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Culture Cafe: Belgium

How are you feeling this December? We’re amazing, and all the credits go to our Culture Café dedicated to beautiful Belgium. We started winter with the small trip to Europe, many thanks to our ESN international student Febe Goethals for creating such an entertaining and interesting tour. We had a great time, so we’re going to share it with you.

Did you know that Belgium is the world leading exporter of billiard balls (80% of players use them)? Interesting fact, isn’t it? But we also got some more. The highway system in Belgium has a lot of lights that makes it the only country with a man-made structure visible from the moon. In addition, one more thing about the space: a Belgian is the only person who has art on the moon called “The Fallen Astronaut”. Furthermore, Belgium is the perfect place to visit some of the best music festivals in the world, but be aware that Belgian men are the second tallest in the world, so come in advance to take good places and see everything. If you don’t like crowded and noisy places then you definitely need to visit Durbuy, the smallest town in the world.

What else do we need to know before going to Belgium? Its climate is very unpredictable, you can feel 4 weather types of the seasons in one day. So don’t forget your umbrella or, maybe, a sledge! Of course, be ready to understand 3 different languages (besides English), moreover, none of them is called Belgian: Dutch, French and German. That is why there appears language dispute, but there is one thing that can unite all Belgians and make them forget all the differences and disagreements – it’s football (soccer). Belgium’s football team, Red Devils is number 1 in the world on the FIFA ranking.

Now let’s talk a little bit about national food and drinks. Most of you know this dish as French fries, but it originally came into sight in Belgium, not France. It was introduced by people living between the two cities of Liège and Dinant. Original idea came from the practice of catching and frying small fish from the Meuse river, yet as the river froze during wintertime, people used the same procedure but with potatoes instead. You can eat fries with eel in green sauce, mussels or Belgian beef stew. Belgian chocolate deserves special attention, it’s well-known among the whole world! 220000 tones produced per year. It’s world’s number 1 exporter. What is the most unique about Belgian chocolate? Superior quality, extremely fine structure and highest % of cacao. Wieze is popular for being a city where the largest chocolate factory in the world is situated. Belgian chocolate will be twice better with famous Belgian waffles, and if you’re thirsty, quench it with a pleasant drink, Belgian beer. No matter what your taste is, you will find appropriate one because there are so many different kinds of beer (1700!). If you drink it every day for 4 years, you will never have the same beer twice. The most astonishing fact is that every beer has its own glass, so be afraid to serve beer in the wrong glass!

You know Belgium better than you think! Stay tuned, we’ll prove it! Jan Van Eyck, Peter Paul Rubens, James Ensor, René Magritte. These names sound familiar, do they? Certainly, all these illustrious painters were from Belgium! Alors on dance… Somebody that I used to know… Can you go on? Worldwide known singers Stromae and Gotye are also Belgians.

Did we manage to interest you? We hope, yes!  So we want to recommend you some nice places and entertaining activities. Book tickets straight to Bruges, see Venice of the North with your own eyes. Small and very pretty like gingerbread houses, cosy streets and plenty of places to take photo. Must visit! Next stop is Antwerp, diamond capital of the world. 80% of rough and 50% of clean diamonds are concentrated there. Without a doubt, we can’t forget about castles: Belgium holds a world record for castles. It has more castles per squared kilometer than any other country in the world. The most prominent and unforgettable are Gaasbeek Castle, Royal Palace, Arenberg Castle, La Citadelle de Dinant etc. Don’t worry, we have prepared something for nature lovers – Ardennes. Explore forests and caves, raft down the river and enjoy your adventure!

It was very exciting, but everything has it end. Although, this gives us motivation to see everything, taste and try, explore and discover. We’re sure, you’re full of enthusiasm to do it, as we definitely are! It was glad to spend our traditional Wednesday evening with you and open new sides of magnificent Belgium! Can’t wait till our next Culture Café!   

 Text: Svetlana Dzhafarova