U bent hier
“Brussels is actually a really green city. There are loads of parks here,” says Bram Vanderborght, professor of robotics, explaining his choice of his favourite place in Brussels. He takes us to the Ter Kamerenbos, resplendent in autumn colours. It turns out that this is a significant choice on many levels.
I just think it’s a really nice park. I came running here when I was a student – and when I was a doctoral student. At that time I was living in student digs between the campus and the park. The Brussels Marathon also passed right through. I used to take part in it. But sadly over the last few years I haven’t been able to; I’ve had to go to a conference instead. That’s a whole different type of marathon…”
He bursts out laughing. After a stay in Italy he moved to live near Midi station. There’s little greenery there. Although there are several parks in Forest, which Vanderborght also considers appealing, he nevertheless found himself drawn back to the Ter Kamerenbos. Usually he came by mountain bike, taking the steep climb along the inner ring then riding along the length of Louizalaan. This road links the city centre to the park, which itself provides a connection with the Sonian Forest.
Into the forest
“The great thing about this place is that you start off in a park, where everything conforms to a pre-planned structure, but, as you proceed further, everything changes.
You find yourself launched straight into a proper deep forest, the Sonian Forest, where everything is a bit wilder. You can do some fantastic mountain biking there, and even discover new routes.”
During the Ancien Régime, the park was a forested area that belonged to Ter Kameren Abbey. In 1861 it was laid out as a landscaped park.This green lung enables Vanderborght to fulfil his need to be active. But it’s also something more fundamental than that. How else can a park that was initially just a handy place near the campus in which to get some exercise penetrate so deeply into your spirit, into your DNA?
More than just a park
Vanderborght taught his wife to ride a bicycle in this park. “When I started teaching her, she couldn’t handle a bike, she’d never been able to learn. Here it was easy: there are real roads that are traffic-free on Sundays.” Recently, the couple have been diligently pushing a pram around the park. This summer the proud new father has mainly used the park for family outings, complete with ice-cream – not for the baby, of course – and has revelled in the mix of cultures that is as inspiring as the greenery. “
Yes, I love nature, both in the park and the woods. It’s constantly changing, that’s the beauty of it. I really need that: it acts as a counterbalance to my work. We’ve bought a plot of land in Hoeilaart on the other side of the woods. We don’t actually need a garden because we live right up alongside the woods.”
But what about the Bos? It won’t lose its enchantment as the appeal lingers on: for Sunday outings, complete with ice-cream; for mountain biking; and for bike-riding lessons for a new generation.