YOU CAN EDIT THIS PAGE! Just click any blue "Edit" link and start writing!

Difference between revisions of "Belgium"

From Wikitravel
Jump to: navigation, search
Belgium

Default Banner.jpg

m (Reverted edit of 210.214.89.130, changed back to last version by 199.243.220.202)
(External links)
Line 152: Line 152:
 
* [http://www.ngi.be/FR/FR4.shtm/ National Geographic Institute] - Administrative and communication maps
 
* [http://www.ngi.be/FR/FR4.shtm/ National Geographic Institute] - Administrative and communication maps
 
* Federal Portal of Belgium: http://www.belgium.be
 
* Federal Portal of Belgium: http://www.belgium.be
 +
* [http://belgium.edestinationguide.com Belgium Travel Guide]- Get travel information on all destinations
  
 
[[fr:Belgique]]   
 
[[fr:Belgique]]   

Revision as of 04:32, 5 July 2005

Flag
Be-flag.png
Quick Facts
CapitalBrussels
Governmentfederal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch
Currencyeuro (EUR)
Areatotal: 30,510 sq km
land: 30,230 sq km
water: 280 sq km
Population10,274,595 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageDutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)
ReligionRoman Catholic 75%, Protestant or other 25%
Calling Code32
Internet TLD.be
Time ZoneUTC +1

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.

Regions

Belgium consists of three regions, listed from North to South:

  • Flanders: northern, Dutch-speaking region
  • Brussels: central, bilingual region: French, Dutch
  • Wallonia: southern, French-speaking region

Flanders and Wallonia are each divided in 5 provinces.

Map of Belgium

Cities

These are the major cities in Belgium.

Other destinations

Understand

Belgium is a densely populated country trying to balance the conflicting demands of urbanization, transportation, industry, commercial and intensive agriculture. It imports large quantities of raw materials and exports a large volume of manufactured goods, mostly to the EU.

Climate

Temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy

Terrain

Flat coastal plains in northwest, central rolling hills, rugged mountains of Ardennes Forest in southeast

History

Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830. It was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II and has many war graves near the battle zones. It has prospered in the past half century as a modern, technologically advanced European state and member of NATO and the EU. Tensions between the Dutch-speaking Flemings of the north and the French-speaking Walloons of the south have led in recent years to constitutional amendments granting these regions formal recognition and autonomy.

Get in

By plane

Brussels is home to an international airport, Zaventem (IATA code BRU), about 25 minutes from the city centre with the train or the number 12 airport express bus.

There are also small airports at Charleroi (IATA code CRL, 1 hour from Brussels) and Oostende (IATA code OST, on the coast, Tel: 059/55.12.11 - Fax: 059/51.32.51).

Virgin uses Zaventem airport, Ryanair uses Charleroi, and charter flight tour operators use Oostende.

By train

There are high speed trains between Brussels, Cologne, Paris (Thalys), and London (Eurostar), as well as normal trains that run between all cities. Check out the website for SNCB/NMBS. If you are planning to travel around Belgium by train often, perhaps you should buy a "Go Pass". For 44 Euros (student price), you can buy 10 one-way trips anywhere in Belgium. Not bad considering most trips will cost you at least 7 euros.

By car

Most European highways like the E-19, E-17 and E-313 pass through Belgium.

By bus

Belgium has an extensive public transport network with frequent operating buses and trams.

By boat

There are boat services to/from England and Ireland, e.g. from Ostend.

Get around

Talk

Belgium has three official languages: French, Dutch, and German. English is widely spoken by people under 30, regardless if you are in Flanders or Wallonia. You will find that some older people do speak English but it is less likely.

