Road trip Belgium National Gardens and Brussels
In 1879, Bouchout Domain was bought by Charlotte of Belgium. She married Maximilian of Austria in 1857, who became emperor of Mexico in 1864. During this period, Mexico was occupied by France. However, after the Civil War in the United States had ended, the North Americans forced Napoleon III to withdraw his troops. This left Maximilian unprotected against the Mexican Republicans and, in spite of the many entreaties of his wife Charlotte, he decided to stay. He was captured and executed in 1867. Charlotte suffered a lot during this period, after which her mental condition was described as very weak. Since Charlotte was the sister-in-law of Frans Jozef of Austria, the domain was respected during World War I by the occupying German soldiers. This allowed the citizens of Meise to use the castle’s domain as a place of refuge.
After Empress Charlotte had died in 1927, most of the furnishings were transferred to the Royal Belgium Palace at Laken. Fortunately, the domain which included Bouchout Castle and Meise Castle was bought by the Belgian State. Thereafter, part of the domain was developed into a Botanical garden which became public at 1958. In 1939, Belgian soldiers were billeted at Bouchout Castle, who looted it in November 1939. During World War II, Bouchout Castle was occupied by German soldiers, who also built four fortified shelters at the domain. In November 1944, a first flying bomb struck the westside of the Domain causing most windows of Bouchout Castle to break. A second flying bomb struck Meise Castle which burnt completely.
The condition of Bouchout Castle worsened again during the decades after World War II. In the sixties of the previous century, first plans were made for a new destination of the castle. Finally, the medieval castle at the Bouchout domain was restored between 1987 and 1989. Since then it is a place for meetings, lectures and exhibitions, surrounded by the 92 hectares of the National Botanical Garden of Belgium.
Bouchout Castle (nr. 3 at the map to the left) is somewhat below the centre of the National Botanic Garden of Belgium and can be easily reached from the main entrance. To the south of the castle, the Garden Shop (number 4) at the Tenant Farm displays a large number of botanical items and books related to the garden. Further to the south-east, a large complex of greenhouses (number 5) enables the visitors to travel through various climates such as the rainforest, the mediterranean and drought- monsoon greenhouses. The large western part of Bouchout Domain includes a field of large oaks (number 20), beehouses (number 38), wild roses (number 36) and maple trees (number 23). To the east of Bouchout Castle, the former Orangery (number 10) harbours a place to relax, drink and eat.
At 17 June 2010, Bouchout Castle hosted the former Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Jan-Peter Balkenende gave a farewell party for his European friends, including Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany.
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