La Grand-Place, a Looking Glass Into the Medieval Times of Brussels

Maison Des Brasseurs facade at The Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. (Photo: Hermann Rohr for The Nspirement)

What do a medieval phrase and the La Grand-Place have in common?

“All roads lead to Rome,” and six narrow side alleys lead to the cobblestone square in the heart of Belgium’s capital, which, including all of its magnificent beauty, has been etched into my memory.

La Grand-Place’s earliest written reference goes back to the 12th century. It’s surrounded by guild houses. In the Middle Ages, each profession had its own guild. La Grand-Place is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The old marketplace known as La Grand-Place

If it’s not by the natural urban stream of pedestrians vitally flowing through the streets of Brussels toward its steady pounding heart, which naturally leads you to the old marketplace — today known as la Grand-Place — then it is the magnificent town hall tower that will call you toward it, like a siren singing its enchanting music to sailors at sea.

Le Grand Place_Brussels_Belgium-8912
Brussels’ town hall majestically overlooking Belgium’s capital. (Photo: Hermann Rohr for The Nspirement)

Once inside the square, I am surrounded by majestic buildings lined up on each side, from corner to corner. Cups clinking as their bottoms meet the saucers. People watching people, sitting in the dreamy cafés in front of the antique guild halls — most of which were erected between 1697 and 1705. While opposed by La Grand-Place’s ancient-looking structures, the smell of fresh waffles in the air makes me feel comfortable.

Le Grand Place_Brussels_Belgium-8850
Ornate buildings of La Grand-Place, Brussels, Belgium. (Photo: Hermann Rohr for The Nspirement)

The exteriors of most guildhall houses are masterfully decorated with baroque gables, heightened with gold, reminiscent of the status and wealth once prominent to their occupants.

Le Grand Place_Brussels_Belgium-5088
Maison des Ducs de Brabant (Dutch: “House of the Dukes of Brabant”) façade. (Photo: Hermann Rohr for The Nspirement)

Anyone who appreciates the eclectic blend of architectural styles will be amazed by how harmonious the Brabant Gothic of City Hall (the Hotel de Villle), the King’s House, or the Broodhuis (Dutch:”Bread house”) staring right back from across the market, blend in with one another.

Le Grand Place_Brussels_Belgium-5132
Guildhalls on La Grand-Place. Photo: Hermann Rohr for the Nspirement

The same goes for the Maison des Brasseurs, also known as the “Golden Tree,” with it’s Baroque frontage and hop plants that artfully wind their way up the pillars of the building. It is the guildhall headquarters for the brewers of Brussels, and shoulders to its right with the Maison des Ducs de Brabant (Dutch: “House of the Dukes of Brabant”), which gets its name from the aristocratic sculptures decorating its front.

The Maison des Ducs Brabant is home to seven of La Grand-Place’s guildhalls, being the headquarters of the old millers, tanners, carpenters, woodworkers, and the stonemasons.

Teh Maison des Ducs de Brabant creating a backdrop allong the eastern side of the Grand Place, for the many visitors to this medieval site. (Photo: Hermann Rohr for the Nspirement)
The Maison des Ducs de Brabant creates a backdrop along the eastern side of La Grand-Place for the many visitors to this medieval site. (Photo: Hermann Rohr for the Nspirement)

Most of La Grand-Place was burned to ashes and destroyed during the bombardment of the city in 1695 by French troops. Thanks to the merchants — whose emblems of professions decorate the respective guild houses around the medieval market in the center of Brussels — the market buildings were rebuilt in the way they stand today.

The scene is just breathtaking and too amazing to be captured by words, thoughts, or imagery. One has to be there to truly experience La Grand-Place with all of its beauty, the people passing by, the different aromas that fill the air, and the sounds that enhance the experience.

Would I go there again? Yes, I would. There is just too much to take in during one visit. Isn’t it so, that after finishing a tasty dish, just the memory of it evokes in you the longing to try it once more? And this too is how I feel about La Grand-Place.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook

China’s Yunnan Province: An Attempt to Decipher Diversity

Yunnan Province, China. China's ethnic melting pot. Its landscapes are as grand as its people are diverse. (Image: Tony Ying via Nspirement)

If there were any place that deserves the crown of diversity, then it most probably would be Yunnan Province, China’s ethnic melting pot. Its landscapes are as grand as its people are diverse. While bordering Vietnam, Laos, and Burma, almost half of China’s 56 minority groups are situated here.

Every trip is part of more than a visit to special scenery, the taste of exotic food, or the smell of that salty ocean breeze at the coastline of a dessert or a tropical island.

Travel can also function as a tool to get to know more about who you are, revealing those diverse aspects of yourself that only come to light as you experience the sensations of beauty and wonder imparted by the natural splendors of the world.

