Sandwiched between France and Holland, a drive through Europe will
take you past this country which has parts of it that speak French (Wallonia
and Brussels), Dutch (Flanders and Brussels), and German in the
eastern vicinity of the kingdom. English is also used making it a
fourth language spoken in the country, albeit unofficially.
Gastronomically, Belgium is known for its chocolates. Enjoyed all
over the world, Belgian chocolates are the most expensive and of the
highest grade. Belgium is rumored to have invented the fast food
staple, French fries, used in another favorite dish, mussels and
chips. Belgium is also known for its beer and waffles.
A federal state and a constitutional
monarchy, Belgium is divided into 3 types of terrain: the northern part
of the country, known as Low Belgium, is flat with a smattering small
hills and sandy beaches. Middle Belgium, in the heart of the country,
consists of rover valleys and rolling hills. High Belgium in the south
rises more than two thousand feet above sea level in the Ardennes
The climate in Belgium varies as one goes inland. The area near the sea
is mild and humid. It becomes warmer towards the center of the country.
Hot summers and cold winters characterize the seasons in the region of
Ardennes. The center of the country which is Brussels, rainfall
throughout the year is spread evenly.
One of the most industrialized countries in Europe, Belgium has the
advantage of being at the heart of the continent with excellent
transport facilities. It is a major producer of steel and iron and it
exports most of its output products all over the world. Belgium is also
gaining importance in the service economy and has a secure place in the
list of top tourist destinations.
The nation’s capital, Brussels (a city that speaks both Dutch and
French), is home to the NATO headquarters and several other European
institutions. The city also hosts several conventions and exhibitions
throughout the year.
Belgium is also famous in history as the
location of the Battle of Waterloo, the last great war waged against the
French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. It is here in 1814 that Napoleon
surrendered to the Duke of Wellington.
The name “Belgium” gets its name from an
ancient Celtic tribe called the Belgae. Belgium had once been part of
the Roman region of Galia Belgica or Belgian Gaul along with the
Netherlands, northern France, and parts of Switzerland. When Mary of
Burgundy, daughter or Charles the Bold (the last Burgundian ruler),
married Maximilian I (from the Hapsburg family of Germany), all realms
under Brugundian rule passed on to the Hapsburghs. Their grandson,
Charles V, became emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and made Belgium (which
had been part of the Netherlands) a sovereign state under Spain. When
France went to war with Spain, several areas were taken over by that
country. In the 18th century, Belgium had parts of it belonging to the
Dutch and parts of it belonging to the French. Belgium gained
independence in 1839 and has since been a neutral state, much like
Belgium is also known as the home of many great artists in the field of
arts and literature. In the Middle Ages, Jean Froissart and Philippe de
Comines both wrote in French and are counted among the finest writers of
their generation. In 1911, Maurice Maeterlick, poet and playwright, won
the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Famous Belgians of the Renaissance period include the Flemish painters
Jan and Hubert van Eyck, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and Hieronymous
Bosch, all known for their outstanding contributions in the visual arts.
17th century painters Anthony Van Dyck, and Rubens are considered to be
the greatest of the Flemish painters. Rene Magritte, James Ensor, and
Paul Delvaux head the 20th century Belgian artists.
yet low-key, Belgium is a country of connaisseurs and expensive taste.
Lying in the heart of Europe, several neighboring countries have tried
to lay claim to some portions of it as exemplified in the Spanish,
Dutch, Austrian, and French architectural influences in the country’s
landscape and habits of its citizens. Excellent examples of different
styles of architecture from the Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, and Art
Nouveau eras are scattered all over the country.
In the applied arts, one of the forefathers of the movement known as Art
Nouveau is Victor Horta, a Belgian architect. Henry van de Velde has
also made his mark in the field of modern architecture.A famous
fictional character of Belgian nationality is British novelist Agatha
Christie’s Hercule Poirot. Many mistake him for being French because he
comes from the French-speaking side of the country. But he will proudly
say that he is “Belgian, not French”.
Belgium is a country rich in history, the arts, and culture. You have
not been to Europe if you haven’t been to Belgium.