Belgium is a strange naughty little but also highly underrated country situated in the heart of western Europe. Most people have been to Belgium as part of a ‘drive by’ on their mainland European trip and have visited one or two main tourist cities, yet all they know about Belgium upon departure is that it just has chocolate, beer, waffles, Brussels, Ghent and Bruges. But apart from Belgium being the rudest word in the entire universe, there are many other interesting facts about Belgium that are great to know when visiting this tiny anomaly of a country.
Belgians tend to be very modest about their own country and landmarks, as well as bad marketeers about all the good things they have. This comes from my experience travelling abroad. When I tell people I come from Belgium, they first look at me funny, as if to say ‘Bel…what?’, then a bell starts to ring and their next question will be, do you live far from Brussels? Knowing that the city furthest from Brussels is about 180 km away and for some countries, this is still considered to be the ‘suburbs’.
There are lots of articles on what Belgium has to offer, but I would like to describe some things that most people don’t know about Belgium.
13 Interesting Facts about Belgium
* Some of the most famous comics as The Smurfs, Lucky Luke and TinTin are all created by Belgian cartoonists. With over 700 professional comic creators, Belgium has the world’s most comic artists per square km.
* The saxophone was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax.
* One of the most famous landmarks of Belgium is a little 61 cm tall bronze statue of a little boy urinating (Manneke Pis). You can visit it in the city center of Brussels. The little boy has a wardrobe of over 800 different costumes and at various times during any given week he’ll be wearing a different one, such as Michael Jackson, Elvis (The king) Presley etc.
* Loperamide, brand name ‘Imodium’ was first developed by a Belgian scientist Paul Janssen. A product well known and probably well used by lot’s of travellers.
* A famous saying is that all Belgians are born with a brick in their stomach (‘de belg heeft een baksteen in de maag’). The ultimate goal of many Belgians is to build their own home, preferably with a nice little garden surrounding it. Belgium is slowly becoming a concrete ‘paradise’ as the population density is one of the highest in the world, considering most Belgians want their own piece of land and home.
* BMI (Body Mass Index) was devised by the Belgian Adolphe Quetelet and still used today as a simple measure to know how much a persons body mass varies from what is desirable.
* Belgium is a monarchy and at the time of writing this, the country has 2 kings and 3 queens. In Belgium, the principle of ‘once a king, always a king’ counts. So as soon as the prince takes over the duty as the King of The Belgians, the retired king and queen will maintain their status, but not as rulers.
* Belgium has 3 official languages, which are Dutch, French and German. Most official documents are published in those 3 languages. Also in education, a lot of attention is given to the study of the various official languages and will include also English. Therefore, most Belgians are multilingual.
* Christmas markets are very popular and pretty widespread in Europe. Belgium is a big participant in such and by the end of the year, various christmas markets in all shapes and sizes are popping up all over the country. Typical of these markets is to buy various hand crafts (lately not only christmas hand crafts), but also handheld food like frites (French fries) and waffles, and of course lot’s of alcohol. The favourite drinks at christmas markets are glühwein (warm red wine with spices) and belgian jenever (originally juniper flavoured liquor but now comes in various flavours, like lemon, melon, candy, chocolate…)
* The Belgian coast tram is the longest tram line in the world, having a length of 68 km and connects the cities along the entire coast line of Belgium. However, it’s one of the countries with the shortest coast line in the world (compared to other countries with a coast line)
* With over 3000 castles, Belgium has the worlds highest number of castles per square km. Around 300 of them are open to the public. ~ “Excuse me, who lives in that castle?”….”No one”….”Well then who is your Lord?”….”We don’t have a Lord, we sort of take it in turns to act as executive officer for the week….”
* After the governmental elections of 2008, it took 535 days to form a new government. This was classified in the Guinness Book of Records as the country with the longest time without an official government. Funny enough, the country was still running pretty fine during that time.
* And last but not least, I think Belgium is the only country in the world where a prime minister (Yves Leterme) when asked to sing the Belgian National Anthem, ‘The Brabançonne’ in French (he is Dutch speaking) starts singing ‘The Marseillaise’, which is the French National Anthem.
Any interesting facts you know about Belgium?