreed to merge (not really merging in finance technique, rather exchanging shares). InterbrewAmbev will become then Wold's n°1 Brewery. Prior to that, Interbrew was World's n°3 whilst AmBev was n°5. Well, some happy news in this gloomy period in Belgium.
Updated Mar 3, 2004
Favorite thing: Oooh!
A last piece: while visiitng Leuven, you may notice it (or not) but the city is a rebuilt one. The bombings had left deep scars but those "old-school" styles won't reveal them.
Those Renaissance buildings are not from Renaissance period. They replaced the ones from Renaissance.
That's an example but same as for Gothic or any other style.
Here on the pic, I wanted to have a picture of a building whose use I don't even know. If some architecture and building freak can help me on this... See? The one at the back !
Update on March 2 :): OlafS just told me this building is the post-office. I guess central post-office.
Fondest memory: Only the beguinage was saved from bombings, if I recall it well. Hence, kept its Middle-ages style, foundation and spirit, that contributed in adding it in the list of UNESCO World Heritage list.
No Art Nouveau houses here (or very very few), for same reasons as above.
Updated Mar 2, 2004
Favorite thing: Along with Leuven's moving history, visiting the Library and beguinage was my fondest memory of this day-trip.
At the library, there was those minutes in the cold and the wind, listening to our guide Jan (I recommend him, English-speakers wouldn't be left aside). History of the University Library, closely tied to the fate of Louvain.
Then, visiting the reading room reminded me of friendships bound in libraries. Since we couldn't talk that much in classrooms, after some "rounds of observation", we relied on those afternoons in our school library to loosen up.
Afternoons in library and music classes were hours we used to await for so much.
Apart from making friends, and you would find later how things were at that time for me, libraries meant some other thing for me.
It means the discovery of old books, with the dusty smell of the yellowish pages. I've been always a keen reader. Reading everything: newspapers, books (novels and biographies alike, no sci-fi for me), women magazines, economics and business reviews.. and of course, like many here, travel and discovery magazines. In few words, some trash, some culture and some education.
Fondest memory: Visiting this elegant reading room was something of impressive, of course.
While entering the room, it stroke me as an evidence: the smell of libraries is special. The atmosphere is serene.
I have some preference for the smell of old books. Hate the smell of glue and ink of those books that are just out of the press.
More than I suspected, I like the atmosphere in libraries. It all came back: some time spent in my university library, in some Brussels University library: studying, making notes. Trying to study would be appropriate. The stacks are always tempting. Chewing the copied notes that teachers used to read (!) during the lessons at university is a so-so activity. What is more interesting is understanding the theoretical notions from experience, seeing it in real life... and in stacks, there were books, weeklies, reviews in every subject.
Those times I skipped lessons to read in libraries suddenly came back with this visit.
I'd say, I developed from those early years some need to dive in there, wander through the shelves, sometimes read the books there.. the other times, xerox like mad.
Updated Mar 1, 2004
Favorite thing: 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?
Updated Feb 25, 2004
Favorite thing: 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.
Written Feb 13, 2004
Favorite thing: 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
Updated Oct 5, 2003
Favorite thing: 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
Written Jun 4, 2003
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...
Written Jun 4, 2003
2 Reviews and 89 Opinions Facility was clean, service was excellent - the staff was very accomodating. Parking is not so good.