Eeklo’s medieval bakery serves piping-hot bread on a platter

Summary

Legend has it that a wizard who lived on the Huysmanhoeve farm in Eeklo used to chop off people’s heads and bake them in the oven

The wizard of dough

As medieval legend has it, the wizard-baker of Eeklo could help people unsatisfied with their facial appearance by chopping off their heads and putting them in the oven. For a spell.

Of course, the story merely served to warn people about the perils of complaining about such superficialities and be happy with what God gave them. But it’s one of those legends that has a tendency to stay imprinted in the mind of the locals.

References to the old “head re-baker” are everywhere in this East Flemish town, with perhaps the strongest link at Eeklo’s oldest farm, the Huysmanhoeve. Huysmanhoeve’s monumental gate dates back to 1411, but the history of the site goes even further, to 1241.

In the restored baking oven, heads once rolled. Today, thankfully, the only thing sliding into the oven are loaves of artisanal bread.

Millions of euros in grants and subsidies have allowed the City of Eeklo to pump resources into the historically invaluable site. Together with the Meetjesland Rural Centre, Huysmanhoeve has transformed in recent years into the beating heart of the region’s cultural heritage and into a platform for fun and educational projects touting the virtues of the countryside.

Huysmanhoeve is buzzing with activity in the summer months. Until September, visitors can enjoy a slice of homemade cake or organic lemonade on the terrace of a cafe that used to be a house and cow stall, while watching the resident sheep graze. Or come on 25 August and 1 September for open-air films on the big screen, installed in one of the farm’s high-stem fruit orchards.

If Sunday morning aperitif concerts are more your thing, visit the farm for drinks and jazz. Stick around on 28 August for the third and final Huysmanhoeve picnic of the season. Don’t forget to bring along a picnic basket or pre-order one filled with local delicacies.

Piping-hot bread (and bread only) will come out of the historic oven on baking demonstration days, with full explanation of the traditional method provided by in-house bakers, followed by tastings.

Baking demonstration and jazz concerts: 28 August, 11 & 25 September