Report - - Belgium Prohobo - March 2010 | European and International Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Belgium Prohobo - March 2010


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Following Paris and the Germany trip, the plan was to get away to Belgium again and see some powerstations and industry. More of the usual, whatever we can get our grubby, bramble scratched hands on. This trip seemed almost routine, a foray into dereliction for a prolonged period of time less of a novelty. If I'd have taken this trip a couple of years ago I'd have probably been beside myself with excitement. Thanks on this trip must go to Miles in particular, driving all the way to Liege and back in short stints between our long houred days of exploring.

This trip definitely had its highlights; the powerplant, the helicopters and finally getting into Stella Artois amongst them. It also had several repeats for me, being Du Parc, Schotte and Hasard Cheratte. For some reason, this trip didn't quite as 'epic' as some of the other ones. Reasons? Not Sure.

Thursday night was a long one. We met at Portnalls Road and drove down to Dover in the smallest of the 3 cars available to us. Somehow all our kit and the four of us fitted into Miles' Micra in a similar way to how people fit on a tube train at rush hour. We shoehorned ourselves in. Our ferry was cancelled due to an electrical fault, we had to wait an hour for the next one. We eventually got to Calais later than planned, so missed out on the Carrefour Stop for the best biers in town. We stopped for Chimay at the services, also buying a mascot for the trip, an elephant called Gerald who was pointed at random Belgians for approval.

We had originally planned to travel to Maison De Viron but instead ended up going to the Basisschool, which was closer to our next destination. We parked up, walked around the site and across a field to what looked like a big haunted house. The shutters were down on half of the windows, but fortunately the front door was open. We made our way to the top and settled down in a dusty room with intact windows, setting tea-lights as the doors and windows banged in the wind.

The light woke us early and we scoped out the site as the hordes of schoolchildren began to arrive at the adjacant buildings. The Basisschool was a school for children whose parents didn't have a steady residence, such as casual workers or those in the military. I imagine it was converted from a chateau as it was a grand building not really suited to it's purpose. As we were getting ready to leave, a small group of kids walked through the front door to where we were sat. Clearly scared as mice to see me and Chris sat there looking ropey from a night of derelict sleep, they ran like the wind, squealing as they went. We Lolled.
ECVB was the next stop, a Powerplant given an acronym I don't quite understand, except maybe to protect it's innocence. We entered the site, were seen by contractors before we'd even got into the buildings, then swifly departed to Carrefour for bread rolls and orange juice. It was at this point that Gary had his first ever Red Bull. Bear in mind it was about 10am... Gary was buzzing.

We drove back to the powerplant and entered what I think was the best site of the trip. ECVB isn't trashed, vandalised or grafittied. It's simply heavy industry with bucketloads of decay. There is grass growing on the floor of the turbine hall, dust a plenty in the control room, and a warren of pipes and ducts across the ceilings. Proper industrial P0rn.

We spent maybe two hours here, seeing the turbine hall, the gantry, the loftspace and the chimney, while soaking up the rays coming through the tall windows of the art deco building. Industrial excellence.

To Brussels we headed, eating up the miles of the E40 before landing at the home of the Eylenbosch brewery. There were many curtain twitchers, one woman dressed in a blue jumper who stared at us with evil eyes, and one nice couple with a dog who saw the car and the tripods and asked us not to leave any litter.

Initially dissapointing, Eylenbosch got better when we found the things on the top floor. Between taking photos of empty bottles of beer and dealing with a botched tenancy application back at work, I wandered around looking for a 20 year old bottle of beer I could chug down to really get myself going.

We entered the residence of the owners, which had a nice ceiling and a nasty rotten staircase. After seeing the brewing pots, or whatever they use to make beer, we left for Brussels.

The light was slowly fading, but there was time to take in another site. A Hippodrome on the south side of Brussels had for some reason gone bankrupt 16 years after having an expensive new grandstand built in 1985. There was an older structure here as well, maybe some sort of press box. Having attended the races and seen similar places so busy, this site was particularly haunting being empty, and also so modern. The architecture here was interesting, the modern building of concrete and glass a contrast to the brick and stone built press box. The light was getting dimmer and dimmer, so we left for Brussells proper.

It was raining when we arrived, pissing it cats and dogs as a pigeon Inglunder might say. We parked up and went for a wander round Gare Midistation, having seen some pics on Sleepycity from a rooftop. Once we found what we were looking for, we dissappeared to a Turkish pizzeria where they served delicious stonebaked pizzas topped with the most vile of toppings. Whoever taught them to make pizzas forgot the cheese and tomatoes.. Back to the Gare, easy in, easy out, and some fine views were had by all. We slipped off into the night, the rain continuing to put the best made plans of mice and men to bed. The P de J would have to wait for a dryer night..

We drove to Stella Artois, made a pigs ear of getting in, split into two groups and promptly got lost. At about 1am we found each other and went to the office spaces to sleep. I'd heard tales of explorers being chased from the laboratories so was somewhat apprehensive about sleeping here, so close to them. But sleep we did.

We awoke early, the buildings were cold and uninviting so we got moving quickly, getting back into the beer-making bits of the site once we'd seen the labs and the marble floored, wood-panelled offices. Why oh why do they choose not to use this? In an age when glass and steel are the preferred materials for building, brick, marble and fine woods really are a hallmark of quality. We hid our bags under a giant sheet of polythene and went looking for the brew hall, which is this big beautiful thing here.

Soon after arriving we heard voices downstairs, and before we could think, two Belgians arrived up the stairs, with Nikon and Canon DSLRS. Brethren! We spoke for 10 minutes, exchanging ideas and eventually directed each other to the areas we wanted to be. Nothing like a bit of tourism. For me, knocking Stella Artois off the list was a big thing, given my failure six months ago. My assertions that the place was being boarded up were well off the mark, as the place didn't have boards anywhere. We'd just turned up on the wrong day. Having seen the delights of the brewery, we moved on to pastures new.

By now the weather was stunning, the hour drive to Chateau Rochendaal a pleasant one. Why hadn't the weather been like this the night before? I wanted P de J badly but instead, I just had to save it for the next trip.

Rochendaal was a pleasant site. An old chateau owned by the military, with a stables and officers block which resembled a well finished hall of residence. We didn't spend long here, but for the first time in months I could explore in a t-shirt and feel the warmth of the sun on my arms. The Chateau was trashed, save for a room with a nice ceiling, and the rest of the site quite dull and empty. I imagine these buildings to have once been a country house snooper's delight, but now they're so faded they're beige.

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