Monday, October 3, 2011

Belgium is Not Boring

One of the most beautiful, well-kept secrets of Northwestern Europe is the countryside of Wallonia (Southern, French-speaking Belgium), the Ardennes and Luxembourg (the city and entire country of Luxembourg where they speak French, German and Letzeburgesch).  I'm here to tell you (and I'm really here -- I'm sitting at my desk on the fifth floor, overlooking a harbor designed by Napoleon Bonaparte in Antwerp, Belgium) that Belgium is not -- at all -- boring.  I've heard this a lot in the past year-and-a-half, and mostly from people born in Belgium.  When I tell locals that I moved here from the states, they often  respond with a smirk, "Why?"  I find myself defending Belgium and reminding them of the many lovely aspects of their country.  They continue smirking, as if, one day, I'll get it -- I'll understand what they believe to be true.  The Belgians, by nature, have a self-deprecating sense of humor and love to poke fun at themselves.  On the subject of drunk-driving...a Belgian citizen told a visiting travel writer that it's too scary to drive sober in Antwerp (of course he was being facetious...the Politie take driving under the influence very seriously and road stops for sobriety checks are very common in Belgium).  But,  I do see what they mean, some of what is referred to as Gothic, ancient, really just ugly and old.  But, growing up in California, the only buildings of historical architectural importance that I remember, were the Missions.  So, the fact that I can walk out my door and see a harbor designed by Napoleon, with buildings lining that harbor that date back centuries, not years, but centuries...well, that just thrills me every time I go cobblestoning (my new term for walking in Europe).  The Southern region of Belgium also does not disappoint, but rather, exudes an entirely different flavor from Flanders altogether.  In the north, you have sophisticated Brussels, hip and fashionista-ish, yet ancient, Antwerp, medieval Ghent, and romantic Bruges and lovely smaller villages like Lier, Diest and Turnhout.  But south of Brussels, in the Walloon region, you have the gorgeous rolling hills and villages of the Ardennes.  There are castles and chateaus at every turn, and colorful little hamlets dotting the countryside all the way through the hillsides and forests to Luxembourg.  What is boring about that?  Nothing.  And here are the pictures to prove it.  My life on the lane in Belgium is vivid, alive, splendid and stimulating.

Picture Perfect Castle in Vianden on the border of Luxembourg and Germany

Village of Vianden

I love the couple embracing outside this lovely Inn

Cobblestones and favorite

Had the best BBQ spareribs and beer at this cafe in Vianden

Now that's a great lane...

Many of the buildings still show damage from WWII

Beautiful Luxembourg City

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