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Nonetheless, '''English''' is widely spoken, especially in cities like Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges. Even in
 
Nonetheless, '''English''' is widely spoken, especially in cities like Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges. Even in
rural areas, most people know English at least moderately, and you should not be surprised to find a 70 year old who speaks flawless English. French is learnt in schools by everyone, but people in Flanders literally '''hate''' to speak it in general, and speaking it '''will''' most often result in severe hostility, so English is a better bet.
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rural areas, most people know English at least moderately, and you should not be surprised to find a 70 year old who speaks flawless English. French is learnt in schools by everyone, but people in Flanders literally '''hate''' to speak it in general, and speaking it '''will''' most often result in severe hostility or worse, so English is a better bet.
  
 
==See==
 
==See==

Revision as of 18:23, 24 August 2010

Flanders [1] is the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium. It is wedged between the North Sea and the Netherlands in the North and Wallonia and France in the South. This region has an immense historical and cultural wealth which is made visible through its buildings, its works of art and its festivals. Every turn of a corner will bring you something new.

Contents

Regions

Cities

  • Antwerp is Flanders' biggest city. It boasts the biggest port.
  • Bruges Brugge, also known as the "Venice of the north". A very nice medieval town with lots of small canals. Very close to the sea. One of the world's main tourist sites
  • Brussels Technically a federal district of Belgium within Flanders, so it's not part of Flanders but it's in the Flemish community and surrounded by Flanders. And it houses the Flemish governmental buildings making it Flanders' capital. Virtually wiped out in the 19th and 20th centuries to make way for all those municipal, Flemish, Belgian and even European office blocks.
  • Courtray - officially Kortrijk in Flemish - An old city in the south of West-Flanders with famous medieval towers (Broeltowers) and a big pedestrian shopping district, including a brand new shopping centre in the core of the citycentre.
  • Ghent A more medieval city located approximatively in the center of Flanders, half way between Antwerp and Brugge.
  • Hasselt Capital city of Limburg, with a lot of green and shopping possibilities.
  • Lier A small often neglected provincial town in the province of Antwerp. Has a nice beguinage.
  • Leuven An old town with a very old university and the most beautiful town hall you may ever see. Like many Belgian cities it's also home to typical traditional Belgian breweries.
  • Mechelen a small town with a picture perfect cathedral, ideal background for snapshots and popular daytrip from Antwerp and Leuven.
  • Oostende (Ostend) is a cosmopolitan 19th century beach resort. Popular as a day trip from Brugge.
  • Ypres - officially Ieper in Flemish - made famous by its destruction during the First World War; full of memorials and museums (see also Flanders Fields Country).

The historical Flanders is a bit bigger and contains cities that are now in France and in The Netherlands, like:


Understand

Nowadays, Flanders is one of the three federal regions of Belgium (the other two being Wallonia and Brussels). This means that it has its own government, a parliament and separate laws. Oddly enough the capital of Flanders is Brussels, lying in another federal region. But Flanders has travelled a long historic road before arriving at its present situation. For most of its history it was united with the Netherlands, which is still the closest partner. It was separated from the Netherlands and united with Wallonia as early as the 19th century, and the marriage is at times an unhappy and also disfunctional one.

Get in

By Plane

Flanders has several airports: First of all the national airport of Zaventem (close to Brussels)
Then there are several smaller airports: Deurne (Antwerp), Wevelgem (Courtray) and Oostende (at the coast).

By Boat

There are several ports at the coast to enter by boat and on the Schelde you can find several small ports too.
From the English coast (Dover f.e.) there are regular ferries to different cities.

By Car

The E19 goes through Flanders, also the E40 crosses the region.

By Train

Big cities in neighbouring countries (Paris, Amsterdam, London ...) have connections to bigger cities in Flanders. From there you can change train and reach every city in Flanders.

Other means

By bicycle or on foot. As we are in the European Union there are no borders and you can enter. Several places have nature parks and allow you to walk in and out (often following old-smugglers routes).

Get around

By car

All roads (highways, main roads, ...) are free in Flanders. Some tunnels can ask for a fee to pass it (fe. Liefkenshoektunnel in Antwerp) Roads are pretty good and signalisation is pretty good too. Older cities can appear to be a maze of one-way streets. Often it is better to park your car in a parking and continue on foot. Towns are not big in general.

