Established: Treaty of Verdun – August 843, Republic – 22 September 1792
Population: 11,515,793 (2019)
Religion: 62.8%% Christianity, 29.3% No religion, 6.8% Islam
Language: Dutch, French, German
Order of Visit: Eleventh
First Visit: 04 May 2006
Last Visit: 23 June 2009
Duration: 9 Days
Highlights: Atomium, Belgium waffles, Bruges Market Square, Chocó-Story Museum, Bruges Canal, Our Lady’s Cathedral, Grote Market, Steen Castle, Antwerp Diamond Museum, Fort Breendonk, Rubens House
Cities: Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels
Belgium Journal Entry
History and Geography
Belgium is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest and covers an area of 30,689 km2 (11,849 sq miles).
The Belgae were the inhabitants of the northernmost part of Gaul, which was significantly bigger than modern Belgium. Caesar used the word “Belgium” once, to refer to their region. The Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) divided the Low Countries into the northern United Provinces (Belgica Foederata in Latin, the “Federated Netherlands”) and the Southern Netherlands (Belgica Regia, the “Royal Netherlands”).
In 1830, the Belgian Revolution led to the separation of the Southern Provinces from the Netherlands and to the establishment of a Catholic and bourgeois, officially French-speaking and neutral, independent Belgium under a provisional government and a national congress. Since the installation of Leopold I as king on 21 July 1831, now celebrated as Belgium’s National Day, Belgium has been a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.
Universal suffrage for men was introduced after the general strike of 1893 and for women in 1949.
Germany invaded Belgium in August 1914 as part of the Schlieffen Plan to attack France, and much of the Western Front fighting of World War I occurred in western parts of the country. The opening months of the war were known as the Rape of Belgium due to German excesses.
German forces again invaded the country in May 1940, and 40,690 Belgians, over half of them Jews, were killed during the subsequent occupation and The Holocaust. From September 1944 to February 1945 the Allies liberated Belgium. After World War II, a general strike forced King Leopold III to abdicate in 1951, since many Belgians felt he had collaborated with Germany during the war.
Belgium became one of the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and of the European Atomic Energy Community and European Economic Community, established in 1957. The latter has now become the European Union, for which Belgium hosts major administrations and institutions, including the European Commission.
What I experienced
Belgium is home of the wonderful Inge who I first met in South Africa and who has twice showed me some of her amazing country. When I recall Belgium I recall the stunning stone buildings and the food; from chocolate, to beer and lovely waffles.
The people are very friendly and highly educated and as effectively one of the countries heading the European Union very integrated with other European countries and culture. I also got to see some of the tragic history of Nazi occupation and some of the now despised Belgians who eagerly cooperated.