Belgium is located in Western Europe, North of France, West of Germany, South of the Netherlands, and it borders the North Sea. Across the North Sea is London. Belgium is a Federal Kingdom with 2 States and the capital Brussels. The Northern State is Flanders, where 6 million Flemings live. They speak Dutch. The Southern State is Wallonia, where 3 million Walloons live. They lost their native language and speak now French. One million people live in Brussels, the capital of Flanders, Belgium and the European Community. It is a very international city, where French is the dominant language. Belgium has the size of Maryland, and was created by the international powers of the era in 1830.
The climate is temperate, with an abundance of rain year round. This results in a very green landscape in between many villages, towns and cities. Belgium looks like a big park, with almost no large open spaces. The landscape evolves from very flat near the coast and the North, over gentle hills 50 miles in land to the wilder Ardennes, where plateaus and forested hills dominate. Highest point is less than 2000 feet.
Visitors come to Belgium for the history, the good food, and the fantastic beers. More than 2,000 years of history are packed in this little country. Flanders was the center of the cultural and economic world in the 13th and 14th century. The most beautiful chateaus, belfries, city halls, abbeys, cathedrals and mansions overwhelm your senses. I forgot the abundance of world-class museums on art, technology and history. Some of the most important battles of Europe were fought on Belgian territory, the latest being the Battle of the Bulge at the end of 1944. Bruges is one of the most beautiful cities of the world. It kept its medieval splendor by missing the industrial revolution. Cities like Brussels, Antwerpen, Gent, LiÃ¨ge, Namur, and many of the small towns integrated their glorious past with the demands of a modern society.
Flanders is one of the most dynamic and richest regions in the world. Its population is highly educated, multi lingual and very hard working. Wallonia has the most beautiful nature, and is more rural. It still suffers from the decline of its classic industrial past (coal, iron) at the end of the last century. However, along the highway Brussels â€“ Luxembourg emerge companies involved in pharmaceuticals and new technologies.
Belgium sits right on top of the crossroads of four cultures: Dutch, German, French and English. What is now Belgium has been invaded and occupied by almost all powers of Europe: Romans, Germans, Vikings, Spain, France, Austria, and the English-American culture since WW II. Everybody infused traces of their culture in the architecture, in the art, but also in the culinary pleasures of the land. Every restaurant creates, decorates and serves food dishes to lick your fingers. The saying is: German portions of French delicacies. Belgium is the best country for gastronomy. Period.
Beer aficionados all over the world consider Belgian beer to be the best. Belgium has the widest selection of beer styles with the widest pallet of taste, aroma and flavor. Beers brewed by monks, beers aged in oak for up to three years, beer kept alive for many years and aged up to 30 years, fruit beers, hoppy beers, sweet beers, high alcohol beers, spiced beers, you can't imagine the wide variety. Here are some of the best to ask for: Gulden Draak, Petrus Oud Bruin, Poperings hommel ale, Ename triple, Brugse Zot, Troubadour Obscura, Scotch de Silly, Bieken Honey ale, Sara buckwheat ale, etc.
When visiting Western Europe, start in Belgium, it is located in the heart of Europe. From here all major cities in the other European countries are nearby. Spent time in Bruges, Gent and Antwerp, and I assure you of the time spent in Europe, the days spent in Belgium will be the moments you remember with the highest regard.