Public Transportations

The national train-company is called NMBS [2]. Trains will get you to most cities.
In cities you will find busses, trams and metro from De Lijn [3](The Line). The same ticket is valid for 90 minutes for one zone. You can buy multiple-ride tickets (Lijnkaart), this is cheaper than buying a ticket per ride. These tickets are valid in every Flemish city.
In Hasselt public transportation is free!

By Bike

Flanders has a vast net of special roads for bicycles. Get a map in a tourists office, because sometimes they can be hard to find. In general cycling can be very pleasant, though don't expect to find many places where you can repair your bike.

Talk

The official language of Flanders is Dutch. Belgian Dutch, the official standard variety, has some vocabulary not used in the Netherlands and a distinct, soft accent but it is still standard Dutch. In terms of native language, three dialects of Dutch are spoken depending on the province: Flemish in the west (West Flanders and East Flanders), Brabantian in the centre (Antwerp, Flemish Brabant and a significant minority in Brussels) and Limburgish in the east (Limburg). In practice, these "dialects" are as different from standard Dutch as separate languages, and are divided into several "true" dialects: in fact, (West) Flemish and Limburgish even have their own writing languages. On the other hand, nearly all Flemings with the partial exception of senior ones are capable of speaking standard Dutch, and while a tourist is not expected to speak the local language, knowing a few words or phrases in the standard language will be highly appreciated.

Nonetheless, English is widely spoken, especially in cities like Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges. Even in rural areas, most people know English at least moderately, and you should not be surprised to find a 70 year old who speaks flawless English. French is learnt in schools by everyone, but people in Flanders literally hate to speak it in general, and speaking it will most often result in severe hostility or worse, so English is a better bet.

See

Historical cities, like Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Leuven or Mechelen. The first four are the Top Four tourist destinations in the country.

Do

Music Festivals

There are many music festivals organised throughout the summer. The bigger ones happen in a small village, because there is lots of space and not many neighbours to complain about the noise.
Some of the famous ones are:

  • Pukkelpop (Near Hasselt) is still an independent festival organised by youth movements. They figure big names but try to have alternative groups too.
  • Rock Werchter (Near Leuven), owned by Clearchannel features all big commercial bands.
  • Maanrock (in Mechelen) is one of the larger free festivals. It's inside the city.
  • Marktrock (in Leuven) has many different stages with different kinds of music all over the city. Most music is popular music, though there are many small bands playing there. The main stage is the only stage not to be free. Every time you enter you pay a small fee (5 euro in 2003).
  • Sfinks (Near Antwerp) is a world music festival. It has a really nice atmosphere. There is a lot of side animation, like a big market.
  • Pole-Pole
  • Openluchttheater Rivierenhof (Near Antwerp) isn't really a festival, though it has big bands all through the summer. Usually they "pick up" artists that have a few days without a gig.
  • Couleur Café
  • Werchter Classic (Near Leuven) boasts classic rock bands, but has been featuring artists that had their break-through only recently. It's mostly a re-use of the Rock Werchter facilities.
  • Graspop (Metal music), Rythm 'n Blues, Dranouter (Folk music), Cactus festival, Rock Ternat, Rock@Edegem ... (there are too many to sum up)

The festivals organised in towns are often free and very nice. They stay away from commercial music and have good bands playing combined with small local bands. Flanders has some nice music bands with some internation fame(dEUS, Das Pop, Zita Swoon, Soulwax,...)

Eat

Drink

Cafes

Every city, village or habited place has a cafe. You will find every style of café and if you have a problem this is the prime location to get help. Asking for a beer needs some of your attention as any café offers a broad range of beer kinds: blond pilsener, white beer, gueze, kriek, trappist/abbey style beers, amber colour. All beers are at reasonable prices from €1.3 to €3. Many cafes offer you even a wider range. Twenty and even more than 100 kinds of beer are no exception. Try them! They have all their own distinctive taste.

Stay safe

Flanders is very safe. You will find that people are usually very helpful. In towns, you should of course beware of usual things (pickpockets in tourist places) but outside Brussels, everything is safe.

Respect

  • The Flanders-Wallonia question or dispute and the high number of separatist and extreme-right votes in Flanders are controversial topics.
  • Avoid speaking French with the Flemings, it could cause offense, and you will probably not get your question answered. Speak either Dutch, English, or German.

Get out

If you visit Flanders it would be very logical to also visit the Walloons. Though there is a different mentality, you will find that they are Belgians just like the Flemish (lots of beer and good food).

Paris is pretty close, so are London and Amsterdam. These destinations can be reached by train easily. The Waddeneilanden in The Netherlands are also not too far.



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