Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ath

THIS QUIET TOWN grew up around the River Dendre. Ath is known for its festival – the Ducasse – which occurs every year on the fourth weekend in August. Held over two days, it features the “Parade of the Giants”, a procession of gaily decorated giant figures representing characters from local folklore and the Bible, such as the Aymon brothers and the Steed Bayard (see p99), as well as David, Goliath and Samson.

The surrounding country of gently rolling hills is dotted with hamlets and farms, as well as historical sights. A few kilometres northeast of Ath is one of the most popular attractions in the region, the Château d’Attre. This handsome 18th-century palace was built in 1752 by the Count of Gomegnies, chamberlain to the Hapsburg Emperor Joseph II, and was a favourite haunt of the Hapsburg aristocracy. Its interior is opulent, with ornate plasterwork, parquet floors and paintings. The River Dendre crosses the delightful grounds.