Picture: the church and ruins of the feudal castle
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La Roche en Ardenne
General. When you arrive in the small town you will immediately see where it got its name "La Roche" (or "the Rock") from. This settlement is located in a bend of the Ourthe river with the ruins of a mighty feudal stronghold at the top of a natural rock. This castle is the big eye-catcher and the symbol of La Roche. With the Ourthe river meandering at its feet and the woods of the Ardennes in the surrounding hils, it should be no surprise that this region is very much loved with visitors who like active excursions. There are plenty of possibilities for kayaking, hiking or cycling in the immediate area. The center of the town itself is partially car-free and there are numerous shops with authentic products of the region, restaurants and terraces. La Roche also has other trump cards next to nature: the castle, pottery and not to forget: the heritage of the Battle of the Bulge (Second World War).
There are quite a bit of visitors during the holiday periods; the many campings and other lodging accommodation bear evidence of that. The area is very popular with visitors from Flanders and the Netherlands. English speaking visitors should not despair because all information signs are also in English and you will be helped in your language with a smile.
This region has been
inhabited since long time and that is no coincidence. The
presence of the Ourthe river ensured a link making it possible
for people to move fairly easily and to trade with eachother.
It's by consequence no coincidence that a stronghold was built
here on this rock next to a bend in the river.
Archeological finds prove that people were already living here
in prehistoric times. Lateron, Romans built a small
fortress on the spot where there alledgedly used to be a Celtic
settlement. After the Romans were driven out, the rock
remained a fortified place which was transformed into a mighty
castle over the centuries. This castle was at the peak of
its might between the 12th and the 17th century. In 1681,
La Roche was occupied by the French (Louis XIV). The
adapted the castle to the needs of modern artillery and
constructed amongst other things a covered reservoir to provide
the soldiers with fresh drinking water. Thing to a turn
for the worse when Joseph II gave up the place as a military
stronghold. From that moment on, the castle fell prey to
natural decay and plunderers who used it as a quarry for the
recuperation of construction materials.
The Battle of the Bulge. La Roche was initially liberated on 10 September 1944. However, on the 16th of December 1944 the offensive of the Ardennes (later on called the Battle of the Bulge) started. It was an attempt of the German army to recapture the city of Antwerp. The attack came as a complete surprise for the American troops that were stationed in the Ardennes. On 21 December, the town of La Roche was hastily evacuated by the Americans after which it was taken back by the Germans. As from 22 December, the town was a target for the American artillery and this up till 12 January 1945, the day that the town was liberated again by allied troops. The town was not only shelled by the artillery but it was also bombarded from the air. Several air raids were executed during those few weeks of occupation. The result was desastrous with lots of civilian casualties and the historic town center virtually reduced to rubble. The museum on the Battle of the Bulge sheds some light on these dark pages from the town's history and boasts a very extended collection of material from that period. You can find it in the center near the church. It has three floors with vehicles, weapons, clothes and other material from the American, English and German army. One of the highlights is undoubtely an enigma decoding machine that was used by the Germans. A recommendation for everyone who is interested in the Second World War. More info: www.batarden.be .
Nature. In La Roche you have the Ourthe river and the surrounding woodlands but just outside the town there is also a wildlife parc: "Le Parc à Gibier". You will not only encounter different species of dear and cattle but also owls, foxes, raccoons and even wolves. Ideal for an excursion with the family. More info: www.parc-gibier-laroche.be.
Other sights. The military past takes up a very important place in the town. Besides the castle and the museum on the Battle of the Bulge, you can also find a monument for the victims of the war and two restored tanks. In the center you can see an American M4A1 Sherman tank and an English Destroyer M10 on the opposite side of the river outside the town center. If you desire more peaceful things to see, you might find something to your liking in the museum "Grès de La Roche", that focusses on the famous regional pottery. More info: www.gresdelaroche.be.
How to get to La Roche en Ardenne? Own transportation is the easiest way to get to the town. Parking in the center is paying; outside it is free. Alternatively you can come by train through a neighbouring station (Melreux or Marloie) and take a bus from there.
Tours & info. You can find information on the town and the sights in and around it at the tourist office that is situated in the center (Place du Marché 15). No issues if you don't speak French; you will be helped in English without issues.
Picture 1: La Roche church seen from
» Hoe in La Roche geraken
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