Friday 14 May 2021

In the footsteps of the Brontës in Brussels – on an app

The Belgian app company Totemus has just launched a treasure hunt (‘chasse’) in the form of a historical walk in Brussels on the theme of Charlotte and Emily Brontë’s stay in the city in 1842-43. As far as I know, this is the first time the Brussels tourist services have launched a Brontë-themed walk. 

Participants have to fill in the answers to questions as they follow the route. The idea is not just to tell participants about the Brontës in Brussels but to highlight some of the city landmarks that existed in that period.

The walk was launched on 8 May as one of the activities of the Brussels book fair (5-15 May).

It’s an initiative of Urban.brussels (formerly Bruxelles Urbanisme et Patrimoine) and Visit.brussels, in collaboration with the Brussels-Capital Region.

Guy Conde-Reis of Urban.brussels explains the rationale behind the initiative: ‘The Brontë sisters are fascinating in so many ways that they well deserve our attention. We wanted to pay homage to two highly intelligent women who were models of female emancipation for their time. Also, Charlotte’s novels provide us with an interesting angle on Brussels. And another reason for this walk is that the Brontës lived here at a time when Brussels was very different from today, and the walk gives us an opportunity to showcase the city’s neo-classical architecture.’

The walk commentary draws on my book The Brontës in Brussels (published in French translation as Les Soeurs Brontë à Bruxelles).

The walk starts from the Stadhuis/Hôtel de Ville and takes in landmarks such as the St-Hubertus Galerij/Galeries St-Hubert, the Cathedral, Koningsstraat/Rue Royale and the Park as well as the plaque to the Brontë sisters on Bozar. Although not all the places on the itinerary have an obvious Brontë link, the Brontës are a recurring theme.

Because of Covid restrictions, this year’s book fair is taking the form of smaller activities all over the city. Visit.brussels therefore launched this app as an alternative to their usual physical presence with a stand at the fair. Similar apps have been launched to show participants around the European quarter and the Flagey district.

The app is, or soon will be, available in Dutch, English and German, as well as French.

It will be available for a year.

Helen MacEwan

In the next post: a report by a Brontë fan who did the walk on the day it was launched.


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