Travel. Photograph. Tech Community

Rest of Europe

Hallerbos: Solo Travellers & Lovely Hosts!


Hallerbos (Halle Forest in Dutch) is the “Blue Forest” of Belgium in the Halle village. It’s one of the secret spots in Belgium not widely known. I was traveling this time with Subha and Srinivas, both experienced solo travellers. Thus the three although traveling together for the first time, had a lot of experiences to hold interesting conversations.

Surprisingly I had never been to Belgium before even though I have been living in the 200km radius for 4+ years. The moment I arrived Brussels station for switching trains, there was this ecstasy within me of looking around the new architectures and language I don’t understand: It was Dutch. People here speak mostly Dutch and French. I knew about the language Flemish, but later found out it is more of a culture than a language. A dialect that is softer manifestation of Dutch!

We were lucky to check in one of the most pretty B&Bs I have stayed so far in Europe. From the very first moment that we had met our hosts Suzanne and Ives, we knew how lovely would it be. This morning when we arrived at the Halle station, Ives was there waiting to pick us up in his car. How often do you have such warmth from strangers! Ives told us all he knew about the forest and Halle during the 5km drive. On arriving at the B&B, we were welcomed by his wife, Suzanne.
Ives and Suzanne were an elderly Belgian couple who had the attic room for three of us. It was squeaky clean with the best possible homely decorations. We were already looking forward to an experience beyond just the forests.
If you are going to Hallerbos, there is a slim chance you would find an accommodation in the woods through one of the hotel booking websites. So feel free to choose something from this list of Hallerbos B&B. And if available, go ahead and book Suzanne & Ives’s place, I bet you wouldn’t regret it!

Hallerbos is famous for the beautiful purple carpet of bluebells which usually bloom around mid of April. This forest is covered with giant Sequoia trees. I haven’t been to a forest with taller trees before.

Now as you can already imagine from the photograph above, that I don’t have a single photograph of the amazing lilac carpet. Because we were of-course before time when the Spring would set in. But Im happy this weekend turned out to be a pretty amazing one because of two reasons: 1. Traveling along with solo travellers enriches the conversations, and 2. The pretty cottage we spent in the weekend with lovely hosts!\

Because I don’t have photographs of the Lilac bloom, treat your eyes with your imagination from these images.. how heavenly can it get during the season.

On Saturday evening after checking into our pretty cottage, we hiked around 15km in the forest. Very rarely did we find interesting flowers blooming amidst the dry forest with humongous tree. So, all we did was mostly utilise our imagination! 🙂

European Windflower, the early-spring flowering plant in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae!

In a pre-spring barren forest, when you find such few tiny Windflower flowers blooming by the floor, you could pass by a million stories in your head once you kneel down to observe them.

The beautiful Hyacinth flower by the street side ahead of the forest!

Getting lunch was indeed a challenge here. Strong suggestion: Be prepared with food in this remote village if you plan to visit!

After some rabbit with beer, sea-food and pasta, we were off to wander around the forest.

Not often do we raise our head to look above us. You would expect to see the cloudy sky, but what I saw was a frame that will be etched for a while.

These amazingly tall Sequoia trees creates a silhouette that could give you possible goosebumps!

The forest did surprise us with little details such as these.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference!” – Frost

If you want more information for visiting the forest, the we have this amazingly nice dedicated website for Hallerbos! Not only do you get to read the interesting history of Hallerbos here, but also a daily updated video feed of the flowering status

That evening we came back to our lovely cottage to find our host, Ives playing mouthorgan in the living room under the glass roof while it drizzled.

It took us a while to just wait outside and enjoy the moment. Once we were in, we ended up having really good time till the next day. We didn’t know we were coming back to a lovely evening after the hike.

The living room downstairs pretty nicely decorated with Belgian waffles and cookies, dates, tea and wine. The next morning this table had turned into a full-course breakfast they had prepared for us.
That evening after the drizzled had submerged, there was a silence we enjoyed. Everything around in that room was wooden but the glass rooftop. It was already dark. Srinivas, Subha and me were sitting across the dinning-table cherishing the peaceful silence. We could hear the clock tick. On going around the wardrobes filled with beautiful decorators pieces and glasswares, we found an amazing phonebook on the forest of Hallebos. We didn’t have the chance to live the lilac forest, but the phonebook took us through a journey of beautiful imagination.
Soon there was Ives in the room. He sat down along with us when we began having interesting conversations. He was intrigued to know our background in Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering. Soon he revealed he is a mathematician himself.
And he has been developing puzzle games for different age groups. I was wonderstruck to know that the board game we had along with the welcome chocolates in our room was actually Ives’s brainchild. He even had his one of his several puzzle game Lixos commercialised and sold in France & Japan. We looked up the website then & there with him and promised to play it some time soon. It was interesting how he told even his grandchildren enjoy playing with the puzzle he builds. On knowing we are developers in trivago, he told us how his son also develops software for banks.
Later on Ives went ahead to draw on the maps he had for us. He explained us in utmost details which areas could we walk in the pretty village tomorrow and why. We were seriously amazed by his enthusiasm since the very moment we met him this morning.
We spoke for some hours and every minute it was evident how lovely a person he is. Next morning Suzanne got our jaws wide open with the breakfast she served us, just the way she would have done for her children and grandchildren visiting. Strange how you meet strangers and get to know how good the world is. Ives and Suszanne went on to become the centre of attraction in the trip meant for hiking.
Later on that night Ives borrowed us his cards that Subha, Srinivas and me played upstairs in our room for a while. Subha and Srinivas are experienced solo travellers. So all three of us hit it off really well. Just to explain how well, we were travelling together for the first time.. and we ended up booking flights to Bulgaria instantaneously within a span of 15min conversation while in our return train in Belgium. We ended the night with the amazing bag of stories of solo travel. Experience is indeed priceless.
Next morning after the amazing breakfast we decided to leave for Brussels since the forest wasn’t yet ready for the bloom. But before leaving we spent an hour in the garden. After the breakfast as usual, Ives and Suzanne were all up for giving us the best experience in the beautiful backyard.

I went around looking at the detailing and could never have enough of it.

I had good time basking by the sun in the beautiful backyard.

Soon there was Ives introducing us to his donkey, Kancha!!!! This is the first time I was meeting a pet donkey. Well, the Kancha was super cute and at the same time super stupid. She would go round and round eating grass till she would entangle herself onto the ropes!

Ives told us a lot stories about Kancha. He described how Kancha came into their house when his daughter was 8. And today her daughter is 37. So basically Kancha was 3yrs older to me! We sat and heard stories about Kancha from Ives like a child. It was some experience.

Later that morning, we bid goodbye to Ives, Susanne and Kancha. Ives again dropped us till the station in his car.

Interesting how we came for hiking in the blooming bluebells, and instead ended up meeting two amazing human beings who were complete strangers before.. and ended up bonding with colleagues as solo travellers with bag full of experiences!