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Visiting Belgium

Belgium is a small country surrounded by Germany, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It's the boundary land between Latin and Germanic Europe - internally, its two main regions, Flanders and Wallonia, reflect those boundaries. Those who speak Dutch and Flemish live in Flanders; those who speak French live in Wallonia. German-speaking natives live in eastern Wallonia. Brussels, the capital, though officially bi-lingual, lies within the region of Flanders, but French is mainly spoken there. Because of the strong regional feelings in Belgium, rather than trying to speak the language of a region, it's friendlier and more diplomatic to speak English, understood by most inhabitants of Belgium.

Flanders and Wallonia

In the north, you'll find Flanders, the coastal plain of the country along the sea, with sand dunes and polders, land enclosed by dikes. The central flat plateau, to the south and in Wallonia, has many rivers and valleys, along with the Campine, an area of wetlands, heath and moors. Furthest south in the Wallonia region of Belgium are the Ardennes uplands, forested plateaus and hills and plateaus, rocky and rugged, with many caves and gorges, stretching on into France.

Belgium Breaks

The Campine is today a tourist destination for those seeking peace and quiet. Old farms have become bed-and-breakfast hotels and there are many small cafés and restaurants. Cycle touring has recently become quite popular in the area.

Belgium Cities

The cities of Belgium are lively and bustling. Many have highly anticipated parades, cavalcades and processions each year with mythological or religious themes to commemorate all types of occasions. Every February for three days in Binche, a festival with fireworks, parades and music fills the town. In the cities of Ath, Mons, Mechelen and Dendermonde, the Processional Giants and Dragons take over the city streets. The city of Aalst has a famous carnival. On August 15th, go to Liège for a summertime extravaganza. In Namur, the Waloon Festival, begun in 1832, celebrates its centuries-old traditions. Saint Nicholas Day is a celebration not only for children in Belgium but also for students in Leige celebrating time off from their schoolwork.

Brussels

Brussels has many permanent attractions for the visitor. Comic books and comic strips are very popular here, so go see the Comic Strip Museum. There are museums dedicated to three different aspects of life: Modern Art, Ancient Art and Chocolate. Modern design and fashion are the new industry in Antwerp near the mountainous Ardennes. At the other end of the country, near the sea, you'll find long splendid beaches and coastal resorts. Throughout Belgium, you'll find lace, chocolate, and beer.

Beer is to Belgium as wine is to France. Many varieties are made from the same basic recipe of hops, malted barley, yeast and water, but with a few select secret ingredients added. For centuries Belgian monasteries made brewing beer a way of life. Many commercial breweries today use these old recipes passed down from monasteries. The results of these ancient recipes are called the Abbey Beers and you'll find hundreds of different types and flavours to try.

Ghent

If you're looking for an exciting nightlife, then head for those cities with a large student population. Ghent, one of the largest cities in Belgium, has canals and Leuven has one of the oldest universities in Europe - both have a long history and lots of young people who live mostly at night. Liège, mentioned a few time above, is the largest city in the Wallonia region, but has countryside and outdoor activities aplenty.

Bruges

If you're looking for a luxury lifestyle, head for Bruges, the wealthiest city in Europe in medieval times and still living the daytime high life. It's a quiet city at night, though, feeling subdued and very relaxing for those looking for a change of pace. You'll find many more small family hotels and guest houses here in Bruges than the resort or big-city hotel chains.

Belgium Holidays

If you're looking for winter outdoor adventure in Belgium, head for the small city of Dinant in the south. Summertime is fun here too, with rock climbing and canoeing leading the list of outdoor fun. Bicycling is big in Waasland and its capital, Sint-Niklaas, near Antwerp and the River Schelde. Medieval history is the big attraction in the two cathedral cities of Tournal and Mechelen - Tournal has the bigger cathedral, while Mechelen has the larger historic district. If you're looking for great food, fresh produce and fruit, visit Sint-Truiden in Limberg in the center of Flander's agricultural district.

Getting to Belgium is easy with a constant ferry service across the English Channel and the North Sea make a visit as easy as can be. Car travel around this small country is also no problem, though, of course, cities can be tough going. Use public transit in the cities rather than a car. Give Belgium a try and you won't be sorry.

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