Grey rocky cliffs rise up out of the valley, endowing the gentle countryside of the Ardennes with its fields, meadows and woods with a wild impression. Down in the valley itself the winding River Ourthe joins up with River Amblève just below Comblain-au-Pont. You would scarcely believe that the locality contains some of the most unique mines in Belgium. This was where some of the best sandstone in the region was excavated. It can still be seen in the pavements of huge number of towns. The rock, which is particularly hard, was created more than 370,000,000 years ago from marine deposits. The layers of sandstone, between 1.5 metres and 8 metres thick, were dug out of underground pits. The work was arduous, dusty and dangerous, because sandstone could only be broken away from the cliffs with the help of explosives. In this way an underground labyrinth of pillars and galleries were created, stretching over several kilometres.
An underground gallery has been specially built for visitors to give them some idea of this labyrinth. It is in a two metre thick layer of sandstone which was being commercially exploited up to the end of the 1960s. Expert guides take visitors below ground, where they can get a vivid idea of working conditions and also appreciate how paving stone was quarried. There is a special surprise at the end of the pit: an amazing panorama view over the Ourthe valley.
The pit and its mining traditions are not the sole highlight in Comblain-au-Pont. If you want to remain underground a little longer you should visit the grotto at Abime, where you can admire the bizarre, colourful stalactites and stalagmites. And where there are caves, there are sure to be bats close by. Young and old alike can find out more about the secrets of the flying mammals from the witch Barbastella. If you prefer to look around by daylight, you should not miss a visit to the open-air museum at Saint-Martin Turm, which contains works by internationally renowned sculptors. Finally the local museum in the old 17th century vicarage offers insights into the evolution of the inhabitants of the "land of rock".
Carrière souterraine du Petit Banc
Carrières de Gèromont
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