Beer + Waffles + Chocolate = Belgium. And it's also the headquarters of the European Union. I guess this is what usually comes to mind when someone mentions Belgium. The small northern European country that is usually forgotten about by most western European tour operators, due to its small size and lack of famous monuments and crowd eliciting festivals. People go to France for the Eiffle Tower, Cannes, the Louvre; Italy for the Colusseum, Venice, Tuscany; Germany for Octoberfest and Berlin; Spain for the running of the bulls, Gaudi...but to go to Belgium just for some chocolate and waffles? Despite its humble exterior, Belgium is a culturally and historically rich country, with amazing architecture, picture perfect towns and breathtaking scenery.
Originally I wasn't terribly keen/overly excited to visit Belgium, other than being eager to visit two of my grandfather's sisters and my cousin Jean-Marie, whom I had never met before. So taking the train from le Gard du Nord in Paris, with my great masses of luggage (I always have the best intentions of packing light, but I always seem to go overboard, especially this time as I had to pack for all seasons since I had planned to be in Europe for a minimum of six months), I made my way to Liege, Belgium, not having any prior conceptions of what to expect. During my travels I found that that I was usually somewhat disappointed by places which had been overly hyped-up, and pleasantly surprised when visiting places with no prior expectations - and Belgium was one of the latter.
|The meeting point of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands|
|First World War cemetery|
I was lucky to have a private chauffeur driven service whilst in Belgium, many thanks to Jean-Marie, who took a week off work to show me around a number of towns, cities and the Belgium countryside (he was a fantastic tour guide, as he is highly knowledgeable about almost every aspect of the history and culture of Belgium - also having travelled around the country a great deal, he knew all the most worthwhile places to visit). And I was also so fortunate as to be staying just outside the unusual and intriguing city of Liege. At first sight, Liege appeared to be a very dull and grey city, due to its coal mining origins. However, its warm and inviting atmosphere quickly overrode my initial negative impressions. Sunfilled Sunday afternoons are particularly beautiful in Liege, with families leisurely strolling through the city centre whilst you're soaking in the sun in one of the many outdoor cafes.
|Brodosplit - A Dalmatian Klapa performing in Brussels|
We spent the next week visiting numerous places around Belgium, including Brussels, Luvern, Aachen (including the exact spot where Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany meet), Monschau, Ghent and Bruges (I was so amazed by the final three towns that deserve their own post on this blog). If you enjoy admiring beautiful scenery, visiting interesting towns and eating chocolate and waffles, I'd definitely take a detour through Belgium, if only for a few days, when you're next in Europe.
|Teta Antica's little house|