Population: 10.5 million (July 2009 estimate)
Capital: Brussels Area: Approximately 11,780 square miles (30,528 sq km) Borders: France, Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands Coastline: About 40 miles (60 km) on the North Sea
Belgium’s capital, Brussels, is the headquarters the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and of the European Commission and the Council of the European Union. In addition, that city is the home of many worldwide banking and insurance firms, leading some to call Brussels the unofficial capital of Europe.
Geography of Belgium The lowest point in Belgium is sea level at the North Sea and its highest point is Signal de Botrange at 2,277 feet (694 m). The rest of the country consists of coastal plains in the northwest and gently rolling hills throughout the country’s central portion. The southeast, however, does have a mountainous region in its Ardennes Forest area.
Languages of Belgium Belgium is very diverse linguistically. Its official languages are French, Dutch and German but its population is divided into two distinct groups. The Flemings, the larger of the two, live in the north and speak Flemish- a language closely related to Dutch. The second group lives in the south and consists of the Walloons who speak French. In addition, there is a German community near the city of Liège and Brussels is officially bilingual.
Industry and Land Use of Belgium Belgium’s economy consists mainly of the service sector but industry and agriculture are also significant. The northern area, the most fertile is used for livestock, whilst some of the land is used for agriculture. The main crops in Belgium are sugar beets, potatoes, wheat and barley. Belgium is a heavily industrialized country and coal mining was once important in southern areas. Today, though, almost all of the industrial centres are in the north. Antwerp, one of the largest cities in the country, is the centre of petroleum refining, plastics, petrochemicals and the manufacturing of heavy machinery. It is also famous for being one of the world’s largest diamond trading centres.
Food Specialities: Mussels: Moules et frites/Mosselen met friet (Mussels with French fries). The traditional way is to cook them in a pot with white wine and/or onions and celery, then eat them up using only a mussel shell to scoop them out. The top season is September to April.
Balletjes/Boulettes: meatballs with fries served with a tomato sauce or with the sauce from Liège, which is based on a local syrup. For this reason they will often be introduced as Boulets Liégeois.
Stoemp: mashed potatoes and carrots with bacon and sausages. It is a typical meal from Brussels.
Stoofvlees is a traditional beef stew and is usually served fries.
Witloof met kaassaus/Chicons au gratin is a traditional gratin of chicory with ham and a cheesy béchamel sauce, usually served with potato mash or croquettes.
Konijn met pruimen: rabbit cooked in beer and dried plums.
Despite the name, french fries (chips) Belgians claim them as their own invention. Mayonaise is preferred over ketchup as the perfect accompaniment. Every village has at least one frituur/friterie, an establishment selling cheap take-away fries.
Waffles (wafels in Dutch, gaufres in French) come in two types: Gaufres de Bruxelles/Brusselse wafels : a light and airy variety. Gaufres de Liège/Luikse a heavier variety with a gooey center.
Belgian chocolate is famed around the world. Famous chocolatiers include Godiva, Leonidas, Guylian, Galler, Marcolini and Neuhaus, the best and most exotic chocolates are to be found at tiny boutiques, too small to build worldwide brands. Belgium Beer In Belgium, Beer is the most varied, numerous and high-quality in the world. This is celebrated in their numerous festivals held throughout the year.
- Beer festivals
- The BAB-bierfestival, held every year in November in Bruges. The festival held every spring in Sint Niklaas (previously in Antwerp) organized by the consumer group Zythos.
- The Belgian Beer Weekend held in Grand Place, Brussels, organized by the Brewer’s association.
- Karakterbieren Festival in Poperinge, Belgium’s hop-growing capital.
- The Beer Passion weekend held each July in Antwerp, organized by Beer passion magazine
- The Christmas beer festival Essen
There are certain rules to be observed in the consumption of Belgian beer. Every beer has its own glass and Antwerpians and Belgians will always follow this rule. Refusal to drink a beer is commonplace if it is served in the wrong glass.
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Useful information about Belgium, RGTS Europe Ltd operates a twice monthly small removal and light haulage service to Belgium.
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