Meetjesland, land of surprising heritage gems
Historic castles, works by Flemish Masters and a piece of railway history
Did you know that there are special treasures to discover everywhere in Meetjesland, even in the smallest villages? These traces of a glorious past are still honoured today and proudly presented to visitors. We introduce you to some highlights below!
Maldegem-Eeklo Steam Train
Maldegem-Eeklo Steam Train catapults you more than half a century back in time with its unique collection. From May to the end of September, a historic steam train or diesel railcar takes you from Maldegem to Eeklo and back, a total of two ten-kilometre rides. Or would you prefer a tour in an open carriage on the 1.5 km long narrow gauge railway towards Bruges? In each case, a guided visit to the site and/or equipment shed at Maldegem Station is included in your programme. Upon reservation, you can also take a culinary trip in a carriage of the one and only Orient Express.
Fan of stately, breathtakingly beautiful castles? In that case, too, you'll get your money's worth in Meetjesland!
Wippelgem Castle (Evergem)
Wippelgem Castle has traces dating back to 1375. The 27-hectare castle grounds are also a great place to relax. Before or after your walk, you can visit the former gardener's house for a tasty meal or a fragrant cup of coffee roasted on site with some mouth-watering sweets.
Wippelgem Castle, Kramershoek 4, 9940 Wippelgem (Evergem). The park is open during daytime for a free visit. There is also the coffee bar Troast next to the Castle.
Poeke Castle (Aalter)
Poeke Castle was first mentioned in 1139. It played a central role in the turbulent history of Meetjesland and was thus repeatedly destroyed. However, it rose again and again from its ashes and is now a rare gem of fairytale beauty. The romantic castle park is a mix of a French and an English garden. You can easily combine a visit to the domain with the 9 km Poeke Castle hiking trail through the idyllic Poekebeek valley.
Poeke Castle, Poekedorpstraat 1, 9880 Poeke (Aalter). The park is open during daytime for a free visit.
Meet Flemish Masters in their habitat
Even the smallest villages in Meetjesland are home to real art treasures.
The Bladelin Altarpiece in Middelburg (Maldegem)
The 15th-century Saint-Petrus and Paulus church in the Maldegem sub-municipality of Middelburg is one such highly surprising place. Right on the border with the Netherlands, you will stumble upon the Bladelin Altarpiece by Bruges painter Jan Ricx. This 1631 painting is a faithful copy of Rogier van der Weyden's world-famous triptych commissioned for this church in about 1445 but eventually relocated to Berlin. Also very worthwhile is the Maldegem Middelburg walking route (6.7 km), which leads you along the historical traces of this former Zwin town.
Saint-Petrus and Paulus church, Groene Markt 9a, 9990 Middelburg (Maldegem). The church is often open during daytime.
The Master of Frankfurt in Watervliet (Sint-Laureins)
Watervliet is known as one of the most beautiful villages in Flanders, a lively village centre with many pubs. The pride of Watervliet is the painting 'Nood Gods' by the so-called Master of Frankfurt (picture on top of this page). You will find it in the Gothic Church of Our Lady of the Assumption. This monumental triptych was created around 1520 for the main altar of this remarkably rich 'Cathedral of the North' and is considered one of the masterpieces of the Flemish Primitives. The unknown artist may have been from Antwerp. Today, he has works hanging in some of the world's greatest museums, including the Prado (Madrid), Louvre (Paris) and Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York). In de village centre you'll discover Restaurant-Boutique Hotel Sies, 't Dorpshart and Brasserie Niveau