“Belgium? You studied the Belgian language there, huh? Wait, no, they speak German there because it’s that one city in Germany, right?”
You must forgive these people we call Americans. Don’t get me wrong; I love the United States a lot and as much as I joke about moving abroad, I can be certain that I’ll be living in the US for the remainder of my life according to my own liking. I suppose that my longtime fascination with Belgium put me under the assumption that everyone in this world knew that Belgium was at least its own country. Clearly, I was wrong about that. The amount of ignorance I came across with Belgium became so vast that I grew to be impressed when meeting people who actually knew it was its own country. They got brownie points if they knew it was the country that had a large population of French and Dutch-speaking people…and they garnered even more points if they knew that German was the third official language. Enough about this, let me move to the core subject: Belgium.
Photo above: There’s Belgium. That little green country neighboring Holland, France, Germany, & Luxembourg. The northern half is Flanders: the Dutch-speaking population. The southern half is Wallonia: the French-speaking population. They don’t get along quite well with each other. The tiny spot in the middle, where Flanders is located, is Brussels, the capital city of Belgium.
So what’s the fuss about Belgium? If you read my last post, you should know by now that I studied French in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium at Université catholique de Louvain last January to May 2013. While in Belgium, I visited Brussels, Ixelles, Louvain-la-Neuve, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Wavre, Charleroi, & Namur. Though I said I’ll cover each city I visited, this little blog post will serve as yet another introductory post – this time, just on Belgium since I spent the majority of my time there. I wanted to cover the basics before I truly delved into the specifics.
Photo above: Map of Belgium. Louvain-la-Neuve is too small to even make it on this map, but to give you an idea of its location, it’s close to Namur, the city that’s kind of in the middle.
What is Belgium famous for?
- Beer – over 800 beers are produced in this tiny country, where the average Belgian consumes an average of 150 litres of beer per person per year.
- Chocolate – they produce over 220K tonnes of chocolate per year. The pralines were invented in Brussels by a man named Jean Neuhaus. I’ll eventually share my pretty interesting story about my recent visit to the first ever Neuhaus shop in the world. Stay tuned 😉
- Mussels – I never knew just how much I loved mussels until I studied in Belgium. I could eat it all day, everyday.
- Fries – I’m not the biggest fan of fries, but the Belgian fries are something else. You have to eat it with sauce andalouse – perfection. It’s quite unfortunate that the sauce isn’t sold in the US. Good thing I purchased enough to last me a few years.
- Lace – I don’t personally care too much for stuff like this, but it’s pretty.
- Tintin – You know, that famous comic with the boy and his dog? I actually had to create a Tintin comic for one of my classes.
- Going 589 days with no elected government – Yeah, shit got real.
- Cities – Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, & Antwerp
I’ll write soon to let you know why you should spare a few days out of your next European adventure to enjoy Belgium. If anything, you’ll be happy you tasted any of the food/drink items listed above.
In the meantime, if you want to learn more about this tiny country, please take a few extra minutes to watch this YouTube clip. You won’t be disappointed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ceg6NQKHd70