It is no use to wait for your ship to come in unless you have sent one out.



JOHN MCCRAE (1872-1918)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row

Famous Belgians

The Belgae were a group of Celtic tribes who lived, among other places, in southern England (around Winchester) in Roman times, and Belgium derives its name from them.

Famous Belgians include:
Hergé (Georges Remi, creator of TinTin),
Eddy Merckx (cyclist),
Jacky Ickx (racing driver),
Audrey Hepburn (English/Dutch parents but born in Brussels),
Jean-Claude van Damme (actor),
César Franck (composer),
Mercator (geographer),
Adolphe Sax (inventor of the saxophone),
John of Gaunt (born in Ghent),
René Magritte, Breughel, Rubens, van Dyck, van Eyck (painters),
Georges Simenon (creator of Maigret),
and Hercule Poirot.

Mannekin Pis

There has been a Mannekin Pis statue in Brussels since 1388 but there are competing theories as to why he stands there:

•          In 1142, the troops of the two-year-old Duke Godfried II put the infant lord in a basket and hung it in a tree, to encourage them in battle. From there, he urinated on their enemies, who eventually lost the battle.

•          In the 14th century, Brussels was under siege and their attackers were trying to place explosives under the city walls. A boy who saw what they were doing urinated on the burning fuse and saved the city.

•          Another version has him extinguishing a fire which was burning down the city.

•          A fourth says that a wizard caught him weeing on his doorstep and condemned him to stand there widdling away for eternity.

•          A fifth suggests that he commemorates a boy who went missing and was found after a long search, weeing on a tree.
The statue has been stolen seven times; one of the thieves got 20 years' hard labour (in 1817) while others got off with a warning. The people of Brussels dress him up on special occasions, and he now has over 600 outfits including Elvis, Mickey Mouse, Mozart and Father Christmas. On the days that the costume is changed he is rigged up to pee beer, and a brass band plays. Since 1987, the Manneken has had a female equivalent, Jeanneke Pis.

Living on the Edge

Baarle is one of the four remaining enclaves (parts of one country completely surrounded and landlocked by the territory of another) in Western Europe. This municipality comprises 22 pieces of Belgium and eight of the Netherlands, with two mayors, town councils, police forces and fire brigades. The border runs through pubs and shops meaning prices for exactly the same goods within the town differ depending on whether the shop is Belgian or Dutch. It used to be the case that Dutch restaurants had to close earlier than Belgian ones, so diners would change their tables to the Belgian side at kicking-out time.

Letters sent from one house in the town to another go by air to Amsterdam and back if they're posted in a Dutch letterbox, but don't leave the town at all if in a Belgian one. The most thriving trade in the Belgian parts of Baarle is in fireworks, which can be legitimately sold all year in Belgium, but only on Christmas Eve in the Netherlands. The Dutch areas of the town respond with numerous sex shops - not allowed near public buildings in Belgium, but thriving on the Dutch territory next door to the Belgian town council.
Generally houses are regarded as being in the country where their front door is - though this doesn't work for the several that have the border running through the middle of the front door. The confusion is such that each house in the town has to be marked not just with number, but also with a small national flag – Belgian or Dutch. 


Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles!

French Fries come from Belgium.

Belgium was the first country in the world to ban landmines.

In 2007 the Belgian Army mobilised against hairy caterpillars.

The Guinness World Record for speed-eating Brussels sprouts is 44 in a minute.

Since 1815, Belgium has paid the Duke of Wellington’s family more than $46 million as a reward for winning the Battle of Waterloo.

The Kattenstoet was a medieval festival in Belgium in which cats were thrown from the town’s belfry.

In the 1970s, Belgium used to serve children beer at school.