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.
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?
My last visit of Leuven was some days ago. VT member Suri was touring Belgium, for the second time, first time being in december 2003. I joined the tour to visit Leuven.
Leuven (Louvain both in French and English- sometimes, I would use English name "Louvain") is a small city in Vlaams Brabant for whom it is the capital city since 1995. It is located close Brussels, East of the Belgian capital city. In fact, both Brussels region, province of Vlaams Brabant (Flemish Brabant) and province of Brabant Wallon (Walloon Brabant) used to belong to the Brabant province prior 1995.
So, during this day, we were walking in this town of 90.000 inhabitants (dixit the voluble guide at City Hall). Brave people we were. It was really cold and sometimes windy.
It was about soaking the ambience, not really rushing to see all the monuments, rather browsing around, visiting some interesting spots and pub... A fine day with the nice Vters I use to talk to online and sometimes offline.
Fondest memory: It was not my first visit of Leuven, my very first was within the week I arrived in Belgium,; years and years ago. :) First city (other than Brussels) I visited in Belgium was Leuven. I was stuck in a comfy car, just saw the buildings, not walking at all.
My second last was in April while attending a film festival. One of films I saw there was about the children enrolled in war conflicts in Ivory Coast. Watching such film in a university town, a city of knowledge, where brought-up-children have the chance to fulfill their education was surreal. That time again, no real visit. My friends whom I attended the festival with didn't intend to browse around. For some reason, I depended on them. So, we took the train together, walked to the pub where we waited for some officials of the festival, headed to the festival area, entered the projection room, sat, watched, went out, headed to the train station.. and that was it.
This time, a nice visit, not rushed out.. just browsing around, listening to know a bit about the town history. Yes, history...
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.
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
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.
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?)
It seems as though every day a new concert or festival comes to town. There's always a fair or parade or something going on.
Some of the best concerts ever come through here. The most unbelievable line-up was at the four-day rock festival just outside Leuven, called Rock Werchter.
Here are just a few of the Bands that played:
The Plolyphonic Spree
Queens of the Stone Age
De La Soul
Keep in mind that this was over the course of a SINGLE WEEKEND!! Concerts like these and all sorts of public art festivals and such kept things really interesting. It's worth checking out before you visit Leuven to see what'll be on. Sometimes these things consume the whole city!
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.
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!
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 `-)
Favorite thing: This is Louvain, the town where I live. The town hall is one of the most famous buildings here in this student city. Tradition has it that the first Town Hall of Leuven was situated in Old Market Square. The second was located on the Great Market Square of Leuven. It had its place in a row of houses in front of St. Peter's Church, but outside the present building line. The construction of the present Town Hall started in 1439. Even the people of Antwerp or Brugge will admit that this one is more beautifull than theirs and even maybe the nicest one of Western Europe, exept of Melkouwen than.
Favorite thing: Next statue was one from local legend. This woman was apparently raped and murdered and her body thrown into the river. But the body refused to sink and kept coming back to the surface, no matter how her assailiant tried - so he was eventually brought to justice (I hope).
Favorite thing: This statue stands near the town hall. Leuven is a university city, and this sculpture represents learning, the youth is pouring knowledge into his head. BUT, it's also a brewing city, and we all know students, so maybe he's pouring beer into his head? I know which was more true of me in my student days ;-)
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.