FROM THE ARCHIVES: The Lost Highway. Journey along the Kortrijksesteenweg
Once in a while, editor-in-chief Luc Devoldere dives into the archives of The Low Countries and pulls out a story that is worth rereading. Consider it left luggage, that reveals a hidden gem. This week: the old Kortrijksesteenweg, one of Flanders’ lost highways.
Not so long ago, when our travel was still limited, we dreamed of driving, window open, looking at infinity, along an archetypal Flemish "stone road". I choose the Kortrijksesteenweg (N43), which connects Ghent with Kortrijk, my hometown. If you really want to get to know Flanders, you have to drive along its "stone roads". These roads often date from the eighteenth century, the Austrian period. Until the 1960s, they connected the cities as lifelines, until the motorways relegated them to the margin.
But what a margin: shops and pubs, Ferrari garages, cornfields and sad meadows with thoughtfully chewing cows, discotheques, dilapidated dance halls, a castle in a neo-style, an abandoned factory, friet shops, flashy villas, semi-open buildings of all sizes and weights, bars, private clubs, brothels, nightclubs, rooms for rent: everything that is summed up in French under the elegant and lost denominator "maisons de tolérance" and here and there even ladies sitting on a high chair behind a window - window prostitution, almost but not yet extinct.
Travel along with the author who drove here in 2014, use this travel guide, this logbook and catalogue and find out what has changed in the meantime and what has remained. Taste the cross-sections that give you a synopsis of Flanders. Journey in spirit. It's not a Highway through a majestic American desert landscape from a Western. Here you stumble across a juxtaposition of the stubborn past and the loud present, of the best and the worst that the human species has produced, the most beautiful and the ugliest in this world. Cherish this Highway 61 revisited (Bob Dylan):
Now the rovin’ gambler he was very bored
He was tryin’ to create a next world war
He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
He said I never engaged in this kind of thing before
But yes I think it can be very easily done
We’ll just put some bleachers out in the sun
And have it on Highway 61
Tolle et lege.
Read HERE the entire article that was previously published in the 2014 yearbook The Low Countries № 22.