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Six spring events you’ll wish you’d sprung on sooner in Belgium
The official start of spring is still a month away, yet this year’s continued mild winter weather is already causing early blooms. As we also cautiously emerge premature from our winter cocoons, the warmth gives us new courage to dig into the Belgian landscape and unearth its most secret - and quite honestly coolest – happenings.
Before you get cold feet, fear not: The Bulletin has already ventured out into the brisk air and prepared a stellar list of 6 upcoming events that, once having attended, you wish you’d taken advantage of much earlier.
1. Carnaval de Binche – Binche, Wallonia
Starting off with an event that is just around the corner (starting this Sunday!), the Binche Carnival is one of the best-kept and outright strangest traditions of Wallonia. Listed by UNESCO, the carnival’s centrepiece are 1000 clown-like performers known as Gilles, who, while wearing strange green-goggled masks and wooden clogs, dance in the town and ward off evil spirits with broom sticks.
Just when you thought you’d be left out of all the weird fun, arrives Shrove Tuesday. The Gilles march through town sporting enormous ostrich-feather hats, and are offered baskets of oranges. Oranges quickly become orange juice as the Gilles pelt the crowd with what is supposedly a citric blessing. No matter what, don’t hurl these fruits back – they are sacred Walloon gifts.
When: 2,3,4 March 2014 | More info: www.carnavaldebinche.be
2. Festival Anima – Place Flagey, Brussels
Founded in 1982, Anima is one of the most renowned International animation film festivals in Europe. With 143 films from thirty countries, this 10-day long festival has something to amaze even the smallest animation fan. To maximize your experience, attend a Best of Shorts session, which allows you to immerse yourself in the field with a string of diverse animations in one sitting for €5-7.
That being said, the best night of the festival remains the Animated Night: an evening of animated madness, films ranging from 30 seconds to 20 minutes take to you to imaginary new worlds during a 3,5-hour marathon. Live music and the Festival bars help replenish you through the night.
When: 28 Feb – 9 March 2014 | More info: www.animafestival.be
3. Floralia International Flower Exhibition – Groot-Bijgaarden, Flanders
While many tourists flock to the Netherlands for their tulip festivals, many forget that a flowered paradise lies just south in Belgium. Throughout April and May, several Belgian gardens open to the public and are spectacular places for an afternoon stroll. While many know about the worthwhile Royal Greenhouses in Laeken open late April/early May, The Bulletin’s flower-powered event of choice is the Groot-Bijgaarden Castle and Gardens Floralia. For four weeks, flower lovers can enjoy 1 million bulbs of 500 different varieties planted over 14 hectares. Did we mention there was a stunning castle ? Good.
When : April 4- 8 May 2014 | More info : Spring Flower Show
4. Brussels Short Film Festival (BSFF) – Cinema Vendome, Brussels
This is film festival absolutely not to miss. The BSFF takes you on a visual and emotional roller coaster ride through the world of short film: from the absurd, insightful and horrific, to the hilarious and heartfelt.
While the festival has a fantastic Nuit du Court night offering short films nonstop from 10pm to 3am, the best kept secret remains the Soirée de Clôture. In exchange for a measly €5 entry fee, this evening begins with a glimse of the festival’s crème de la crème as it hands out prizes for best shorts and then screens winning films. But that's not all. As you leave the cinema already awe-inspired, you are guided to the festival’s main tent (Chapiteau) at Place Fernand Cocq, where 2 hours of an Oscar-like festivity awaits: a welcoming glass of champagne, fancy hors-d’oeuvres and Chimay in specially-made mini glasses galore (trust us, by the end you’ll be glad they were mini).
When: 23 April – 3 May 2014 | More info: http://bsff.be/en/
5. Balkan Trafik Festival - BOZAR, Brussels
Nothing is better than mixing Fine Arts with disjointed Balkan melodies. For five days, BOZAR turns its Centre for Fine Arts into a festival hall, and welcomes the best artists from the Balkan region. Attend the May 1st grand opening on Brussels’ Grand Place with traditional Balkan dancers, then head to BOZAR Friday and Saturday for a night of Balkan films, workshops, exhibitions and of course music on the museum’s main stage.
When: 26 April, 1-4 May 2014 | More info: http://www.balkantrafik.com/
5. Les Nuits Botanique – Botanique, Brussels
By far one of the most reputed music events in Brussels, “Les Nuits” offer you 10 days to discover the newest and most upcoming music artists around the world. The sweetest tune of the festival however is the “Nuit Belge”. This evening showcases 9 future top Belgian musicians for the price of one. For just €21 you are allowed to meander between 3 concert halls and soak in the latest Belgian tunes played at varying time-intervals.
When: 16-25 May 2014 | More info: www.botanique.be
6. Reuzenfeesten (Giants Festival) – Wenduine (Belgian Coast), Flanders
Nothing is more original or quite honestly Belgian than experiencing one of its giant parades. Supposedly originating from Bible characters, giants made of papier-mâché and wood began roaming Europe in the late 15th century. Today, the tradition only survives in a few countries, of which Belgium, where some 1,500 giants roam, particularly in Flanders. While you can see a giant parade almost every weekend from April on, The Bulletin recommends combining a nice day at the Belgian coast with some tall-tailed folklore by attending Wenduine’s Giant Festival.
When : 12-13 July 2014 | More info: Tall Tales
Photos courtesy of Binche Office du Tourisme, Groot-Bijgaarden Castle and Toerisme De Haan-Wenduine.