July 21, 2010

Independence Day – Belgium
This day commemorates the day in 1931 when Belgium was granted independence from the Netherlands.

Belgium is an unusual country because it quite small―a little bit smaller than the state of Maryland―but it has two distinct languages and peoples. In the north, called Flanders, live Flemish people who speak Dutch (a Germanic language). In the south, called Wallonia, live Walloons, who speak French (a Latin language).

When we went to Belgium, we felt a bit confused. We flew into Brussels (the capital city), which is mostly French speaking,but which lies in the Dutch-speaking Flanders. We drove to a small town in the Dutch-speaking region and stayed with a French-speaking family. When we went to visit various towns and sights, there were quite likely to be two different names for our destinations―the Dutch version and the French version. An example of this is the charming, canal-crossed town of Brugge (Dutch, pronounced broo-gha) or Bruges (French and English, pronounced broozh). Another example is the large city of Antwerp, which is also called Antwerpen (Dutch) and Anvers (French).
This is Brugge.

We were told that “everyone” would speak English, but that wasn't the case at all. Still, enough people spoke English that we got by okay, including the English-speaking Egyptian man who made Italian food for us in Dutch-speaking Belgium!

Did you know...?

Not only is Belgium one of the founding members of the European Union (EU), the headquarters is there.

Belgium is the “B-E” part of Benelux, which is a term for its economic union with the NEtherlands and LUXembourg. These three countries are also called the Low Countries because the land is mostly at or even below sea level.

Celebrate Belgium

Eat thick (Belgian) waffles or even a waffle sandwich. Eat “French” (really Belgian) fries. Top it off with yummy Belgian chocolate. Here are some recipes.

Read an Agatha Christie murder mystery―but make sure it involves Hercule Poirot, Christie's most famous detective and Belgian charmer.

Take a peek at Belgian oil paintings from past greats.

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