Every time I think of Belgium, I get a spasm of longing and a desire to visit it again. Because of work, I have mostly travelled for years during the winter months when the whole world seems to be sleeping and looking gloomy without leaves and green colours, waiting for the sun and spring. The advantage of travelling in the winter certainly means fewer crowds, but unfortunately due to the weather conditions, it often means a lack of experiences that must be missed due to the force of circumstances.
I am writing this because I also visited Belgium at the end of winter and because of that, for example, I missed a boat ride in Antwerp and Bruges. But everything else was more than enough for me to fall completely and irrevocably in love with Belgium.
10 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT BELGIUM
- BELGIAN IS NOT SPOKEN IN BELGIUM Belgium is divided into three language units: Dutch, which is called Flemish in Flanders, French in Wallonia and German in eastern Belgium. The capital city of Brussels is bilingual. From my experience, it was much easier to use English in the Flemish and German areas.
- BELGIUM IS A KINGDOM and a constitutional monarchy established after the revolution of 1830 and 1831. The king symbolizes the unity and permanence of the nation. In Belgium, there are 7 parliaments and 4 governments. The Kingdom of Belgium is organized as a federal community of Flanders, Wallonia and the Brussels Capital Region.
- BELGIUM IS NAMED after the original Celtic tribe Belgae. Under the Romans, as a Roman province, it was called Gallia Belgica.
- THE DIAMOND CAPITAL OF THE WORLD ANTWERPEN is the second-largest Belgian city. More than half of the diamonds sold worldwide pass through this city. Antwerp is the most populous city in Flanders, and its port is the second largest in Europe.
- In my opinion, more valuable capital than one of the diamonds is the one of CHOCOLATE! Belgium produces more than two hundred thousand kilograms of chocolate a year. Zaventem Airport is the place where the most chocolate in the world is sold.
- To some are diamonds, to the other chocolate, or beer. BELGIUM PRODUCES MORE THAN 1,500 TYPES OF BEER, and Belgian beer culture was included on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage in 2016.
- THE BIG BANG THEORY AND THE SAXOPHONE have in common the Belgian origin of their inventors. The big bang theory was proposed by the Belgian astronomer and professor of physics Georges Lemaître. The saxophone was invented in Belgium in 1840 by the Belgian instrument manufacturer Adolphe Sax.
- COMICS, THE NINTH ART chose Belgium as one of its nests because the Smurfs, Asterix, Lucky Luke, Tintin came from here.
- THE BELGIAN FLAG consists of vertically placed lines from left to right, black, yellow and red. The coloUrs represent black for humility, yellow for prosperity, and red for victory. They are taken from the lion, which is the Belgian national symbol. The lion is golden (yellow), has a red tongue and claws and is on a black background.
- Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, a city south of Brussels.
One of the problems with the first visit to a foreign country is the effort to see as much as possible. At least it is for me because I’m headlessly chasing and touring planned locations that I don’t really know much about. And what I know does not benefit me in advance because I fully experience the place and its story only when I visit it. And that’s why I always have a need to go back to the same place at least one more time.
And to make a long story short, the cities I visited during my short stay in Belgium are Antwerp, Ostend, Brussels, Mons, Hasselt and my favourite of all Bruges and Ghent. I will briefly provide some information about each city. By the way, I have to admit that I was impressed by how well developed the transport infrastructure is in Belgium.
Small and sweet like pralines, Belgium is a country for everyone’s taste, no metter is it chocolate, beer, culture, architecture or nature.
ANTWERPEN or in French ANVERS is located in Flanders. It is one of the largest European ports since the 19th-century. It is an important trade and financial centre, and it is best known for its diamond processing. In the historic centre of the city, above which rises the slender tower of the Gothic cathedral, there are also incredibly beautiful buildings of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classicism and Art Nouveau. A key role in the development of Antwerp was played by the discovery of America and the delivery of looted treasures from it to European ports.
The famous 17th-century Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens lived and died in Antwerp. There is also Plantin Moretus, a museum of printing included in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites in Europe in 2005. It is also the only museum in the world included in this list.
Apart from the Grote Markt square, I was especially impressed by the Het Steen fortress, the oldest landmark in Antwerp located along the Scheldt river. It was used as a prison for more than five hundred years. Today, it also houses the oldest half-hour hourglass in the world.
“Het Steen Fortress”
“The monument to Rubens”
HASSELT is another Flemish city, located along the Demer River in the Limburg area of the Flemish region. For centuries it was a market and home of distilleries. A gin called Hasselt Spirit is still produced there. Every year in Hasselt there is a festival of spirits Hasseltse Jeneverfeesten dedicated to the drink jenever, a type of gin made from spruce berries. I spent the least amount of time in this city so I didn’t get to meet it beyond walking around the centre. And I regret it now because I didn’t get to visit any of its museums, especially the Fashion Museum or one of the gardens, like lavender. Apart from a boat cruise along the Albert Canal, the city can also be experienced on a panoramic flight by air balloon or plane.
Wow! I want to go back!!
OOSTENDE is a Belgian city where I saw one of my most beautiful churches. Church of St. Peter and Paul, is a neo-Gothic church with beautiful stained glass, built in 1907. It houses a chapel with the tomb of Queen Louise-Marie of Belgium who died of tuberculosis in Oostende in 1850. On the North Sea coast of Oostende there are actually six beaches: Oosterstrand, Klein Strand, Groot Strand, Sportstrand, Mariakerke beach and Raversijde beach. They are a total of 7 kilometres long and approximately 80 meters wide.