Chateau de Bouillon
On the last day of our short trip we left Bastogne and drove to Bouillon. We had several things planned - the chateau, museums about Godfrey de Bouillon and the 1st Crusade, an animal park, and maybe some go-karting, but rain put a stop to the animal park and go-karting...
Our first stop was the Chateau de Bouillon. Perched high atop a bluff on a very tight bend in the River Semois, the castle is huge - it runs 375 yards from end to end! It's position is a military amazement - overlooking the main north/south path between France and Belgium (it was actually used during the Battle of the Bulge we learned at the museum - the vantage point was so good our leaders didn't think they could do any better!). It has two drawbridges and an area for the townspeople to come to when the town was under attack. There is a huge keep (living area) and several storage areas for weaponry and ammunitions. As usual, there is a prison and a torture room. The arrow slits are designed differently here though - after the first slit, the path then opens into 6 other slits so you can direct your fire more accurately (2 rows of three, right-middle-left) - we found this to be amazing!
When we walked into this castle, all 5 of us finally said that this is the castle that actually meets our expectation of what a castle should be!! It has high towers and low cellars and communication wells and just really has the feel of a castle based on what we have learned about them.
The original owner of the castle was Godfrey de Bouillon. The story has it that a stranger came to the castle one evening during dinner and berated the family about how it could just sit there dining while such terrible things were happening to Christians. After that, Godfrey decided to sell the castle and use the proceeds to go help launch the 1st Crusade! He was a major leader of that event and eventually became the leader of Jerusalem (he was offered the title of King, but he refused it). He ended up dying in Jerusalem and never made it back to Bouillon to take back his castle. Over time it has been owned by the French and the Dutch and many different individuals and they all made various changes and improvements to it as they needed them.
Our favorite part of the whole trip happened here at the castle - The Birds of Prey Ballet! They really do call it a ballet and after seeing it we decided it is a very accurate term for what this man had the birds trained to do! His commentary was mostly in French with a little bit of Dutch (another chance for us to practice our French!) and we were only able to understand some of what he was talking about, but watching the birds was amazing. We happened to sit in the flight path - it was directly over Amanda's head. He would send the birds out and they would come just over our heads to get to where they were supposed to go - we could feel the movement of the air from their wings (and a couple of times thought we might have actually felt wings...) and we could hear the whoosh as they pumped their wings. It was the best show like this we have ever seen!
On our way home I tried to take some pictures of the trees to show the color, but it didn't work out very well. I did get a nice shot of the windmills we saw - not your typical Dutch variety!!
We had a great time on our trip - hope you enjoyed going along with us!