Part of my day in Mechelen, Belgium was spent first looking for, and then wandering around an old part of town called the 'Large Béguinage' (Groot Begijnhof). No idea how to pronounce that, and what I was saying to myself would probably not be recognisable if I asked for directions! But anyway, a Béguinage is an enclosed complex built for Béguines which are a particular flavour of Nun. Béguinages were built from the 13th Century onwards in France and the Low Countries. The Flemish Béguinages (in Flanders in Belgium) are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site as a group, with a nice description on the site here.
The Large Béguinage was interesting to walk around, although not really dramatic as it merges into the regular 'old' streets around, which can be hard to know if you're quite in the right place sometimes! The Amsterdam 'Begijnhof' version is smaller but more enclosed with a big central courtyard, and probably more obviously 'Nunnish'. The Béguinage was centered around their church, the baroque Begijnhofkerk, which will be included in my next post on Mechelen, and was nice and dark and opressive, just to my taste!