Buy

  • Belgian chocolate.
  • Textiles in Bruges

Eat

Belgium is a small country in the centre of western Europe, and therefore the cuisine is influenced not only by the surrounding countries, but also by many others. This is also emphasized by many foreigners coming to this country to make a living here, for instance by starting a restaurant. You can find all types of restaurants:

  • French/Belgian: A traditional Belgian restaurant serves the kind of food you will also find in the best French restaurants. Of course there are local differences: at the coast (in France as well as in Belgium) you have a better chance to find some good seafood, like mussels, turbot, sole or the famous Nord sea shrimps. In the southern woods of the Ardennes (remember the battle of the Bulge?), you are better off choosing game or local fish like trout.
  • English/German/Dutch: You won't find them in Belgium.
  • American: There are McDonald's or look-alikes in every town. You may also find a local booth serving sausages, hot dogs or hamburgers. Try it: the meat tastes the same, but the bread is much better. And what about real American restaurants? See the previous chapter.
  • Mexican: Only in the big cities and rather costly for poor quality.
  • Chinese: They have a long tradition of restaurants in Belgium. Rather cheap, but for an acceptable level of quality. Choose chicken or pork. Not beef and certainly not fish.
  • Greek/Spanish/Italian: Like all over the world, nice, rather cheap, with a good atmosphere and typical music (Greek: Choose meat, especially lamb) (Spanish: Choose paella) (Italian: Choose pizza or veal).
  • Japanese/Thai: These types of restaurants are rather new in Belgium. You only find them in the big cities and they are very expensive. But they give you great quality.
  • Arabic/Turkish: Rather cheap, with a variety of local dishes, especially with lamb, no fish or pork or beef.
  • And many, many others! Belgium offers a wide selection of international restaurants.
  • Belgian "French fries". These are called frites (meaning "fries" in French), and they are world-renowned. Belgium proudly claims the title of inventor of the French fry. Whether or not this is true, they certainly have perfected it.

General rules:

  • Belgium is a country which understands what eating is all about, and can be a real gastronomic paradise. You can have a decent meal in about every tavern, from small snacks to a complete dinner. Just pop into one of those and enjoy it. You really are going to ask, why isn't this possible in other countries?
  • If you want to eat really well for not too much money, ask the local people or the hotel manager (that is, supposing he does not have a brother restaurant-manager) to give some advice for a good restaurant.
  • There is a price for everything: expensive food like lobster or turbot will always cost a lot of money at any restaurant. But you can also find some local and simple dishes, rather cheap and still very tasty (e.g. sausages, potatoes and spinach).

Drink

Belgium offers an incredible diversity of beers. The most well known are Stella Artois, Duvel (literally: the Devil, beware, 8.5%!), Leffe, Jupiler (plain standard beer), Hoegaarden (white beer). The names given to some beers are pretty imaginative: eg Verboden Vrucht (Forbidden Fruit), Judas, Delirium Tremens. Some really exquisite ones are the beers that are still brewed in monasteries, the most famous being the "West-Vleteren" beer: dark strong beer, delicious!

Sleep

Belgium has many fine hotels, but the best are located in Antwerp, Brussels and the Ardennes region of Belgium.

Learn

The level of Belgian education and universities rank among the highest of the world. The other side of the medal is that Belgian students have to study for long periods.

Work

The Belgian economy is slowly returning to pre-1999 levels, but has still a long way to go. Bilingual people will have the most chance to find work. Knowledge of the German language is always appreciated.

Stay safe

Most other cities are safe, but always use your common sense. Don't walk in empty streets. Don't show off your expensive equipment or jewelry, etc.

Stay healthy

In the winter, like most other countries, only influenza will cause you an considerable inconvenience. No inoculations are needed to enter or leave Belgium.

Respect

There are a few sensitive points you really should take in consideration: - Most Belgians do not like to discuss their wages or their political preferences. - Talking about "Vlaams Belang" (which is the new name of the political party Vlaams Blok) or right-wing politics will spark very heated discussions. - Like The Netherlands, Belgium has a considerable Moroccan and Turkish community. Please respect their customs.

Contact

Belgium has a modern telephone system with nationwide cellular telephone coverage.

External links

This article is still a stub and needs your attention. It does not have a template. Please plunge forward and help it grow!