Belgium

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Brussels • Brugge • De Panne • Belgium

 

The one thing that everybody seems to know about Belgium is that nobody knows of anyone famous or even significant who is Belgian.  At least that is how the dinner party discussion usually starts; as it progresses, it becomes obvious that a surprising number of interesting, significant and famous people are or were Belgian, particularly considering what a small place it is.  Apart from the obligatory Jean-Claude Van Damme (always the girls’ first selection), world class artists such as Rubens, Magritte and two of my favourites, Bosch and Delvaux, together with authors such as Georges Simenon (of Maigret detective fame) and Hergé, the alleged Nazi sympathiser and creator of Tin-Tin. 

There is even a website (www.famousbelgians.net) which rather defensively, admittedly not without cause, lists 259 famous Belgians, including the fictitious Poirot, The Singing Nun and Mannekin Pis!

 Taken together those should give a fair impression of Belgium for first time visitors.  It ranges from the trivial and tasteless, through high culture and a spot of surrealism, right on to a rather menacing over-zealous officiousness bordering on fascism.  Brussels is, for example, the only place I have ever been accosted for taking a photograph of the exterior of a building, admittedly by a rather bored bank security guard; even in tin-pot dictatorships no-one has objected despite dire guide book warnings not to photograph bridges, post offices etc.  It is also the only place I have had an altercation with a train conductor about the validity of a ticket I had purchased from his colleague five minutes earlier.

Brussels Brugge De Panne Belgium

 

 

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