Just a hop and a skip from Brussels is a fairy tale forest called Hallerbos. This forest is known for its floor that every spring is carpeted in purple, blooming with bluebells.
Though this past winter’s cold wave in Europe had me worried that the bluebells wouldn’t be flowering as vivaciously as they normally do this year, a half-hour train ride and shorter bus ride took me to a forest so pretty in purple that I think my lower jaw was dropped open a little bit for a long time.
The map of walking trails I found confusing, and after trying to track where I was after the first three turns, I stopped trying and started going whatever which way looked prettiest. That may not have been the brightest idea, as I got lost. I figured I’d turn around a bit earlier than it would take me to walk back if I knew where I was going and simply walk the other direction, but I ended up at a different entrance than the one I came in, and I half-ran past people’s homes and grassy fields, at one point running into an elderly French couple and their two golden retrievers who were as lost as I was, to find my way back, only to watch the bus back into town drive past just as I was exiting the forest and wait an hour for the next one.
The trip was so worth it, though. The bluebells were tiny, really, so small I had to look closely to see them, hanging in threes from their stems, and not the blanket that together they formed. Among them grew innocent white and sometimes light purple flowers called wood anemones.
Some of the trees were covered in leaves an iridescent green, the kind of green one might expect to find in a fantasy world, not in this one, and formed a canopy above the floral undergrowth. A path of dirt so soft that one padded over it wound through secret spots like thickets and from time to time turned out onto woods: tall trees, trunks bare, straight lines drawn right up into the sky, between them blossoming blue-violet, in every direction.