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Sunday, 17 June 2012


Belgium is named after the Belgae people, which is translated to "The people who swell with anger," meaning Belgium means "land where the people swell with anger."

The word ‘spa’ for a health resort comes from the town of Spa in Belgium where the ancient Romans enjoyed the health-giving springs.

The city of Bruges enjoyed almost 400 years of prosperity due to a single storm in 1134 that opened up a natural channel that allowed sea trade. It lost its prestige when the channel got blocked again in the 1500s.

The Brabant Revolution, sometimes considered as the first expression of Belgian nationalism, began on October 24, 1789 with the invasion of the Austrian Netherlands by an émigré army from the Dutch Republic.

On January 20, 1831, the European powers agreed to fix the borders of the new country of Belgium, splitting it from Holland.

Leopold I was inaugurated as the first King of the Belgians on July 21, 1831. Born into the ruling family of the small German duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld,  Leoppld married Princess Charlotte of Wales, the only child of the Prince Regent (the future King George IV), thus situating himself as a possible future prince consort of Great Britain. Charlotte died in 1817, although Leopold continued to enjoy considerable status in England. The Belgian government offered the position to Leopold because of his diplomatic connections with royal houses across Europe.

Leopold I of Belgium
Since the installation of Leopold I as king, (which is now celebrated as Belgium's National Day), Belgium has been a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.

The Treaty of London of 1839, signed on April 19, 1839 was a direct follow-up to the 1831 Treaty of the XVIII Articles which the Netherlands had refused to sign. Under the treaty, the European powers recognized and guaranteed the independence and neutrality of Belgium.

The first railway in continental Europe opened on May 5, 1835 between Brussels and Mechelen in Belgium. The rapid expansion of the Belgian railways in the 1830s was one of the factors allowing Belgium to recover from an economic recession which it had experienced since the revolution and served as a major force in the Belgian Industrial Revolution.

Painting of the opening of the Brussels-Mechelen railway on 5 May 1835

The world’s first beauty contest was held at Spa in 1888. It was won by 18-year-old Bertha Soucaret.

During World War I, King Albert I of Belgium personally led the defense against the Germans, while the Queen served as a nurse, and their son enlisted in the infantry.

After the invasion of Belgium by Nazi Germany in May 1940 during World War II, the Belgian government, under Prime Minister Hubert Pierlot, fled first to Bordeaux in France. Then evading French and Spanish authorities,  Pierlot arrived in England on October 22, 1940, marking the beginning of the Belgian government in exile in London. The Belgian government in London, also known as the Pierlot IV Government, was the government in exile of Belgium between October 1940 and September 1944.

Hubert Pierlot (left), Prime Minister of the government in exile, April 1944.

Belgium has so many political parties, that they faced a problem when 11 parties received a significant amount of votes in the 2010 election. It eventually took 541 days for a majority of parties to agree to work with each other.

In Belgium, 220,000 tons of chocolate are produced each year. That is about 22kg of chocolate per person.

About 55% of the population speak Flemish, 44% French, and a small proportion German.

Belgium is one of the few countries that requires education as mandatory until the age of 18.

French speaking residents of Belgium are called Walloons.

Belgium is the only country that has never imposed censorship for adult films.

Belgium covers an area of 30,528 square kilometres (11,787 sq mi), and it has a population of about 11 million people.

The Belgian Congo (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo) covered an area 80 times that of Belgium.

There is a small four acre plot of land inside Belgium, which belongs to Germany. Part of the city of Monschau, west of Vennbahn trackbed it consists of a single inhabited house with a garden.

The highest point in Belgium is actually shorter than the world's tallest building. The Signal de Botrange on the High Fens plateau is 694 metres high but the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, is over 100 metres taller.

The Coast Tram is a public transport service connecting the cities and towns along the entire Belgian coast, between De Panne near the French border and Knokke-Heist. At 68 km (42 miles) in length, it is the longest tram line in the world.

Belgium experiences one of the most congested traffic in Europe. In 2010, commuters to the cities of Brussels and Antwerp spent respectively 65 and 64 hours a year in traffic jams.

Belgium has 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including La Grand-Place, Brussels,  Neolithic Flint Mines at Spiennes and Notre-Dame Cathedral in Tournai.

Sources, Daily Express

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