Huron County Road Trip

Google Maps, 2021

Although some travel is beginning to return, many people are not ready for a full European vacation just yet. But did you know that you can take a European city tour without leaving Huron County? The Huron County Museum’s acting Education & Programming Coordinator Dan Genis has put together a great fall road trip around the County where you can visit our local ‘European’ cities.

Brussels, ON

Postcard of Main Street, Brussels, ON. Huron County Archives

Brussels, Huron East, Huron County, ON: Founded as Ainleyville in 1855, Brussels was chosen by railway workers as the name for the new train station when the railway came to town. In 1872 the village was officially incorporated as Brussels and it quickly grew into a prosperous community with many industries, churches, and a main street of fine brick blocks. For more on the history of Ainleyville/Brussels, see Maddy Gilbert’s blog. Today Brussels features fantastic accommodations, delicious restaurants, and unique shops and studios. Take a Historic Walking Tour, stroll through the Brussels Conservation Area, or picnic by the dam in this enchanting village.

European version: Brussels, Belgium: The capital city of Belgium, the headquarters for NATO, and the de facto capital of the European Union, Brussels is one of the most important and multicultural cities in the world. The city is also lined with art galleries and cafes, with beautiful art nouveau streetscapes and a charming medieval town centre.

Better version? Brussels, Huron County – Too many politicians in the Belgian version.

Belfast, Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, Huron County, ON: First called Newcastle, the name was changed to Altonville when the settlement was registered in 1858. Soon after many families from the north of Ireland settled in the area, and by 1879 the village name was recorded as Belfast. At one time Belfast had a post office, general store, blacksmith shop, hotel and tavern, and one of the first Orange Lodges in the county. Although only a few structures remain in this four-corner community, it lies in the centre of an oasis of quiet country and cottage life. Explore the picturesque countryside, check out the fall colours in the Lake Wawanosh Conservation Area (parking at 85442 Creek Line), or if it is the end of the day, enjoy a breathtaking Huron County sunset.

European version: Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom: The capital and largest city in Northern Ireland, Belfast has shaken off its industrial and troubled past to become known as a hip and vibrant party town. It also boasts a state-of-the art museum that tells the story of the ill-fated RMS Titanic, which was built in the shipyards there.

Better version? Belfast, Huron County – Huron County’s Belfast was in no way connected to the Titanic sinking.

Varna, ON

“Just a Post Card from Varna…Too Busy to Write”, dated Feb 5, 1914. Black and white photo of Beatty’s store and the Sterling Bank of Canada. Huron County Archives, 2008.0032

Varna, Bluewater, Huron County, ON: Varna was named by settler Josiah Secord after the Black Sea city that was home to the French and British fleets during the Crimean War. Although there already existed a log school and tavern when Secord arrived in 1854, he opened the first store and post office in the village. It was not long before a cooper, hotel, blacksmith, saw mill, and Anglican church opened and Varna was a bustling community. Today Varna is home to an outstanding craft brewery, picturesque hiking trails at Bannockburn Conservation Area and the Varna Nature Trails, all within 10 minutes of beautiful Lake Huron.

European version: Varna, Bulgaria: Bulgaria’s third largest city sits on the Black Sea and dates back to Ancient Greek and Roman times. Part port city and part seaside resort, Varna has vast parks, large beaches, and an impressive archeological museum and Roman bath complex.

Better version? Varna, Huron County – The Black Sea is too salty.

Zurich, ON

Postcard of Goshen Street, Zurich, ON, dated July 4, 1910. Visible businesses P. Benders and Co. headquarters for Boots and Shoes. The steeple in the background is the Lutheran Church. Huron County Archives, A991.0052

Zurich, Bluewater, Huron County, ON: Zurich was founded in 1856 and soon boasted a mill, hotel, schoolhouse, and the Hay Township Hall. Known for its Swiss and German heritage, this influence can be seen in the impressive clock tower at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, which was designed by George Hess and was completed in 1878. Today it is one of only three “Canadiana Tower Clocks” in Canada still operating as it was designed to run. The nearby artisan boutiques, wineries, fruit markets, and craft brewery make Zurich a charming and unique stop.

European version: Zürich, Switzerland: One of Europe’s financial centres and the largest and wealthiest city in Switzerland, although not the capital (that would be Bern). Zürich manages to combine a historic city centre full of winding streets and churches with a modern hip and artsy culture.

Better version? Zurich, Huron County – Switzerland is notoriously hilly – no thanks.

Honourable Mention: Dublin, Perth County, ON: Founded as Carronbrook in 1854, settler Joseph Kidd changed the name to Dublin in 1878 after his hometown. When salt was discovered down the road in Seaforth, Kidd piped the salt brine to an evaporation plant he had built in Dublin. He also constructed a sawmill and a business block on the main street. Today, Dublin is known as “Ontario’s Furniture Village”, and predictably has some great shops selling furniture and housewares. Although technically just over the border in neighbouring Perth County, Dublin has historical ties to Huron County and gets an honourable mention here.

European version: Dublin, Republic of Ireland: From its Gaelic and Viking beginnings to its 18th century heyday, all of the medieval castles and cathedrals make Dublin feel like an open-air museum. It also features over 1000 pubs along with Guinness’ famous St. James’s Gate Brewery, and has a world class live music scene to boot.

Better version? Dublin, ON– Far fewer U2 cover bands here.