Sunday, 14 August 2016

Why you should visit Belgium

Having lived in Belgium for 10 months last year and worked there for a further month this summer, you might have guessed that I am rather attached to this little country. As paradoxical a place as it is, there are lots of things that make Belgium the perfect place to visit:

It's rather little
Unlike France or Germany, you only have to travel for an hour or two to get to where you want to be in Belgium. Liege, Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent are all within an hour or less of Brussels, so you won't be spending all day travelling. This means that even if you aren't staying for long, you can get the feeling that you have got to know the country quite well.

Public transport is wonderful
Especially for young people! I am a fan of public transport anyway (something about a mathematical mind?) but the Belgian system really is something special. Did you know that in summer, young people can get a month's unlimited train travel for 25 euros? Can you believe how ridiculously cheap that is?! 25 EUR wouldn't get you very far on one train in the UK. For this reason alone it is worth visiting Belgium as a young person. Additionally, transport tickets can be uploaded to travel cards, meaning that you can take any method of transport within the capital, any bus in French-speaking Belgium and any train in the entire country using just one travel card, which has predictably good value offers. Admittedly I didn't intend for this post to consist solely of praise of the public transport system, but, c'mon, it's pretty damn good.

Breakfast cereal is often quadrilingual
It really motivates you to up your linguistic game when the cereal box knows more languages than you do.

The national cuisine
Essentially consisting of chips, chocolate, waffles and beer, Belgian cuisine is envied the world over. It is entirely unpretentious, and while getting a beer in the centre of Brussels can be pretty pricey, it's nothing compared to high end French restaurants. Sure, you might not be getting many (any) vitamins, but since when did that matter?

Friendly regional banter
Different regions of Belgium may not like each other, especially the French vs Dutch speaking areas. This seems to stem from the years of Dutch and French rule where communities were suppressed, and it seems like people are still not over it yet. However, it's easy enough to unite them (and indeed much of Western Europe) – just mention how much you dislike France and you should have them onside.

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