For this Sunday dictionary entry, DailyNord makes a stop at Bergues. Pronounced “berg” with a hard ‘g’ for those of you who didn’t know.
Northern town of 3,900 inhabitants with a reputation out of all proportion to its small size.
Pretty little Flemish town, located in the Blootland (yes, there is such a thing and it’s geographically part of the Flemish coastal plains), 10 kilometres from Dunkirk, Bergues is above all known by the locals for its belfry (47 metres, 193 steps), its ramparts and its pretty town centre.
But that was all before. In 2007, Dany Boon decided to point his cameras there to film Welcome to Ch’ti-land. And who gives a hoot if the purists say that the Ch’tis have nothing to do with Flanders; it’s only a film after all. The film came out in 2008 and was a great success. 20 million cinema tickets sold and Bergues became a bit like Saint-Tropez. Version “Gendarme”*, not jet-set of course. And people started coming from all over France to visit the places that featured in the seventh art’s masterpiece and to try to get a glimpse of an old binnie dunking her Maroilles** sarnie in her coffee.
The wily Bergouis homesteaders knew how to get the most out of this sudden interest in their town. The moment the film came out, they launched a Ch’ti Tour, a guided visit tracing the film. From 1,670 guided tours in 2007, the number reached 25,000 in 2008 and 33,000 in 2009. In 2014, the count was still around 9,000 without forgetting the Northerners who bring their families to wander up and down Bergues’ streets, proud to finally have something to show off to the Parisians other than the local slag heaps.
Strangely, while several local shopkeepers still display paraphernalia pertaining to Dany Boon, not one wishes to be identified with the pornographic remake of the film made some months later, Welcome to Hot Ch’ti-land***. They are a civilised people after all.
** The North is famous for its Maroilles cheese said to pong even more than Camembert.
*** This is not the official title in English which does not exist as such.
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