Saturday, November 10, 2007

A visit to Malmedy

We visited Malmedy, in the Eastern Cantons of Belgium, between the Ardennes and Germany. This region was part of Germany until 1920 when it was awarded to Belgium as war retributions. Malmedy was annexed again to Germany from 1940 to 1944. The city was severely damaged during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. Bombings killed 219 and destroyed most of the historical houses of the downtown. 700,000 German-speaking Belgians live in the Eastern Cantons,nearly 1% of the population but the people of Malmedy speak French.

Malmedy won the title of the most beautifully flowered town of Europe in 1996.

Malmedy sits on the edge of The “Hautes Fagnes” (Hoge Venen). "This vast empty territory where Belgium touches the sky has inspired many painters and poets. Merciless with the inattentive wanderer, mysterious in the fog, gorgeous under the sun or the snow, the “Hautes Fagnes”, land of legends and wild-life reserve should be visited with respect."
Nature Centre of Botrange: 080 / 44 57 81 4000 hectares of grote natuurpark

A bit of Linguistic History
"Malmedy was formally annexed to Prussia in 1822. In 1853, King of Prussia Friedrich-Wilhelm IV visited Malmedy and said he was so happy to have in his kingdom "a small country where people speak French". In 1862, Bismarck was appointed Chancellor. The suppression of the French language in all administrative documents was required in 1863. The Municipal Council, presided by Mayor Gustave Piette, officially protested and quoted a text of the Prussian government from 12 August 1823, which recognized that French had always been the mother language in Malmedy. In March 1866, a "magistral" letter from the Regency ordered the Municipal Council to translate its proceedings in German, which was received with another protestation. In September, the President of the Rheinzprovinz announced that the Minister of the Interior had cancelled the previous Decrees and that the use of French in the administrative documents was allowed again. However, the Regency asked again in August 1867 the German translation of the documents. Mayor Piette resigned and was succeeded in March 1868 by Anton Andres. He was from Büllingen (Bullange) and German-speaker, but he allowed the debates to be made in French and provided German translations to the Regency. The two local newspapers were still published in French, La Semaine since 1848 and L'Organe de Malmedy since 1880. An attempt to found a German newspaper failed."


Local dishes include game, trout, Malmedy kiss (baiser de Malmedy) pastry and the Russian salad (salade russe); this (very) mixed salad is made only during the carnival and recommended to get rid of hangovers.

We ate in A Vî Mam'Dî on Place Albert Ier, Tel 080/396366. The waiter welcomed us in four languages and spoke all four very well. I chose Waterzooi Gantoise (not at all from Malmedy, I know) and my husband ate the local pork in Malmedy beer. We recommend the beer which we have not found elsewhere but the nearest in taste would probably be Blond de Ciney as Ciney is not far away.

The Malmedy Massacre
Just outside Malmedy is a memorial to the 86 American soldiers killed by German Troops in 1944. I found this info on a site about the film 'Saints and Soldiers':

Q: What is the historical background of the "Malmedy Massacre" and what part did it play in WWII?

A1: On December 17, 1944, the US Army's Battery B, 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion passed through Malmedy, Belgium and soon after encountered a German unit led by Colonel Joachim Peiper. Knowing it to be one of Germany's most effective and brutal units, the American soldiers quickly surrendered, as they were armed with nothing larger than machine guns.

Nearly 140 men were disarmed and taken captive. When a few of the Americans attempted an escape, the German troops opened fire on the prisoners. Eighty-six soldiers were killed while an additional 43 managed to survive by playing dead and fleeing into the nearby woods. Through a frozen wilderness during one of the coldest winters on record, survivors filtered into Malmedy, giving the event its name. Word of the horrific event spread quickly, giving the Americans more determination and resolve to finish the war and return home.

Population: 11,400

Malmedy is a lovely small town, an ideal place to visit on a weekend for a leisurely meal and drive around the area.

I heard yesterday (9 November) that the Eastern Cantons had a snowfall of 10cm.

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