Currently planning a trip to rediscover our family history in Belgium; Thinking about exploring the Maarkedal region which includes our 'hometown' of Schorisse and the more larger towns of Oudenaarde and Ronse. Has anyone ever been to this area? Is there anything that is "can't miss"? I know the area was heavily hit during both wars, but what about the history before? Our family founded the town of Schorisse so we would be more interested in history and places that aide us in this. I have already written to the tourist office (awaiting a reply). Does anyone have any idea on how to make this part of our trip memorable? We are 2 sisters not afraid in getting to know the locals (I guess we can be counted as some!) and plan on traveling into this area by train via Lille and perhaps renting a car while in Belgium. I have scheduled 3 days for this - is this even remotely possible?
I've only visited Kortrijk in the region. It appears fairly industrial, at least from the main roads. I was prepared to fall in love with Kortrijk, as an indiscovered gem, but I found the city a little disappointing. There's a handful of historica sites, including a large Begijnhof, but it's mostly just a normal small city. I wouldn't go out of my way to visit Kortrijk on the typical North American trip to Belgium (Brugge, Gent, Brussel, etc.) but because you'll be so close, it might be worth your time. Now, a little further south, Tournai (Doornik) I found a much more pleasent surprise.
Sorry, I know nothing about Oudenaarde, other than the general location. They also call that area the "Vlaamse Ardennen", but if there are any hills in that region, I sure didn't see them.
Tom - Thank you for your quick reply! Having spent our childhood in the Lille area (Roubaix, Tourcoinq, Lambersart) we are surprised we never visited where our family came from - and it's so close! We were thinking of hitching a ride with a cousin to Kortrijk (or train) and renting a car there to explore...don't really have an itinerary for this part of our trip yet (winging it?) Tournai looks promising...The more I learn about Belgium the more I want to visit every city and village - just might someday! Maybe I would choose to retire there instead of the Brittany region ; ) Happy travels!
As I live a few miles from the Belgian border I visit this country very often and also looked around a few times in the area of Oudenaarde. This town has a nice main square and a lovely gothic townhall and church. Known for tapestry in the past it’s now the place of the main sport / cycling event of the year in Belgium “De Ronde van Vlaanderen (Flemish Cycling Tour)”. There is a visitor centre with museum.
Tournai / Doornik is not so touristy but as Tom says it’s a pleasant surprise. The historic town square is lovely as well is the UNESCO listed cathedral, this city has an authentic character. It has also a lovely “Musee des Beaux-Arts” with paintings of famous artists like Rubens, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh and more. The Art Nouveau building is designed by Victor Horta. The entrance-fee is just €2,50 ,an absolute bargain.
If you have a rental car there is very much to visit in an hour and half reach from Schorisse. Lille is nice, there is a prestigious Louvre Museum in nearby Lens, the town of Ypres, Ghent, the historical square of Arras. There must be nice places like old wind and watermills on the country-side around Schorisse, but ask the locals where they are. Personally I think there are better places to invest your precious time then Kortrijk / Courtrai.