Original Post: 12/1/2014
For anyone that took a class with me my sophomore year you know that I have a strange obsession with Belgium. In the Summer of 2013 I studied abroad in Lublin, Poland, where I met Edward Vande Maele [pictured above] or as I like to call, the Prince of Belgium. For a quick introduction here’s a video to describe the rather peculiar government in which Belgium exists under:
[Did you know Belgium existed without a government for 535 days from 2010 to 2012? Did you know that Belgium has three governments each with their own official language?]
Hopefully that video helped to explain why I see Belgium as one of the weirdest and also most interesting nations in Europe. This opinion was also reinforced by the entirety of my trip. If you ever have the chance to these gorgeously odd flat nation I cannot recommend it enough.
Let’s start with Some General Information about Belgium. Because this is a three part series the next post will be on Brussels, and then the Final will be on Ghent, Bruges, and the small stops in between. I will also cover the language spit of the nation in my post about Brussels.
Traveling with Edward last summer I became painfully aware of how Belgium is almost non-existent in the eyes of the global community. From Poland to the United States and back around the other way the most common answer I got when asking “what’s the first thing you think of when you think of Belgian culture?” was chocolate and sometimes french fries. Many people couldn’t even locate the small nation on a map. I recall one night in Lublin, a priest from Brooklyn asked my friend Edward “Where is Belgium? Eastern Europe?”
One of the most interesting aspects of Belgian culture is the nation’s love for comic books. From the “Adventures of Tintin” to the “Smurfs” Belgium has been at the forefront of comic book culture and thus media in general.
Another international figure is Audrey Hepburn who was born in Ixelles, the largest french municipality in Brussels. In the true spirit of Belgium she also spoke several languages (French, English, dutch, Italian Spanish and German). This then made her accent extremely unique and helped her to gain a career in film.
Another integral part of Belgian Culture is beer and cuisine. Although I am studying in Germany I have to say, I think Belgian beers are by far the best in the world. Trappist Monks are the most well known producers of beer in Belgium and only about 7 breweries in the world allowed to produce the beer (6 of these are Belgian). The nation also brews about 800 different types of beer and consume about 150 litters of it per day.
Waffles & Chocolate are also essential to the nation’s image. And although there are normally a lot of toppings in these waffle shops Edward made sure to let me know “only tourists put toppings on their waffle.” That being said I covered mine in chocolate and learned that hard way that these waffles are sweet enough on their own.
To continue on the cliches, I have to say one of my favorite things about Belgium was the mayonnaise covered fries and Bicky Burgers. Normally when I think of mayo, I think of a sauce used to just add texture to a potato salad not taste, but god was I wrong. Mayo in Belgium is delicious and they couple perfectly with fries (who Belgians arguee were invented in Belgium) and Bicky Burgers. Bicky Burgers are so Belgian the wiki page for them is only available in Dutch. I’ve also been told it’s impossible to replicate the recipe but that’s not gonna stop me from trying when I get home to the United States. I have no shame in also saying I ate this daily. This also explains why Belgium has one of the lowest portions of McDonalds with about 7x less than America and 4x less than Japan. When you have something as good as a Bicky burger you don’t need much else.