Bel­gium: At the Cross­roads of Eu­rope

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS -

Bel­gium is a small, coastal coun­try in West­ern Eu­rope. It fea­tures the fa­mous “Man­neken Pis” (“Lil' Pid­dler”) statue in the cen­tre of its cap­i­tal city of Brus­sels, silky-smooth choco­late and is home to both the EU and NATO head­quar­ters.

Both ge­o­graph­i­cally and cul­tur­ally speak­ing, the coun­try lies at the cross­roads of Eu­rope. It borders Ger­many to the east, the Nether­lands to the north, France to the south, Lux­em­bourg to the south­east, the North Sea to the west and is across the sea from Eng­land. The coun­try con­sists of three main re­gions: the Plain of Flan­ders in the north­west, the cen­tral plateau and the Ar­dennes up­lands in the south­east. Its mar­itime tem­per­ate cli­mate gives it four dis­tinct sea­sons.

Bel­gium was in­hab­ited by Celtic peo­ples in an­cient times. Later it was di­vided up and suc­ces­sively ruled by the Ro­mans, Gauls and Ger­manic peo­ples. On Oc­to­ber 4, 1830, the coun­try fi­nally gained its in­de­pen­dence. In the early 19th cen­tury it was one of the first coun­tries in con­ti­nen­tal Eu­rope to un­dergo the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion.

De­spite its small size, Bel­gium has many unique tourist at­trac­tions all over the coun­try, at­tract­ing vis­i­tors from around the world. The fa­mous site of the Bat­tle of Water­loo lies just south of Brus­sels. Napoleon Bon­a­parte led his army against a 140,000-strong, Bri­tish-led, Al­lied army com­manded by the Duke of Welling­ton here in June 1815. Napoleon was ban­ished to a small is­land in the At­lantic Ocean af­ter his dis­as­trous de­feat, and his life as em­peror came to an end.

The most in­flu­en­tial Flem­ish artist of the early Baroque pe­riod in the 17th cen­tury was Peter Paul Rubens. At 12 years old, he re­turned with his mother to his home­town—the port city of An­twerp in north­ern Bel­gium.

The me­dieval city of Bruges, known as the “most scenic city in Eu­rope,” had one of the old­est and most elab­o­rate city lay­outs and canal com­plexes any­where on the con­ti­nent. This port city has ex­pe­ri­enced pe­ri­ods of pros­per­ity and hard­ship. It is an en­joy­able place be­cause of its sim­plic­ity.

Other well-known places in the coun­try in­clude the moun­tain town of Na­mur in south­ern Bel­gium, which fea­tures unique cas­tles, and Spa, a town famed for its min­eral wa­ter and “spa.”

“Did you know that the Smurfs come from Bel­gium?” asked a staff mem­ber of Wal­lo­nia Brus­sels In­ter­na­tional, the agency in charge of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions for the French-speak­ing Com­mu­nity of Bel­gium. “The Smurfs re­ally can be said to be spokes­peo­ple for Bel­gium.” Dur­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion, many vis­i­tors stopped in front of Bel­gium's booth to take self­ies with Smurf stat­ues. One per­son stated: “They're so cute and part of our child­hood mem­o­ries. But I had no idea they came from Bel­gium.”

As a Wal­lo­nia-brus­sels Fed­er­a­tion staff mem­ber helped fin­ish up the event, they ex­plained: "This isn't our first time tak­ing part in the ‘Colour­ful World—cul­tural Ex­hi­bi­tion of Coun­tries along the Belt and Road' event. Last year we brought a bunch of chil­dren's books, and they were a big hit. This year we're in­tro­duc­ing other as­pects of Bel­gium's unique cul­ture.” Their booth con­tained lots of pro­mo­tional ma­te­ri­als in­tro­duc­ing Bel­gian cul­ture, art and higher ed­u­ca­tion to vis­i­tors.

The staff mem­ber con­tin­ued: “Events like ‘Colour­ful World' are re­ally great. There's lots to do, and it's a win­dow into the amaz­ing cul­tures of dif­fer­ent coun­tries. You can make lots of friends here and learn about the fea­tures of dif­fer­ent coun­tries and re­gions. We're re­ally hon­oured to come here and take part in the event.”

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