Photogenic cows and angry birds: Artists overhaul Flemish walking routes

Photogenic cows and angry birds: Artists overhaul Flemish walking routes

After a year spent walking and cycling when there was little else to do, many of us have realised we - in fact - like it.

From strolling around during the brief period where walks were one of the few times we could go out, to realising it was one of the few ways we could see our friends, walking has become a fixed feature in many of our lives.

But is walking an artistic endeavour? Not particularly, most people would say.

However, according to Tourism East Flanders, it could be. That's why it decided to task six Flemish artists with giving cycling and walking routes an artistic touch.


Six artists - Jango Jim, Charlotte Dumortier, Meneer Heirman, Zwoltopia, Niet Nu Laura and Shamisa Debroey - were each asked to cycle or walk a route and illustrate it, resulting in six unique, personalised route maps.

The illustrators were given control over how they present the maps, leading to a mix of styles, and to various takes on the brief.

The colourful redesigns look closer to posters than maps, but hidden in them are the routes and stops the artists made, with sights to be taken in on the route, ranging from the mundane but missable to a very photogenic cow.

Charlotte Dumortier went bird-watching on the Kreken cycling route in Meetjesland. "A top spot for bird watchers, we saw harriers, lapwings, swarms of barn swallows and were even chased by an angry godwit. Wow," she said of the trip.

Meneer Heirman explored the curves of the Durme Valley on the Ooievaar cycle route in Scheldeland, calling it a "wonderful route that is just long enough to make it a beautiful day, but also just short enough to not have a painful poop.'

Niet Nu Laura hiked the fairytale Ooidonk route. "It rained from time to time, but that didn't spoil the fun: we enjoyed very much all that greenery around us, the fairytale scenes along the waterfront and the view of the castle between the flower bushes. Also spotted one very photogenic cow that everyone should have the change t0 meet once!"

Zwoltopia feasted its eyes on the Den Dotter walking route in the Scheldeland, which the artist called "perfect if you want to enjoy a typical Flemish natural landscape with alternating cosiness of dense forest and the free feeling of the open meadow landscape."

Shamisa Debroey challenged herself with the Dauwtrip hiking route in the Flemish Ardennes. "Between the tall grass and colourful flowers you really come to rest. The sun on your face and walking towards the horizon.... Just what I needed," she explained. 

Jango Jim cycled in and around Ghent with the Stalen ros van heer Borluut cycle route, a "wonderful route to wander by with lots of beautiful flora and fauna along the way. From cows, horses, sheep and goats to even llamas. When I rang the red bell to call the petanque ferryman and we crossed the river, it felt like I left the existing world behind for a while."

"By letting the illustrators do the routes themselves and giving them the freedom to mould the route maps to their liking, the existing routes often get a new interpretation," explained Leentje Grillaert, chairwoman of the board of Tourism East Flanders.

"You look with different eyes at certain things in the landscape, as if the illustrator in question were walking or cycling along with you," she added.

More information on the maps, and how to get them, can be found here.

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