Less than 20 kms away from Brussels’ city center, the Blue Forest or Hallerbos in Flemish Brabant, is one of Belgium’s spring attractions. Timing is essential because the purpose of this visit is to find the carpet of blue bells of wild hyacinths (with some spare white anemones) which cover the forest floor and the leaves on the branches of the trees which just start to appear.
It is a surrealist sensation when you see so much blue around in a dry landscape. Although there is no water, you feel as if you were diving in the ocean and there was nothing but the blue sea of the blue bells under you and over you the blue Belgian sky. The rocking of the almost naked trees by the wind adds to this sensation of being under rather than being on something, as usual.
Wild hyacinths take advantage of the time of the year when there are no leaves so they can receive plenty of sun and end their active cycle of life before the forest comes back to the usual shadow and hyacinths become nothing but sleeping beauties under the dead leaves. The blue forest might still be interesting with its smooth slopes and patches of big sequoias but the unique splendour of its blueness is gone.
Although the blue forest is no secret you need a car to get there. Avoid Sundays due to scarce availability for parking. There are trekking paths and panels to criss-cross the forest but few facilities and no benches to sit on. Get ready to walk and take photos for some hours without stop!
Images credit © Ruskin in Brussels