Contentment more than happiness what people require in life. Contentment equates to happiness and most people don’t get it. But travelers understand this fundamental life quality or skill and if there is one place on earth that can fill your heart with contentment and fulfillment, that’s the beautiful landmass blessed with magical castles from the medieval times; a land rich in history and a land where the monuments speak to their visitors and travelers through their architecture, intricate designs and compelling methods of construction. Timeless as they stand, these monuments offer a glimpse of the past, taking people back to a time of minimal distractions and maximum interactions. The landmass we are talking about also boasts of art, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, surreal caves, music, beaches and comfort food.
The landmass is the one located in Western Europe and the one flocked by millions of tourists from around the world. Known for blending heritage and contemporary art and architecture together, the place is one of the very few places on earth that pulls travelers to itself and makes them feel they belong here. From some of the friendliest locals in the coffee shop to the pros in the breweries, this place is full of enchanting experiences that will make tourists feel they are home. A place of frothy beers, chocolates and waffles, you know what place it is!
Welcome to Belgium –pristine, philosophic and poetic!
Dutch, French & German
Time Zone: CET UTC + 1
Area: 30,528 square kilometers
Official Language: Dutch, German, French
Capital’s Calling Code: +32
Located in the western most region of Europe, Belgium is a beautiful country that blends the worlds of history and heritage and the slick urban lifestyle. Unlike several other European countries, Belgium is not landlocked and boasts of a sandy coastline, giving rise to pristine beaches on its northern frontiers. Belgium shares its frontiers with Luxembourg in the southwest, France in the south, Germany in the east and the Netherlands in the north.
Geographically, Belgium is home to three types of topographies – coastal plains, a plateau region and an upland region. The coastal plain typically makes up for the country’s northwestern frontier, where polders and sand dunes occupy predominant spaces. Go further inward to the plain and you will find steady rising landscapes with smooth and fertile land, comprising of several waterways and valleys. The country’s central plateau belongs to the Anglo-Belgian Basin. If the country’s coastal plain is smooth, the Ardennes uplands, located in the southeastern region, offers a more rugged terrain and rocky caves. You can find a number of gorges in this region and densely forested hills. The land does not have any high altitude mountains, with the highest point in Belgium being the Signal de Botrange that goes up to an elevation of 694 meters above sea level.
Belgium is known for its history and for beautifully retaining it. The country has managed to preserve its cultural, architectural and traditional heritages for over centuries and seamlessly adapting to what the modern day technology has to offer. The history of Belgium goes back to the time before the Roman Invasion, when it was inhabited by a blend of a German and Celtic race called the Belgae. Gallia Belgica was a province than came under the radar of the Roman Empire and became the basis for the country’s name Belgium. Yes, the name of the country was derived from Gallia Belgica.
During the 5th century, the land was occupied by Frankish-Germanic tribes, who slowly immigrated to the landmass and gave rise to the Merovingian kingdoms. At the time of 8th century, Belgium witnessed a slow power shift into the hands of the Franks, giving rise to the Carolingian dynasties. The country’s architectural styles, paintings and art are all mostly from the Flemish renaissance eras, which are primarily considered as milestones in the art in the country.
In the time of the World Wars (both I and II), Belgium was occupied by Germany. The country was in the hands of the Netherlands until it became completely independent in the year 1830. Belgium holds significance in the fact that it was the founding member of the NATO in the year 1949 and for being its headquarters. Besides, it was also immensely influential in setting up the European Economic Committee, which was the forerunner of the European Union. Taking a two-phased approach, Belgium also introduced the Euro in 1999 and introduced the currency in 2002. It further tied up its strength and unity among other European countries by becoming part of the Schengen Area.
With a land area of approximately 30,600 square kilometers, the population of Belgium numbers around 11,303,528. The population of Belgium makes up for approximately 0.15% the population of the world and ranks 80th in the list of world’s most populous countries. Over 95% of the population is urban and the country has a median age of 41 years. The country has a population density of around 377 per square kilometer. Over 59% of the population belongs to the Flemish community followed by Walloon community that has around 40% of the population. Less than 1% of the population has native German speakers, living in the cantons in the east.
As far as religion in Belgium is concerned, the major religion followed is Christianity. Over 65% of the population follows Christianity, with approximately 58% belonging to the Roman Catholic community. Other sub-sects of Christianity such as the Protestants, Eastern Orthodox churches and others make up for around 7% of the population. After Christianity, Belgium has more followers of Islam, which comprises of over 5% of the population. An interesting fact is that close to 27% of the population does not believe in the presence of spirits, life force or gods.
Belgium is home to three distinct European languages – German, French and Dutch, besides which there are a few languages or dialects spoken in the country as well. The absence of stern census fails to reflect the distribution of these languages in Belgium. However, suggested figures reveal that Dutch is a predominant language in Belgium, with over 60% of the population speaking it. 40% of the population speaks French. The Dutch and the French-speaking communities are called Flemish and Walloons respectively. The two languages are very much similar and people from both the communities understand each other’s dialects with only a few minor differences in the vocabularies and nuances in pronunciations. German is spoken in the minority in Belgium though an official language.
Belgium’s official currency is Euro, which the country adopted in the year 2002 by replacing the Belgian Francs. After the US Dollar, Euro is the most traded currency in the world and the one with the largest reserves. One Euro is made up of 100 cents and you can find two currency variations in Euros – coins and notes.
While coins are available in the denominations of €1, €2 and cents of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50, you can find currency notes in the denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 respectively. Apart from Belgium, Euro is used in 19 other European countries part of the European Union. The approximate exchange rate is 76 Indian Rupees for 1 Euro.
Approximate Cost and Money
Belgium is one of the most sophisticated countries in the world. With over 95% of the population being urban, you can only imagine the Belgian way of life and the level of sophistication involved in their everyday lifestyle. However Belgium is flocked by tourists from around the world and Indians especially visit Belgian as part of several Europe tour packages. There is a small percentage of travelers who prefer to explore only Belgium and understand its culture and heritage. However, Belgium accommodates all classes of tourists and provides seamless options to its visitors to get around, stay and eat.
A bed at a backpacker’s hostel in Belgium can Approximate Cost you approximately Rs. 1000 and can go all the way up to Rs. 2,500 for a person per night. If it’s a hotel room you are looking for, you can find accommodation in classic hotels or bed and breakfasts at prices approximately starting from Rs. 3,500, going all the way up to Rs. 35,000. Being a tourist hub, every measure is taken care of the tourism authorities to ensure a pleasant stay. This reflects on the availability of ATMs, foreign exchange counters, restrooms, maps, signboards, cycle rentals and more. Food is also popular in Belgium because of its hip coffee houses and restaurants that serve delicacies from around the world.