Places to visit in Yunnan Province

What better place to start sampling this province, located in the southwest of China, than Kunming, Yunnan’s capital and also its largest city?

China-Yunnan province. Renowned for it's colorful mix of ethnicity and marvelous landscapes.
China-Yunnan Province, renowned for its colorful mix of ethnicity and marvelous landscapes. (Image: Ahoerstemeier via Wikipedia)


Kunming also goes by the name “spring city,” getting this nickname from to the mild spring-like weather that dominates most of the seasons.

Yunnan University, Kunmin, China. Photo Credit: Daderot via Wikimedia Public Domain
Yunnan University, Kunming, China. (Image: Daderot via Wikimedia Commons)

While surrounded by temples, lakes, and limestone hills, Kunming is also home to 7 million inhabitants, an astronomical observatory, and Yunnan University, which is regarded as the largest and most prestigious university in China.

Sha Xi Village

Sha Xi Village, Yunnan, China. Photo: Tony Yin
Sha Xi Village, Yunnan, China. (Image: Tony Ying via Nspirement)

A sense of authenticity and peacefulness, just watching the people go about their daily routines calms your heart and sharpens your mind. The farmers here live in simple homes, and the majority grow crops.

Shi Xi Village, Yunnan, China. Photo: Tony Ying
Sha Xi Village, Yunnan, China. (Image: Tony Ying via Nspirement)

Most people here still use horseback as their only means of transport. It’s a common sight to see people work their fields relying solely on manual labor to do their farming. This area is remote and cannot be reached by public transportation.

It seems like a forgotten land, isolated, and beyond the concrete maze, peaceful and serene. Without the gray shade of skyscrapers scratching the soft belly of passing clouds, the sky here seems bluer than elsewhere.

Temple-cave on a cliff

Temple along the flank of a cliff. Not far from Shi Xi village, Yunnan, China. Photo: Tony Ying
Temple along the flank of a cliff, not far from Sha Xi Village, Yunnan, China. (Image: Tony Ying via Nspirement)

Not far from Sha Xi village, isolated from the common routes of public transport, is a little mystifying location in Jian Chuan County. The structures are built around and merged with the naturally existing caves on the flank of the cliff.

No travel agency has this place in its sightseeing package. To even get here, one has to know the location and drive there oneself. To outsiders, this place is unknown. If you are lucky, you can hitch a ride with a group of people from Yunnan University as we did.

The surrounding scenery is beautiful, with green pastures and tree landscapes that are reminiscent of a time long past, but somehow preserved like in a bubble, right here and now. I can only describe the sensations, drawn from the brushes of air, the smell of the moist earth, and the vegetation, as being magical.

Temple along the flank of a cliff. Not far from Sha Xi Village, Yunnan, China. (Image: Tony Ying via Nspirement)

After scaling the path and stairs that lead to the outlook, the view is simply mesmerizing. Overlooking a green valley, do not be surprised if some of the indigenous wild monkeys join you while you are taking in the stunning view and peaceful atmosphere that this more than 200-year-old cave dwelling radiates.

Apparently, this site even has the status of a cultural heritage place. Surprisingly, many of the historic sites in this region are still well preserved.

Ancient Tea Horse Road

Besides being home to numerous ethnic minorities, Yunnan Province was once transited by many merchants and their caravans. Most of them transported tea, which gave a network of caravan paths winding through the mountains of Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou in Southwest China its well-known name, the “Tea Horse Road.”

The Li River and Jade Snow Mountain

Compared to the previously described remote areas we visited, this area, close to the Li River and Jade Snow Mountains is quite popular among tourists.

Yunnan Province, China. Photo: Tony Ying
Yunnan Province, China. (Image: Tony Ying via Nspirement)

Nearby, Linhai City’s concrete buildings and skyscrapers grow out of the ground like mushrooms after a rain. Linhai and its surroundings are well visited by tourists, who flock there to see the popular tourist attractions, among them, the famous golf course at the foot of the mountain.

Little Bridge crossing over the Li River, Yunnan, China. Photo: Tony Ying
Little Bridge crossing over the Li River, Yunnan, China. (Image: Tony Ying via Nspirement)

Linhai is a county-level city in Taizhou, Zhejiang Province situated on the banks of the Lin River in Eastern China.

Deciphering diversity

Did I encounter diversity? Yes. The different people in the different parts of Yunnan are like different sorts of flowers growing on a spring field, each with its own color and scent.

While there was much I learned about the Yunnan people and their habitat, there was more I learned about myself, being a part of it in a remotely seen way.

I wasn’t able to find an answer to every question, but every experience on my journey presented a key to a new door of wonderment and magic waiting for me to explore on my next journey, wherever it may take me.

Research by Mona Song, written by Hermann Rohr

Follow us on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest