Belgium is one of those countries that often gets overlooked as a destination for visitors. Aside from being the birthplace of the birdsong game, it has many exciting features and is certainly worth a visit both for aesthetics and cultural reasons. If you have been considering adding this European country to your travel list, have a look at our short guide to the beauty of Belgium explaining why we love it and often visit.
Wait, what is the Birdsong Game?
Well, from time-to-time casinos and other gambling institutions try to come up with new games as a form of entertainment for their visiting patrons. This has ranged from the weird to the damn right wacky, and some have proven to be incredibly popular such as the birdsong game which hails from Belgium. Several birds are placed in their cages in front of the punters, and the aim of the game is to bet on which bird is going to sing the loudest. Before bets are taken you are welcome to look at the birds and see if you can work out who might be the loudest and therefore which one you need to bet on. It’s not necessarily a game that goes down well with animal lovers. However, it isn’t particularly cruel as these are all birds that would usually be caged; it has certainly captured the imagination of the locals who enjoy playing it.
Tucked between France and Germany Belgium is a small country that has a remarkable history and is home to several UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is also home to NATO and hosts the headquarters of the European Union. To be fair, those are not the things that make Belgium beautiful, but there are some stunning canals in Bruges, and many of the towns still have mediaeval architecture, so there is plenty to see. It is also home to some of the world’s best beers which you can enjoy in many of the street cafes and bars around the towns. While the beaches sit on the edge of the North Sea, they are sandier and more beautiful than you might expect albeit perhaps not as warm as the Caribbean. If you are interested in learning more about the history, there are also plenty of galleries and museums that will take you step by step through everything that has happened in the local area. They have a fascinating European art history which started with the Flemish primitives and included the voluptuous nymphs of Reuben right through to the bizarre surrealism. For anyone who loves a riot of colour and light they also play home to some of the most amazing if weird carnivals you will have ever seen.
It is unlikely that you will have made it through life without hearing about Belgium chocolate. It is totally delicious, and unlike anything else, you get in the world. It is absolutely bad for the waistline but so delicious, and if you visit Brussels, you can sample some fantastic waffles topped with Belgium chocolate. If savoury food is more your thing, they are also quite famous for twice-fried chips which they guardedly called Frites and defy anyone to call them French fries and these are often served with jumbo mussels which have been caught locally. As already mentioned, there are plenty of restaurants and street cafes more than happy to let you sample local cuisine and pass the time of day watching people go about their business. Breweries are also a popular industry within Belgium meaning that they have plenty of beers to their name including the six great Trappist beers which are all brewed inside of monasteries that are still actively run by monks to this day.
A Violent History
Unfortunately, the area’s history is not peaceful, Belgium has often been invaded perhaps because it is smaller than the surrounding countries. It dates right back to Roman times and plenty of nasty battles were fought many in the last couple of centuries. Waterloo, when Napoleon finally lost his ground, has a large hill which was built with a statue of a lion on top to commemorate this famous part of history. A sad and poignant site is found in Flanders fields where row upon row of white gravestones commemorate World War One and the lives lost. Those interested in the history of war can also see sombre, empty prisoner of war camps and plenty of memorabilia inside museums that also pay tribute to the many soldiers who fought and died in World War Two. This includes the Battle of the Bulge, which was Hitler’s counterattack. While this is not necessarily beautiful, it is essential that the area remembers its history and heritage and passes that through the generations so that no one forgets the sacrifices that were made.
It is unusual for a country to have more than one national language. In Flanders, you will find locals speaking Dutch, whereas in Wallonia they speak French (another fascinating nuance of visiting this amazing country). Flanders has some charming market squares where you can shop with the locals for produce that comes from farms and cottage industry within the area and also visit and walk by the side of the canals which go through towns. Public transport links are useful, so it is easy to reach most places, but for slightly further out tourist attractions such as the castles and caves of Wallonia you would need to hire a car.