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Updated: Jul 5


Fort Huy

Belgium has no shortage of interesting places. And though we’ve already begun on “second tier” sites, I still haven’t been able to sit down and talk about the first tier. But I’ll get to that.

I probably would have never heard about the village of Huy if it weren’t for Groupon advertising Mont Mosan amusement park. Huy is famous for some things though: notably it was settled by the Romans after their taking of Gaul, it’s got a huge fortress, and there’s a big nuclear power plant just around the bend on the Meuse River.


Huy is also the beginning of the famed Peter the Hermit’s preaching tour, where he heard the news about the Crusade and decided to gather up poor people throughout Europe. They proceeded to go about beating up and killing Jews and looting their shops, and then, having arrived in Asia Minor months later, most of his followers were themselves slaughtered by Turks. He himself did manage to make it to Jerusalem, so well done there.




From what I saw, it's easy to say that Huy should be on your list of things to do in Wallonia, no doubt about it.


For our brief stint to Huy, we had four destinations: Mont Mosan, the church, the fort, and the old town. So, I’ll run through those in order.


Mont Mosan

The advertisements make Mont Mosan appear like a zoo, but you might be forgiven for considering it an amusement park. Really, it’s some kind of bizarre hybrid that’s quite perfect for kids ages 2 to 9. They’ve got a ton of kiddie rides, playgrounds, and a smattering of animals which mostly consist of rodents.



The place opens with a big Dinos-Alive exhibit, complete with moving robotic dinos that share habitats with some ostriches and turtles. Then immediately to the rides. You can either pay for the rides individually (2 euros a ride) or pay for a ride pass for 12 euros. Most rides the kid can bring a parent on with them, so even if they’re on the smaller end they can typically participate.



Then there’s a walk around with the larger circle of alternating exhibits of playground, rodents, and rides.


The shows

They’ve also got a few fun shows.


When we were there, we got to see the otter/sea lion show and the parrot show.


The otter and sea lion swim around in their little arena, flipping balls, dancing and whatever. That turned out to be my son’s favorite show. Part of the “big stunt” was to get three kids from the audience (chosen beforehand, as they were ready with life jackets on) to get into a boat that would be pulled around by the sea lion.


Showing off the seal at Mont Mosan


The parrots do stuff like ride mini-bikes and scooters and drive little remote control cars. As the handler was trying to get a parrot to count numbers called by the audience and ring the bell that many times, another parrot kept sneaking down to do it for him.


A parrot on a bicycle

Price

12 euros per person (both kids and adults); 12 more euros for the unlimited ride pass. You can also get combo tickets with the cable car (see Getting Around Huy below).


Collegial Church of Our Lady and Saint Domitianus

This massive church sits right underneath the Fort—which made me think of Dinant, as it’s laid out in a similar fashion—and itself looks like a castle. The main tower, for instance, looks like a huge keep where you might lock up some unfaithful queen, as they often did in castle towers like that.


Collegial Church of Our Lady and Saint Domitianus

The Gothic Collegial Church of Our Lady and Saint Domitianus was completed in 1536 and looks more like a castle than many castles do. It boasts a series of really beautiful stained glass windows. The side windows are fine enough, but the rose window is where the true beauty is at: it captures some kind of inexplicable soft glow. I couldn’t really capture it on camera, so sorry for that. You’ll just have to take my word. But I’m not alone in appreciating this beauty, as it even gets its own name, “Li Rondia”, and a place on the “4 Wonders of Huy” tourist list put out by the village tourism office.



In the crypt below, there’s an exhibit of “treasures” for 3 euros. I didn’t see it, as I just gathered it’s mostly just a bunch of gold and fancy cups for mass. Oh, and also a few reliquaries, for St. Mark, St. Domitian, and St. Mengold. But you know what they say about relics.


We heard several songs chiming out from the 49 bells up top during our visit to the village. One Beethoven’s 5th, and some other famous pieces. The bells make for delicate chimes for true song playing, presenting quite a mystical feeling while walking around.


Fort Huy

Fort Huy is a massive complex that sits over the village, looking across the rooftops at the view of the three reactor nuclear site not far away. There’s been a castle in Huy ever since the Romans settled here in the first century AD.


The fort has both served as a protection and a plague for the residents of the city. For much of its term, it served as an important point in controlling traffic and trade up and down the Meuse (mostly textiles for much of history). But in the 1600s, King Louis XIV made his famous foray into the Netherlands, which included using the famous Musketeers, and where the real D’Artagnan made his claim to fame at the walls of Maastricht (there’s a statue of him there, too, because why not make statues of the heroes of your enemy).


F

Anyway, point is that because there was a fortress here, the village saw themselves coming under siege after siege during the nine years of fighting between France and a long line of belligerents that were too unlucky to live during the era when France didn’t take no shit and certainly didn’t surrender.


So, after the wars were over, they were quite happy to let the Fort fall into ruin. And then the Dutch moved in and built a new fort! Yay. So, the one currently there is from 1818. They mostly used it as a prison, and it was put to maximal use by the Nazis when they housed about 7000 prisoners there during the course of World War II.



The fort museum is dedicated to that last period. They’ve cleaned up a few of the rooms to make them presentable—some prison cells and toilets—polished up a chapel room and a multimedia exhibit, and installed a bar on the rooftop, because why not?


There is also a WWII-themed escape game, which could be cool. Because damn, doing an escape-from-Nazis game in an actual Nazi prison is pretty next level gaming.


Price

4.50€ for adults, free for kids under 6.


Getting there

There is the cable car (see below), or you walk up. There’s a paved path coming up from the river, and a nature trail that begins on Rue Sous-le Chateau at about here. We went up the paved path and down the trail, which is what I’d recommend, as the trail is a bit rugged and feels like you’re going into the deep woods. Which you can, as there is a hiking trail the continues on from there.


Old Town Huy

I was actually impressed with the old town. It consists of four or five streets that have, out of convenience, left up their Christmas decorations for year-round fun. Many of the streets are pedestrian only, and they’re all lined with cafes, restaurants, and shops. I don’t know, the Flemish keep saying how poor the Walloons are, but life still seems quite lively everywhere I go.


Huy Grand Place

The village is a bit smaller than Dinant, the main tourist thing to see in Wallonia, but there is a great deal of similarities. They both have castles (Dinant’s is a WWI museum though), big churches in front of the castles, cable cars, and rivers. Dinant is very much touristified and all the restaurants can easily fit in the tourist trap category. Huy is equally pretty (especially if you like the nuclear chic of the skyline), but as it really isn’t on the tourist map, you can trust the restaurants a little more easily. Have a meal in an old town square featuring a 15th century fountain and church and hear… actual French being spoken.


The main difference with Dinant is the massive nuclear skyline view from the fortress. It's one of two nuclear plants that have by and large protected Belgium from skyrocketing energy prices. As thankful as I am for that, it does kind of kill the medieval skyline look (as does the misplaced apartment towers across the river).

The nuclear skyline of Huy

Getting Around

My biggest bit of advice. I wish I had realized this when we went. There is a cable car that goes from across the river, to the fort, and then all the way up to Mont Mosan, with a stop right next to the amusement park. So that’s a really cool way to see the village. Had we known about it, we’d have parked in the old town and taken the cable car up, no doubt about that.


More info about the cable car, or telepherique, can be found here. You can buy tickets at any station at one of their electric kiosks, which has English as an option. So, no need to worry about fumbling around with your sub-par French skills, no thanks Duolingo. Basically it’s 6 euros one way, 10 for two ways.

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