June 28, 2002:
is this Belgium like that awaits me?"
This was the question I asked myself before coming to this quaint country
last weekend. In
fact, I discovered that I knew very little about Belgium until I came to visit
there is no such thing as a Belgian language.
The people speak two languages—on the north side of the country they
speak Dutch (more pure than Holland, without so much English influence), and on
the south side, French.
The explanation for this is that the country holds two communities of
different origins, the Flemings (descendants of the people of Flanders) to the
north and the Walloons (Frankish descent) to the south.
Belgium is recognised as being the real country of "french" fries (not
France, neither Holland).
Also, it is the country of beer (they say there is a different kind for
each day of the year) as well as chocolate (stronger and more bitter than the
is a country that seems to be formed by a mixture of other countries and
cultures, mainly from Holland, France, and Germany.
In land area, it is a little smaller than Holland and less populated,
having about 10 million inhabitants while Holland has 16.
The Belgian architecture received a strong influence from Holland, but is
The old buildings are straight and rectangular, with large windows, as in
are also a lot of churches and buildings, many of them public, in Roman and
Gothic style. Some
buildings still are found in the Classic style, with large columns, such as
Brussels' Stock Market building.
the 16th and 18th centuries, Belgium belonged to the
Spanish Empire. In
1815, the country was annexed to Holland.
16 years later, in 1831, it became independent.
Currently, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg form what is called
the Benelux, which makes up a region without customs barriers.
strange peculiarity of the Belgian people is the difference between the culture
in the north part of the country and the south.
Their proximity to other countries, as well as their climate and
historical background have influenced each region differently (the same as what
happens and can been seen in Brazil in the different regions and sub-regions).
In Belgium's northern half, next to Holland, the majority of the people
speak English along with Dutch and French.
In the south, however, the part closer to France, they really prefer
French and are not very interested in other languages, including Dutch and
the Belgian schools, it is obligatory to teach the two most-spoken languages,
French and Dutch, along with a third, which can be English or German.
For this reason, the Belgians are very open to the world and well
not everyone knows two languages.
About one year ago, there was a train accident because the machinists
were unable to communicate by phone.
One of them spoke only Dutch, and the other only French.
They did not understand each other and the result was a head-on collision
and seven people died along with much damage.
visited three cities in Belgium: Brussels, Bruges, and Gent.
is the capital of Belgium and it is also the most populated one in the country.
It has a cosmopolitan feel with many modern undertakings and buildings.
Some years ago, due to the Belgian's predisposition to change, boldness,
and openness to Europe and the world, Brussels took on the role of the Centre of
the European Union.
because it is a large city, Brussels carries much of the country and Europe's
history inside the walls of old buildings, despite some being poorly conserved.
The best of its architecture is in the centre of the city.
Grandplace, a famous spot of the city, is a kind of square surrounded by old
buildings of a Baroque style.
In the 12th century, this was the political and economic
centre of the city.
In 1695, the square was destroyed and it took 4 years to reconstruct,
finishing by 1700.
Today, some buildings serve as governmental headquarters, as museums,
hotels, and stores.
The square is truly amazing and the buildings marvellous.
In the evening, the square takes on a very special atmosphere because of
the illumination of the buildings and the show of lights.
It is also common for cultural presentations to take place there and
music shows, which can be seen in the next images.
During the night, the centre of Brussels is very busy with a lot of
tourists walking around.
There are many bars, restaurants, pubs, and dancing halls for all tastes.
interesting point of Brussels is the Manneken Pis Fountain, which is a small
statue of a little boy urinating that dates back to 1619.
There are many legends about this statue, making it an important tourist
made me remember about a doll that came out in Brazil when I was a child called Manequinho.
Now I know from where they got the name.
beautiful spot in Brussels is the Saint-Michel Cathedral.
It began to be built in 1220 in a gothic style.
The windows, from the 16th century, are beautiful.
For those that enjoy museums, in the 500-year Park there is a museum on
the country's military history, another museum on the Belgian art history, and
another on cars.
city is famous in Europe for its medieval aspect.
All the houses are of European style, as well as the "places",
which are common throughout all of Belgium.
The "places" are a type of square but without gardens or
benches, with important buildings all around.
The buildings belonging to the city hall are magnificent and beautiful,
dating back to 1420, and the St, Saviour’s Cathedral to the 12th
is surrounded by a canal that used to serve as a protection for the city (during
the time that is also called "burg") during the Middle Ages. Along the
canal, toward the entrance of the city, there are still very old porticoes and
is a very old city, dating back to the 9th century.
It became one of the commercial centres of Europe beginning in the 11th
century, thanks to its direct access to the sea.
It was famous for its production of fabrics that were exported throughout
was also the home to the first building to exchange merchandise and money in the
world, in the house of the Van der Beurse family, which was a clan in the
The name Beurse gave origin to the word "beurs" which in Dutch
means international trade, and was later incorporated by different languages of
the 15th century, the arts and banking activities flourished
immensely in Bruges because of the arrival of the Dukes of Burgundy.
The city became the home for famous painters and during this time many of
its attractions were built such as the city hall buildings, the Old Lady Church,
the Mary of Burgundy Mausoleum, as well as churches and commercial buildings.
the passing of time, and with the swing of tides in politics, Bruges went losing
its commercial power.
Meanwhile, Antwerp, a Belgian city more to the north, which today is the
second largest port in Europe, after Rotterdam, went gaining ascendance as the
commercial hub. The
loss was so great that during the 19th century, Bruges became a poor
and backward city, so it had to take on a new role—value its history,
monuments, and culture.
Today, Bruges is known in the entire world as one of Europe's tourism
today's age, the city has become the capital of European culture and is host to
city is home to one of the main universities in Belgium. It has less tourism but still does have exceptional tourist
points. Personally, I don't think
it is any lower than Bruges. Churches,
"places", canals, old home of medieval times and even a castle called
Het Gravensteen (The Castle of Counts!), built by Philip of Alsacia, in 1180.
It is located in the centre of the city and it is possible to visit the
inside (students get a discount) and see the rooms, cellars, and forts.
It is very interesting. Inside
the castle, there is an exposition of medieval weapons, with armour, swords (huge!),
and riffles. It is incredible to
see how much attention they gave to minute details.
The armour is full of intricacies. There
is also an exposition of torture where the objects that they used to torture
criminals and prisoners can be seen. The cathedral of Sint Baafskathedraal is worth visiting.
Not only is it beautiful from the outside with a mixture of Gothic with
Romanesque style, but the interior is full of paintings and old articles.
The pipe organ dates back to 1653 and the pulpit to 1741.
Translated by Traduzca