Saturday, July 12, 2008

National Flax Museum in Kortrijk, Belgium

While spending the past several days sleying the reed on my loom and threading heddles to make a small blanket, I’ve been listening to Syne Mitchell’s Weavecast. Today I listened to an old episode about Tapestry weaving – which reminded me of Belgium – which reminded of my favorite place to buy Belgium chocolate -- Kortrijk. (One way or another, my travels include chocolate and fiber destinations!)

But Kortrijk is also the home of the National Flax Museum for Belgium. We visited there for the first time in 2001. It’s a small museum located a few kilometers from the town centre and train station. We took the train to Kortrijk and once we arrived we just asked around the train station until we found someone who pointed us to the correct bus. It was a very short bus ride to the museum. We were using a Belgium railpass that also included buses so we didn't have to worry about tickets or the fare. The day we visited was in May, the grass was a bold, bright green and the fruit trees were in bloom.

The museum is housed at a 19th century farmstead that was once used for flax production. For centuries Kortrijk was an important center for the production of linen as the waters of the River Lys were apparently well suited for retting and bleaching flax. The museum walks you through the entire process, from growing the flax to flax preparation and spinning flax and then weaving linen. Part of the museum is set up to show the spinning of flax and the weaving of linen as it was when it was a cottage industry. You can see how the wheels and looms were included in their everyday lives.

If you are a spinner, you will be thrilled to see the collection of antique spinning wheels, reels, warping mills and more. In one area of the museum, there is a loft completely filled with antique wheels. I tried to take photos in the loft but there was a tour going on and the guide didn’t want photos taken at the same time. You can follow this link to see the photos I took. These were taken before I had a good digital and not my best work!

Also as part of the facility is the Linen Museum, complete with a gift shop (my favorite part of any museum). There were beautiful linen products for sale and I did buy some lovely linen kitchen towels. There was a lot to select from and it was hard to decide. Linen towels are wonderful for drying good glassware as they don't leave any lint.

You can arrange for a guided tour of the museum, but that's not necessary as the museum is very well done with excellent signage on all the displays. There is a museum guide booklet that you can buy -- it walks you through every aspect of the museum and the flax to linen process.

If you decide to include the museum in a future visit to the area, please call ahead to make sure it is open. I believe it closes during the winter months plus I wasn’t able to find a working website for it.

Flax and Linen Museum
Etienne Sabbelaan, Kortrijk 8500 - Belgium
Phone: +32 (0)5 621 0138

Once we left the museum, we headed into Kortrijk's town centre to find some lunch and instead we found the BEST EVER chocolate shop -- Kortrijks Chocoladehuis at Leiestraat 35 8500 Kortrijk. This is a family owned business and the chocolate is better than any chocolate I have ever eaten (and I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate). We had been staying in Brussels previously and pigging out on Neuhaus Chocolate. The chocolate at Kortrijks Chocoladehuis was significantly better and more affordable! You can buy many different types of filled chocolates plus bars of rich, dark chocolate. We have been back to Kortrijk since our trip in 2001 – to buy chocolate.

Right next to the chocolate shop is a fabulous shop selling linens (tablecloths, napkins, etc.). It was a wonderful place to visit – but I saved my money for chocolate. Both the owners of this shop and the chocolate shop speak excellent English.
So if your travels take you to Belgium -- go to Kortrijk for the chocolate and the linen! You won't be disappointed. PS Flat Stanley likes chocolate too!

1 comment:

cyndy said...

Thank you for the link to the photos, they were wonderful!!