The Vlooybergtoren

I took B yesterday to visit the Vlooybergtoren, a lookout tower a few km north of where she lives (at 50.926611 N 4.916528 E to be precise). The weather was not fantastic, but we had also been (with all three kids) two years ago and I don't seem to have written that up here at the time, so here are the rather better photographs from 2019 mixed in with the overcast ones from yesterday.

It was built in 2013 to replace an old wooden watchtower that had collapsed after repeated vandalism, and was then enlarged in 2018 after another vandalism incident. The whole thing weighs 13 tons; it is 11 m high and 20 m in length.

Yesterday B had just had a brutal haircut (she is not always co-operative with haircuts). But she was in good enough form. Some sports car enthusiasts were meeting up at the tower – you can see two AC Cobras behind her, and I am not sufficiently versed in these matters to identify the others that were visible in the vicinity.

B does not go for long walks these days, and yesterday balked a bit less than halfway up. I escorted her back to our car and completed the climb myself.

In 2019 we were able to persuade her to go all the way.

At the base of the tower is a poem by local poet Ina Stabergh:

Tower of Tielt

Noem mij toren van Pisa
of steek een pluim op mijn top
zeg dat ik eend ladder ben
en wortels heb die me voeden
maar zeg nooit
dat ik van ivoor ben
of de toren van Babel.

Zeg gewoon: Toren van Tielt.

Tower of Tielt

Call me the Tower of Pisa
Or stick a feather on top of me
Say that I am a ladder
And have roots that feed me
But never say
That I am an ivory tower
Or the Tower of Babel

Just say: Tower of Tielt.

The designer, Yves Willems, said rather cryptically that he was inspired by a phrase from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Terre des hommes:

Il semble que la perfection soit atteinte non quand il n'y a plus rien à ajouter, mais quand il n'y a plus rien à retrancher.

It seems that perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove.

The Vlooybergtoren won a prize for one of the best steel constructions in Belgium that year. The jury said:

A thrilling project, full of imagination with a
surrealist side. It has a function, but maybe
it doesn't. This 'stairway to heaven' is a wink to
Magritte – 'ceci n'est pas un escalier'.
(French and Dutch texts are slightly differently nuanced; I have used the French.)

The reference of course is to this famous painting of 1929:

So, partly a watchtower for the local woodlands, partly a nod to our national heritage of artistic surrealism, partly a tourist attraction. What could be more Belgian?

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