The stories told from Le baraque Michels

Fagne de Polleur Travel Blog

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Along Baraque Michel

I have been driving in this area sometimes and have always been drawn by its beauty and calm. It is truly an area that attracts any kind of people that likes nature. The sheer number bikers, walkers and nature lovers, indicates that this is a special pearl for outdoor activities.

The Baraque Michel is located on the former border between Prussia and Belgium, on the desert plateau of Hautes Fagnes, famous for its harsh weather, is the second highest point of Belgium (674 m). There are very good possibilities of practice Nordic skiing in the wintertime as well.

The name of the area goes back almost 200 years. The Baraque (hut) was founded in 1811 by Michel Schmitz, from Herbiester, as an inn and shelter for lost travelers. In old times a bell was sounded here by heavy fog, which saved dozens of people in the 19th century and the same tradition still exists in the plateau of Aubrac in Auvergne, France.

In the hut there was even an "Iron Book" that listed the names of the rescued people, but it was destroyed during a blaze on 14 September 1889 but a copy had been made short before, listing 126 names.

The legend says that Michel Schmitz lost his way in the area and promised to build a shelter if he survived, which he was miraculously. He built a hut for a hermit, and later transformed it into an inn. The legend was popularized by the local writer Albert Bonjean, aka "The Cantor of the Fagne", and by several tourist guides.

The historian Klinkenberg showed that the legend was indeed another version of a much more ancient tale related by Marcellin La Garde, probably reused by the owners of the Baraque Michel to attract even more customers. The word can go mysterious ways.

During the Prussian rule on the Eastern Cantons, the Baraque Michel was used as a post house for the coaches linking Eupen and Malmedy via the Belgian territory.

Located close to the Baraque Michel, the Fischbach chapel was built in 1830-1831 by the industrial of Malmedy Henri-Toussaint Fischbach, whose father-in-law was saved around 1819 by the owner of the Baraque and who had, as a reward, transformed the hut into an inn and purchased the bell. In the past, the chapel was surmounted by a small lantern lit by the owner of the Baraque Michel every evening.

Built not far from the Baraque either and near a former Belgian-Prussian borderstone, the Engaged Couple's Cross (Croix des Fiancés) replaced in 1931 an older cross built around 1906 to commemorate the death of François Reiff and Marie Solheid.

On their way to Xhoffraix, where they had to pick papers required for their marriage, they lost their way on the Fagne during a snow storm on 22 January 1871.

Along Baraque Michel
On 22 March, a Prussian customer found Marie's body near borderstone #151. In Marie's blouse was found François' last letter, saying "Marie has just died, so will I soon". François' body was found 2 km farther near the hamlet of Solwaster.

Driving here today on a nice late summer Sunday can make these stories seem unbelievable but this is a rough area. I have been here when the weather has been close 10 degrees or more in Brussels just to find snow in this area.
Chokk says:
I liked it too - if one is allowed to say that. Belgium is full of these wonderful stories but you have to look for them. many Belgians dont know them.
Posted on: Sep 08, 2009
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Along Baraque Michel
Along Baraque Michel
Along Baraque Michel
Along Baraque Michel
Fagne de Polleur
photo by: Chokk