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Saturday 13th July
Belgium Information - Page 1
The Kingdom of Belgium is bordered by the Netherlands and Germany to the north and east, Luxembourg and France to the east and south and by the Channel and the North Sea to the west.

Belgium is divided into three main regions: Brussels Capital, Flanders and Wallonia.

Brussels is the capital city; Antwerp, is Belgium's leading port and a major European port. The oldest cities in Belgium are Ghent and Bruges.

The Channel coastline is sixty-five kilometres long. Land along the coast has been reclaimed from the sea using polders and dikes. Much of Belgium is relatively flat but the Ardennes in the southeast are forested and hilly with steep river valleys. The rivers which flow through Belgium include the Scheldt, the Sambre and the Meuse.

The climate is temperate, with warm summers and cool winters.

The population density in Belgium is high, but the country does include wild, forested hills in the Ardennes.

Other environments within the country include heathlands along the border with Holland, a high moorland plateau with peat bogs in the Northern Ardennes on the German border and reclaimed land along the North Sea coasts.

Like most countries with coal and steel industries, Belgium has suffered from environmental pollution. However, there is now a network of national parks and protected landscapes, including parts of the Ardennes; coastal areas important to birdlife and the high peat bogs of the Hautes Fagnes reserve. EU finance has assisted some of these initiatives.

The town hall of Leuven and the Hotel de Ville in Brussels, both built in the early fifteenth century, are impressive examples of the Gothic style applied to non-religious buildings. Belgian traders' Guild Houses, also mostly in the Gothic style, are a reminder of the important role played by commerce in Belgian history. A good example of a Gothic church is the Sablon Church in Brussels.

By the seventeenth century the prevailing style was Baroque. The Grand-Place in Brussels demonstrates this style at its height.

At the turn of the nineteenth century Belgium, particularly Brussels, was much taken by the Art Nouveau style. Victor Horta was a leading exponent.

In the Middle Ages Bruges, then directly linked to the sea, was one of the wealthiest cities in Europe. By the sixteenth century access to the sea had been cut off as the channels silted up. The decline that followed meant that development passed the city by. As a result it now represents one of the best examples of medieval architecture and city layout in existence.

The population - 11.5 million in 2018 - is split between two main groupings: the Flemings (Flemish speaking and generally in the north) and the Walloons (French speaking and generally southern). Brussels hosts a sizeable international community who work at the EU and NATO headquarters.

The official languages of Belgium are Dutch, French and German. (Flemish is a general name for the different local languages spoken in the Flemish part of Belgium) Many Belgians speak English.

Belgium is seventy-five percent Roman Catholic and twenty-five percent Protestant.

Religion has been another source of division in Belgium's history, with the people in the north of the country inclining towards Protestantism and the teachings of Luther. The Inquisition and the suppression of dissent in the sixteenth century was one of the reasons why the Northern Low Countries fought for their independence as Holland. The Catholic areas which became Belgium did not have the same incentive for revolt.

Belgium is particularly famous for waffles and chips. Belgian chips are often eaten with mayonnaise or served with mussels. Endive is a popular vegetable, as are, of course, brussel sprouts. Seafood is plentiful and trout is fished in the rivers. Soups include waterzooi which is more like a stew. Beer features in a number of recipes. There are over four hundred types of beer brewed including Chimay.

Belgium is well known for its luxury chocolates which are sold widely and in the specialist chocolate shops.

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