Country number: 6
Territory number: 8
When? A long time ago, across Europe to Slovenia and Croatia (then Yugoslavia) and home. First leg, going on to Luxembourg. Other camping trips, across Europe.
How? Camping, with the car
Who? With Don
‘Belgium is the rudest word in the universe, which is completely banned in all parts of the Galaxy, except in one part, where they could not possibly know what it means’.
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Great excitement- my first long trip to Europe.
We loaded up the car with camping gear and all the paraphernalia the AA said we should take with us, warning triangles, Italian versions of our driving licences and so on. I planned a route using the road atlas and estimations of how far we could drive in a day. No GPS then. And we also filled up the tank. We’d heard horror stories about the price of petrol in Europe.
A landing at Ostend. First stop, Brussels. We took in the little boy peeing statue, the Manneken Pis. It’s probably the most famous sight in Brussels. Brusselaars like to dress him up and have adopted him as their symbol. Four minutes walk to the Grand Place and we’ve seen most of the sights now. There’s a fifteenth -century town hall, almost 40 sumptuous guild houses, and the equally grandiose Maison du Roi. We sat on the steps in the square and were moved on by the police. Apparently it’s not allowed.
The only other object of note in Brussels, according to my guide book, was the Atomium. It’s out of the centre and, despite its size, it took some finding. The giant structure, nine linked metallic spheres, representing a molecule of iron, was more impressive than the inside – a series of studiously scientific displays.
On the return Ghent, a café culture, moules frites and a great deal of Belgian craft beer.
Final stop, on another trip, chocolate box pretty Bruges, with its merchant houses and boutiques. It has plenty of chocolates for sale in the many shops too.
The name ‘Belgium’ comes from the Romans,who called their province in the north of Gaul Gallia Belgica, after its previous inhabitants the Celtic and German Belgae.
Brussels is home to the European headquarters of more than 2,000 multi-national organisations, plus the headquarters of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The Law Courts of Brussels is the world’s largest court of justice.
Belgium has the largest urbanised population in Europe – 98 %of the population live in urban areas and cities.
The longest tram line in the world is the Belgian Coast Tram, The Kusttram, which travels the full 68km of Belgian coast between the French and Dutch borders
Comics are an integral part of Belgian culture. Belgium has more comic strip artists per square kilometre than anywhere in the world. Think Tin Tin and The Smurfs