The fine art of finding a hostel: I - Namur, Belgium
Russell Degnan

If there is ever a time when having a rough idea how different cities are laid out and a good sense of navigation is useful, then finding your preferred place of accommodation in a city you just arrived in is surely one.

Namur, lying at the conjunction of the Meuse and Sambre Rivers in Wallonia, Belgium is not a large city, nor even an especially interesting one, but it has its merits. Most impressively, it is dominated by the citadel on the hill and by mist. The two together make for an intriguing mix of oppression and romanticism that left me in a daze for my entire visit.

But when I arrived I had a more difficult task. It was late afternoon, as I'd come down from Amsterdam, and had (deliberately) left my guidebook (which had a map) at a friend's house. Instead, I was relying on a very rough memory of what the other map said, which was worse than useless, and a truly awful map from the Hostel guidebook, faithfully retained to this day, and reproduced at right.

Those of you who clicked on the first link will immediately recognise some of the problems with this map: it is not really orientated to the north (at least not consistently); it has no scale and is in any case, stylistic with inaccurate distances; it marks only one street, and one bridge; it doesn't show the railway station, and worst of all, depicts the rivers at right angles when they are not even remotely close to that orientation (the Meuse runs straight for a start).

So what to do?

Where the city centre was in relation to the railway station was not clear, but I was reasonably certain the river would be at the bottom of the hill I was on. I'd have been remarkably surprised if it wasn't in fact. I made my way down, each step taking me further under the looming side of the mountain atop the citadel sits.

The problem was, I had no idea whether I was approaching the Meuse, or the Sambre. The bridges should be a clue, but aren't, because not all of them are depicted on the hostel map and the width of the citadel as I approached it seemed to indicate I was approaching from the wider Meuse side -- when actually it lies along both rivers.

Having reached the river, I figured that I should walk downstream, hoping to find the confluence where I could orientate myself. Fortunately, this too led me directly to where I needed to go. After spending a few minutes looking at available landmarks, I felt reasonably sure I knew which river was which, and chose the road that led upstream of the Meuse. But how far?

The hostel guide said 3km from the station, but if anyone trusts those figures I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. They are often out by whole factors. So, off I trudged, with the citadel on my left, for a goodly distance, before I finally reached the bridge. It is a very nice bridge as can be seen from the picture below. It does not, however, face onto the Casino.

The casino is further, near the Avenue Felicien Rops [1] from which there is a very substantial walk to the hostel. And I mean a substantial walk - see the lights on the dam upstream of the bridge? It is past that.

But being lost is no longer an issue, even if being crushed by the weight of your backpack is; because all along this avenue live people who regularly see lost backpackers, trudging to their destination, but without any clear indication of where it might be. And they are very helpful and friendly, waving you along like spectators at Le Tour. For a while, the sun even came out. Just for a brief moment. It is Belgium after all.

[1] The museum to Felicien Rops is also in Namur and worth a visit.

Days Spent Away 30th July, 2005 00:50:26   [#] 


Van Gogh
The river by night reminds me of 'Starry Nights' by Van Gogh. Dreamy.
BridgeGirl  1st August, 2005 09:20:17