The small town of Bastogne (pop. 13,000), close to the border of Luxembourg, would not figure on a tourist map if it hadn't been for the terrible battle that took place there at the end of the Second World War.
|The Battle of the Bulge|
The Battle of Bastogne, or 'Battle of the Bulge' as it is commonly known, started on 16th December 1944 when 250,000 German soldiers, and 1,000 tanks re-invaded Belgium in a desperate attempt to reverse the tide of the war. Belgium had already been liberated by the U.S. forces and Bastogne was defended by the 101st Airborn Division under the command of General A.C. McAuliffe. The Germans bombed the town on the 18th, encircled it on the 20th and asked for its surrender on the 22nd, to which General McAuliffe famously replied : "Nuts !". The city got reinforcements from General Patton, but the battle lasted until 14th January 1945, leaving about 20,000 soldiers dead, 80,000 wounded and Bastogne laid in ruins.
Bastogne is not unlike Ypres at the opposite end of the country, in that it is famous for its war memorials. The American Memorial on Mardasson Hill was completed in 1950 and list the names of the soldiers who died around Bastogne.
Bastogne's most prominent attraction is, however, the nearby Historical Center. The museum has a 30 min documentary about the war, two diaporamas, as well as German and Allied uniforms and weapons. There are several 'left-over' tanks outside, and in other places around town.
The Historical Center is open 9:30am-5pm from May to September (until 6pm in July and August), and 10:00am-4:30pm from 1 October to 30 April (closed from 31 December o 19 February). Entry is 7.50 €.
How to get there
By car, take the N4 motorway, which runs between Namur and Arlon via Marche-en-Famenne and Bastogne.
It is not so easy to reach Bastogne by public transports, since the train service was discontinued a few years ago. The nearest railway station is Libramont (50min from Luxembourg, 1h from Namur, 2 hours from Brussels). From there, take bus 163b to Bastogne (45min). Be aware that buses only leave every two hours.
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