Belgium

  
A small central European country, the middle bit of the Benelux states, with the Netherlands bordering to the north and Luxembourg to the south-east (plus France to the south and Germany to the east).
 
It's a notoriously and unjustly underrated tourist destination … especially for the British Belgium somehow acquired the reputation of the least worthy tourist place in Europe – which is strange, as it offers two of Britain's best-loved commodities in unparalleled quality: beer and chips (as in 'pommes frites', "Frieten" in Flemish – it was here that they were invented, and they're thus grossly misnamed "French" fries in the USA and elsewhere).
 
Belgium is also a bit of a whipping boy for its grand southern neighbour France (often the prototypical butt of jokes in ways similar to the Irish for Brits), and, if to a somewhat lesser degree, for the Netherlands too. Personally, I feel sorry for Belgium. It doesn't really deserve such a rough deal on the reputation front – although it doesn't help that if the country gets in the international (negative) headlines these regularly involve child-abuse, right-wingers, a language war and/or general political gridlock … oh, and Brussels, of course, the place all Euro-sceptics point an accusing finger at.
 
But I quite like Belgium – not just in culinary respects (in which it is world-class). And apart from some cool cities (Antwerp, Bruges, Gent are northern gems) and splendid scenery (especially in the Ardennes in the south) it also offers a few places of interest to the dark tourist:
 
Ypres has become almost synonymous with the senseless tragedy that was World War One, and today's memorial sites and museums bear testimony to the slaughter back then.
 
Like its neighbours, Belgium was then overrun by Germany in WWII, and the Nazi occupiers left their mark too – in the form of Breendonk and Mechelen, which played a part as transit camps in the Holocaust and are now memorial sites.  
 
 
- Ypres battlefield memorial site of Word War One
 
- Fort Breendonk, fortress/prison/transit & concentration camp
 
- Mechelen deportation centre, Dossin barracks, transit camp
 
 
    
   
  • Belgium 1Belgium 1
  • Belgium 2 - in BrugesBelgium 2 - in Bruges
  • Belgium 3 - street and canal sceneBelgium 3 - street and canal scene
  • Belgium 4 - international clogsBelgium 4 - international clogs
  • Belgium 5 - old beer advertBelgium 5 - old beer advert
  • Belgium 6a - OrvalBelgium 6a - Orval
  • Belgium 6b - almost symmetricBelgium 6b - almost symmetric
  • Belgium 7 - delicaciesBelgium 7 - delicacies
  • Belgium 8 - national dish - waterzooiBelgium 8 - national dish - waterzooi
  • Belgium 9 - flat Flemish landBelgium 9 - flat Flemish land
  
  
   
   
   

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