The perception of a nine year old American. Born in Belgium, from American parents stationed here, she returned to the United States as a 18 months old baby. It is obvious that her interest and her love for Belgium have been nourished by her parents.
Bonjour, Welkom and Wilkommen.
My name is Jacqueline. I am here representing the country of BELGIUM. Belgium is located in Europe with their capital being Brussels. The population is 10,200,000 and it is about the same size as Maryland. Belgium is bordered by the North Sea on the northwest, France on the south, Luxembourg on the southeast, Germany on the east, and the Netherlands on the north.
Belgium is one of the Low Countries. Therefore its highest point, around the Signal of Botrange in the Ardennes region, is not that high; it is only about 2250 feet (about the size of some of our smaller Blue Ridge mountains). The lowest point is along the beach of the North Sea. Since most of Belgiumís weather comes from the North Sea, their climate is cool, chilly, wet and maritime. Their temperatures are moderate and will average from 73įF in the summer to 42įF in the winter (not as cold or hot as here).
They do not have many major lakes but they have rivers including the Sambre, the Escaut and the Meuse, connected by canals such as the Canal du Nord. These waterways are important because one of their means of transportation is boats and barges.
Belgium is named for the first people who lived there, the Belgae tribes. Julius Caesar first conquered them for the Roman Empire. Then during the Middle Ages they started being tossed around by many different countries because of their location. At various times they belonged to Germany, Austria, and Spain, so many wars have been fought there. When Napoleon tried to conquer Europe for France he was defeated in a battle at Waterloo, and any great defeat is now called a Waterloo. In 1830 Belgium declared their independence from the Netherlands who they belonged to after Napoleon. Their first king was Leopold I and the present king is Albert II.
At the beginning of this I said hello to you in three different languages: French, Flemish (a dialect of Dutch) and German. These are the three official languages of Belgium. Belgium is split up by the languages you speak. In the north they speak Flemish, in the south they speak French and in a little sliver in the east they speak German. The northern region is called Flanders, the southern region is Wallonia and the small German-speaking area (part of Wallonia) is known as the east cantons. The capital, Brussels is a separate region from the other two, where you will find people speaking both main languages. This can be very confusing on the roads, since many towns have different names in the different languages. I was born in Wallonia and lived in a small town called Soignies, which was Zinnik in Flemish.
Government in Belgium is also very confusing. In addition to the national government in Brussels, they have governments for each region and each language, as well as the 11 provinces, which are like states. So, depending on where you live and what you speak, you could answer to three or four different governments. The people in these different areas donít always get along very well, but they always seem to find a way to live with each other through compromise. Because they always seem to be able to get along together, Brussels has been picked as the site of NATO headquarters, the European Union and many multinational companies. It is often called "the capital of Europe."
Belgium used to mine coal & iron but not anymore. However, most of the worldís diamonds are cut, polished and sold in Antwerp, the second largest city in Belgium (Brussels is the largest). Some of the other things they make in Belgium are lace, chocolate, and beer. It is very hard to go on a diet there because they are very big on food, especially rich food. They invented French fries, called pommes frites and always served there with mayonnaise (and they like it!). And of course, you couldnít leave without trying a gaufre Belge (Belgian waffle).
The country has many medieval castles, citadels and historic châteaux. Belgians as a whole are an easygoing, fun-loving people. There is always a festival going on somewhere. Here are some that I know of:
The medieval city of Bruges has the Procession of the Holy Blood. Once a year they take out a vial from the church containing what they believe is a drop of Jesusí blood. It is paraded through town with people acting out scenes from the Bible along the way.
The Ommegang in Brussels celebrates the reign of Charles V of Spain who ruled them for many years. Thereís really no reason for celebrating this because he wasnít very nice to them, except that itís another excuse for a festival.
The Ducasse du Mons commemorates St. George slaying the dragon (called the Dou-dou). The real dragon is about twice the size of this room and handled by 20 men as it parades through town. St. George fights the dragon in the Grand Place (town square) with a lance, a sword and a pistol (which they did not have in the Middle Ages).
The Cat Festival is held in Ieper, where they used to throw real cats off a bell tower in the Middle Ages because they had too many of them, but now people dress up as cats and throw stuffed cats off the tower.
Despite its chilly climate, Belgium is a very warm and welcoming place with wonderful people and a lot to do and see. I recommend you go there for a visit if you can. Iíll be happy to try to answer any questions.
- Money - Belgian franc (replaced by Euro in 2002)
- Cities - Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Mons, Namur and Liège.
- Roads - autoroutes so well lighted they can be seen by astronauts
- Other foods - moules (mussels), chicons (Belgian endive or chicory)
- Walloons - French-speaking Belgians
- Battle of the Bulge (Ardennes) - last major European battle of WWII
- National - defense, foreign affairs
- Regions - economic, trade
- Communities (languages) - education, social services, schools
- Any act of the king must be signed by a minister
- Many political parties by region, language, religion, etc.
- King & Queen - Albert II & Paola
- 3 children - Prince Philippe, Princess Astrid, Prince Laurent
- daughters can now take throne
- Prime minister - Guy Verhofstadt (Flemish Liberal Democrat party)
- carpet of flowers every 2 years in Grand Place
- markets - food, birds, flowers, antiques, flea (brocante), horse
- symbol - Manneken Pis fountain (donít bring this up unless asked)
- 250 costumes for special occasions - contributed by kings, presidents, celebrities
- Simon de Cordes - discovered Antarctica (1599)
- Leopold II colonized the Belgian Congo (1880s)
- Father Damien - cared for lepers on Molokai, Hawaii (1864-1889)
- Adolphe Sax - invented saxophone (1846)
- Peyo - created Smurfs