Our visit to Belgium was incidental but I have absolutely no regrets coming here. Our reasons for choosing Brussels as our first stop were purely practical – it was the cheapest flight across the Atlantic, and we wanted to be close to the UK, Netherlands and France (all future destinations on our itinerary).
We also wanted a chance to practice our french – but were soon to find out that the language wasn’t as dominant as we thought! Belgium is linguistically divided – the prominent native languages are flemish (Belgian dutch) and french, and we were told that in most areas that we visited (except Brussels), it would be more favourable to speak english than french!
Unfortunately, the country is still divided along cultural boundaries – the northern population is largely Flemish while the southern population is predominately French speaking. While it was hard to perceive any sentiments of cultural separatism on the day to day, this is important to note because the power balance between the flemish and french Belgian populations has played a big role and continues to shape the country today.
We stayed for 7 days and visited Brussels, Brugge and Antwerp.
In Brussels, we stayed in a residential district called Koekelberg. What was found attractive was the view from the apartment we rented – overlooking a grand Basilica (5th largest in the world).
Detours to the Breweries
Throughout Belgium, we made several detours to visit breweries that specialized in specific traditions and methods of brewing beer, including Cantillion (lambic beer), and Westvleteren as well as Chimay (both trappist abbey beers). Trappist abbey beers are brewed in monasteries, and there are only 11 in the world. Westvleteren, hailed as the best beer in the world, only produces enough beer to sustain the operations of the monastery. As a result, you can really only just taste the beer on site at the monastery – it is rare and difficult to buy. The Belgian love and craft of making beer is probably what I will remember most from our stay.
Charming and Medieval Brugge
Antwerp, Port City