Saturday 15 May 2021

Following the Brontë sisters in Brussels on the Totemus app

Listening to the Klara-podcast “The Brontës”, I discovered that the writer of my favorite book Jane Eyre lived in Brussels for two years. Yes, Charlotte Brontë, but also her famous sister Emily, stayed in a Pensionnat in Brussels! I had to find out more and contacted expert Helen MacEwan from the Brussels Brontë Group. Ordered her books. And did a Brontë walk in Brussels.

I will share with you my experience with the Brontë walk on the Totemus app.

I never used the Totemus app before, but because of the Brontë walk they offered, I was curious to find out how it worked. Downloading and installing was pretty easy. I had no idea what to expect. There is no description of the route or the questions. I guess that’s part of the fun. Indulge in the unexpected.

I did the hunt in French, but afterwards I found out that you can also do it in Dutch, which would have been easier for me, being Flemish. But better for practicing my French ;-).

You are requested to go to a starting point, which was in this case the Grote Markt/Grand Place. From there on you are navigated to different points of interest that have to do with -- some more than others -- the Brontë sisters. The app is easy to use, information is given about the places and questions are asked. You have to fill in the correct answer, otherwise you can’t go to the next point. This can be a bit frustrating when you don’t understand the question or can’t find where they are directing you to. I would advise you not to do the walk alone, but with friends or family who are interested in finding hidden gems in Brussels. You don’t have to be a Brontë reader to enjoy the tour, as you are in the vibrant city center hunting for street names, statues, gates, etc.

The walk brings you to the most important places where the Brontës have been or -- in your imagination -- must have strolled around. You come as near as you can to the Pensionnat -- from which no brick is left -- and you see the little Protestant church which Charlotte visited several times.

I liked the walk. Not only because I love to wander around in Brussels, but also because I came across things I haven’t seen before or wouldn’t have caught my eye. Little things, big things. And I loved it because it brought me closer to the history of the Brontë sisters in Brussels.

I can imagine that doing a tour with an enthusiastic Brontë-expert-guide is much more interesting and informative. That is the next thing on my wish list. It’s just what you are into. If you want to do it at your own pace, maybe do a detour or stop when you want, the app-guided walk is just perfect.

What struck me the most is that there is only a small metal plate on the Bozar referring to the world-famous sisters. Her stay in Brussels inspired Charlotte Brontë to write The Professor and Villette. I would expect at least a statue or a Brontë-street or -square. I would suggest all three :-).

Sandy Meijer

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