Veldkanstr 64, 1850
Grimbergen, Flemish Region
Middelkerke, Flemish Region
Recreatiepark Klein Strand
Varsenareweg 29, 8490
Jabbeke, Wallon Region
Belgium is a low lying country on the North Sea coast in Western Europe. With the majority of West European capitals within 1,000 km of Brussels, the seat of both the European Union and NATO, Belgium sits at the crossroads of Western Europe. Its immediate neighbours are France to the southwest, Luxembourg to the south east, Germany to the east and the Netherlands to the north.
Belgium consists of three regions, listed from North to South:
- Flanders: northern, Dutch-speaking region
- Brussels: central, bilingual region of the capital: French, Dutch
- Wallonia: southern, French-speaking region plus a small German speaking minority in the east near the German border.
Flanders and Wallonia are each divided in 5 provinces.
- Flanders: Antwerp (province), East Flanders, Flemish Brabant, Limburg and West Flanders;
- Wallonia: Hainaut, Liège, Luxembourg, Namur and Walloon Brabant
These are the major cities in Belgium.
- Brussels, Belgium's capital.
Temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy.
Belgium has a dense network of modern toll-free motorways, but some secondary roads are in poor condition. Signs are always in the local language only, except in Brussels, where they're bilingual. As many cities in Belgium have quite different names in French and Flemish, this can cause confusion. For example, Mons in French is Bergen in Flemish; Antwerp is called Antwerpen in Flemish and Anvers in French; Liège in French is Luik in Flemish, and so on. This even applies to cities outside Belgium; driving along a Flemish motorway, you may see signs for Rijsel, which is the French city of Lille.
Drivers in Belgium should also be aware of the "priority from the right" rule. At road crossings, traffic coming from the right has the right of way unless otherwise indicated by signs or pavement markings. You're most likely to encounter such crossings in urban and suburban areas. Observant visitors will notice a lot of cars with dents along their right sides! Drive defensively and your car will avoid the same fate.
In Belgium the motorway signs are notoriously inconvenient, especially on secondary roads. There is no uniformity in layout and color, many are in bad state, placed in an awkward position or simply missing. A good roadmap (Michelin, De Rouck, Falk) or a GPS system is recommended.
Speed limits in Belgium are:
- 120 km/h - motorway
- 90 km/h - open road
- 50 km/h - town
A driver's blood alcohol level is not allowed to exceed 0.25 mg/litre
- Carnival de Binche - Three days in February the town of Binche is transported back to the 16th century for one of the most fantastic festivals of the year. Highlighted by music parades and fireworks, the climax of this event is when the Gilles appear on the Grand Place and throw oranges to the spectators. This infamous festivity has been classified as part of the world's cultural heritage by UNESCO along with its renowned Gilles.
- Rock Werchter - 29 june - 2 july 2006, Werchter.
- Dour festival - "European Alternative Music Event" - 13-16 July 2006 - Dour.
- Gentse Feesten - 15 july - 24 july 2006. Huge, ten day long street festival in the historical center of the city of Ghent. The biggest street festival in Europe, with theater, music in all genres, techno parties, and so on - Gentse Feesten
A number of dishes are considered distinctly Belgian specialities and should be on every visitor's agenda.
Mussels are a firm favorite and a snack of moules et frites (mussels and fries) are to Belgium what fish and chips are to England. The traditional way is to cook them in a pot with white wine (au vin blanc), then eat them up using only a mussel shell to scoop them out. The top season is September to April, and as with all shellfish it's best not to eat the closed ones.
Despite the name, French fries (frieten in Flemish, frites in French) are proudly claimed as a Belgian invention. Whether or not this is true, they certainly have perfected it - although not everybody agrees with their choice of mayonnaise over ketchup as the preferred condiment.
Waffles (gaufres in French, wafels in Flemish) come in two types: a light and airy variety that Americans are more familiar with, known as parisiennes, or a heavier variety with a gooey center known as de Liège. They can be found at stands on the streets of the cities.
Last but not least, Belgian chocolate is famed around the world. Famous chocolatiers include Godiva, Guylian and Neuhaus, but arguably the best stuff can be found at tiny boutiques too small to build worldwide brands.
Modified: 2007-02-19 19:07:13+01