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Impressions of Belgium

Belgium is part of what historically are the 'Lower Countries', along with the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The three were jointly part of the Habsburg Empire, until the North, what is now the Netherlands, managed to fight its way to independence from Spanish Habsburg occupation in the 1570s; Belgium and the Netherlands became one single country again after Napoleon Bonaparte had been defeated at Waterloo in 1815, but this Union lasted only 15 years. There is still some discussion of what went wrong and who was to blame... It does not really matter, in 1830 the Belgian Kingdom entered the club of independent nations in the new Europe crafted after the fall of Napoleon. The Kingdom would even acquire a little piece of Germany after the Great War, as a 'war compensation'. And so it comes that nowadays Belgium is probably the most complex country on the continent, with federal and federated institutions delicately catering for three language groups, Dutch in the North, French in the South and some 80,000 German speakers living on a thousand square kilometres in the East. No surprise then, that the country has multiple faces to get acquainted with, moreover against a background of a diverse medieval mosaic of feudal Counties of Flanders, Brabant and Hainaut, Prince-Bishops of Liège and East Francian Dukes. The cocktail has furthermore been spiced up with occupations by Romans, Spanish, Austrians, French and others I may be overlooking. Belgium, a country with a very peculiar own identity: a piece of land astride the Germanic and the Latin worlds, too much to the North to be Mediterranean, too much to the South to be Northernly, and flat enough to be preferred by generals to fight their battles: Waterloo in 1815 and Ypres a century later... The outcome of it all is that there is certainly no lack of historical landmarks, old medieval city centres scattered over the entire country and monuments reminding of events which changed the continent and the world. And apart from that, in spite of its high density of population, Belgium has plenty of natural treasures to discover, from the wide sandy beaches of De Panne and the alluvial Zwin nature park to the bucolic meanders of the Scheldt River near Saint Amands, from the Campine heath to the High Fens in the East and the forested, rocky Ardennes in the South-East. All on a strip of land the size of the State of Maryland in the US. No, definitely not, size does not matter!

Brussels

Main Flemish Cities

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Ghent, Bruges & Antwerp

Wallonia

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