BelgiumCopyright: Yannis "aspygr" Raf

Belgium

Capital: Brussels.
Currency: Euro (€).
Language: Dutch, French and German.
Listen to the national anthem

At Engis near Liege, around 1929, some skulls dated at over 100,000 years old were discovered in the Neander Valley which gave birth to the Neanderthals and early human. In 1856 similar skulls were found making this date the official discovery of Neanderthals. The Neanderthals went extinct around 40,000 years ago with whom modern humans share 99.7% of their DNA.

The Romans called the native peoples of the region Belgae and this is how Belgium got its name. A lot of discussion about them being classed as either Celts of Germani has taken place between professors of archaeology but the truth is is is virtually impossible as the tribes at the time were so close, they blur into one.

Originally, Belgium was a part of the Netherlands until the Belgian revolution on 4th October 1830. The area we know as Belgium declared independence and by the 19th April 1839, Belgium was an independent state.

Belgium has 3 official languages, French, Flemish (Dutch) and German. The country is divided into 4 language driven regions, french speaking, Dutch speaking, German speaking and bilingual areas within the capital, Brussels. This means that by law everything has to printed with all three languages with the exception to governmental documents which are printed in the dialect of that particular region.

Belgium is a small country but it has left a huge mark all over the world with its sweet products such as BelgianChocolate. Cocoa beans and sugar are not grown in Belgium and after a lengthy negotiation process with the European Economic Community (EEC), Belgian chocolateers were allowed to continue to use a minimum of 35% cocoa insteadof using unsuitable fatty cocoa butter substitute. Big brand names use a strict and secret recipe making the chocolate distinctively Belgian. Did you realise Chocolate WaffleCopyright: siraphol 123rf.com

that they produce Chocolate Waffles as well? Pralines are often called Belgian Chocolate but are in fact very different as they are generally covered in a hard sugary shell with a soft, sometimes liquid centre. Occasionally, the Pralines have a butter, nutty, marzipan or even a chocolatey centre. It is believed that Belgium produces around 220,000,000kg (220,000 tonnes) of chocolate per year!

Belgian cuisine is fairly simple and down to earth for example chips with mayonnaise and waffles. Beer is a very popular drink and it is believed that the average Belgian consumes about 84 litres (148 pints) per year. With over 180 breweries the variety is very unique. Kriek lambic is a beer that is brewed specifically in Belgium and is made from sour Morello cherries traditionally grown around Brussels. Beer Café's are common place and here, you can taste various foods that are cooked with beers from local breweries. Bakeries are another common site in Belgium producing all kinds of local specialities. Common and popular goods are Cherry Tart, Apple Tart, Sugar Tart. and even Rice Tart. It is interesting to point out that Belgium has the lowest proportion of MacDonald's restaurants in the developed world.

Belgium is a fairly relaxed and easy going country where you are legally allowed to possess 3 grams of cannabis. Belgium has the highest proportion of female ministers in the government. Belgium was the first country in the world to ban the use of cluster bombs. Education is compulsory up to the age of 18 and voting is also compulsory. In 2002 euthanasia was legalised and in 2003 gay marriage was made legal.

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