As Belgian travel bloggers we continuously try to not only look at what is good and interesting about other countries, but we try to appreciate our own surroundings as well. You can even see this as the mission statement of ‘About Something Around’: appreciate what is around you, whether it’s a country you’re visiting or your home country. Because of this we would like to show you why Belgium is awesome!
Small country, LOTS to see!
Belgium might be a rather tiny country, just a small dot on a world map, but there is so much to see here! Imagine booking a hotel in Brussels, a central location in the country and the capital of both Belgium AND Europe. When you travel by train you can get almost anywhere in Belgium within two hours! You can spend a day at the beach, go hiking in the Ardennes, visit gorgeous historical cities such as Bruges, Ghent or Antwerp and enjoy their museums, shopping opportunities, gorgeous architecture… That is the advantage of such a small country: you can very easily go from one place to another and spend one day discovering the parliament of Europe in Brussels and the next day canoeing on the Meuse river in Dinant without even having to unpack in another hotel.
Once upon a time, Belgium was part of the Burgondian Netherlands, ruled by the Duke of Burgundy. Even though this was over 500 years ago, the Belgians have kept their Burgondian lifestyle right to today! Being foodies is apparently part of our culture! First of all is of course the Belgian beer. There are over 800 different kinds brewed in Belgium and our beer is simply world class. It’s not just us saying it, just have a look at the World Beer Awards! Want some food along with your beer? How about some fries? They might be called ‘French fries’, but they really are Belgian. They are probably called this way because of the American soldiers stationed in the Ardennes during the Second World War. The language in the Ardennes is French and so the term ‘French fries’ was born. Belgium is of course also known for its sweets: our famous Belgian Waffles and gourmet chocolate. Our tiny country produces over 220.000 tonnes of chocolate every year which amounts to 22kg of chocolate per inhabitant each year!
Capital of Europe
Tiny, tiny Belgium as the capital of big, big Europe! As a founding member state of the European Union (EU), the Belgian capital Brussels was quickly appointed to be the seat of parliament. The EU does not have an official capital, nor plans to declare one, but Brussels hosts many of the official seats of the European Council, Council of the European Union, European Parliament and the European Commission and can therefore be seen as the de facto capital. Not only is Brussels the home of many European institutions, it is also very centrally located in Europe. You can go from Brussels to world famous cities such as Paris, London or Amsterdam in about two hours by train! (when there aren’t any traffic problems obviously 😉 ).
Dating back from the Middle Ages art has always been important for Belgium. Just look at the ancient monasteries. The extremely talented Flemish Primitives like Jan van Eyck and Rogier Van der Weyden, with their renaissance style paintings are also very impressive. Or what about Baroque style of Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck? If you are more into Surrealism, you can’t miss the museum of René Magritte… This artist has a very unique style which is easy to recognize. Architecture has also always been a great part of the local culture. This goes from gothic churches to the gorgeous Art Nouveau style of Victor Horta. Of course Belgium also offers internationally known contemporary art, like the painter Luc Tuymans, the photographer Dirk Braeckman and the singer Stromae.
Belgium is the birthplace of many amazing inventions. For example the contraceptive pill as we know it today was developed by gynecologist dr. Ferdinand Peeters. He took an idea that had been partially developed in the United States but didn’t quite work yet and improved it. In the small Walloon city Dinant, music was changed tremendously in 1840 by Adolphe Sax. As you might have guessed by his name: he is the inventor of the saxophone. Without him we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy gorgeous tunes such as the ‘Girl From Ipanema’ by Stan Getz or ‘Baker Street’ by Gerry Rafferty! Even what us bloggers do wouldn’t be possible in the way we do it today if it hadn’t been for some amazing Belgians! The World Wide Web (WWW) was co-invented by computer scientist Robert Cailliau and the JPEG conversion for image compression was invented by mathematician Ingrid Daubechies! Furthermore, roller skates, asphalt, pralines, BMI, oil paintings, … All Belgian!
Last but not least: some interesting records!
- Longest tramway line in the world! The Belgian coast tram runs from De Panne at the French Border right up to Knokke-Heist at the Dutch border. This 68km line opened in 1885 and is still used a lot today.
- The Belgian motorway system is the only man-made structure visible from space! Belgium has a very dense road network, which is very well lit. Therefore it is very easy to spot from space.
- Most comic book writers per square kilometer! You all know Tintin, the Smurfs and Lucky Luke, but there are many, many more Belgian comics. It even has more comic book writers than Japan.
- The smallest city in the world! Durbuy claims to be the smallest city in the entire world. It was granted city rights during the Middle Ages and has kept them since, even thought it now has less than 500 inhabitants.
- Most castles per square kilometer! When thinking of beautiful, historical castles, you might be thinking about France or Germany, but think again! It’s actually Belgium which holds this amazing record!