This small county is the size of Maryland and is split into two distinct regions. The northern part of Belgium is known as Flanders and the language spoken is Flemish which is a form of Dutch. The southern part of Belgium is known as Wallonia and is inhabited by the French speaking population. A small eastern territory is German speaking. In Brussels, the capital, it is a trilingual city and many locals speak English, French, and Flemish. There are three officially recognized languages: French and Dutch are the main languages; German is spoken by a small segment of the population and English is widely spoken throughout the country.
Most cities have quaint medieval squares, tree-lined canals, gorgeous architectural facades, world class museums and friendly outdoor cafes perfect for people watching and sipping on the local beer. The scenic Flemish countryside is painted with soft green hills and winding roads. Farms line the country roads. Serene canals run parallel with rural bike paths. Large cities in Flanders exhibit their charm with cobblestone streets and stately cathedrals. Belgium is very scenic and bike friendly. Belgium is a hidden gem with much to offer.
Belgium is known for their extensive list of over 450 different varieties of beer. Belgians take their beer seriously – and with good reason. Belgium has enjoyed an unparalleled reputation for its specialty beers since the Middle Ages. Connoisseurs favor Belgian beers for their variety, real flavor and character. And remember, Beauty lies in the hands of the beer holder.
There are almost as many beer styles as there are breweries in the small kingdom of Belgium. The choices are endless when you consider raspberry beer, white beer, chocolate beer, geuze beer, cherry beer, brown beer Trappist beer and of course the beer that Belgium is most famous for – the lambic beer. Lambic beer is made with an ancient style of brewing, depending on spontaneous fermentation to produce a bone-dry, profoundly tart, and naturally effervescent drink that improves with years in the bottle – much like wine. By European Union regulation, it can be produced only in a small area in Belgium.
Belgium produces 172,000 tons of chocolate per year with more than 2,000 chocolate shops throughout the country. A beautifully sculpted chocolate shell conceals a center of filling which explodes with a surprising texture and flavor in your mouth. Many chocolatiers still make their chocolates by hand. Every town and even small villages have chocolate stores with luxurious delicacies to sample.
- Eddy Merckx is five-time champion of the two most important races in professional cycling, the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia and one of only four cyclists to have won all three of the Grand Tours
- He is one of only two men to have won the Triple Crown of Cycling (Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and the World Cycling Championship) in the same year.
- In addition, he is one of only three riders (all Belgian) to have won all five “Monument” one-day classic races at least once during his career, and won the season-long Super Prestige Pernod International competition a record seven consecutive times.
- Overall, Merckx entered 1582 road races in his 13 year professional career, and won 525 of them —this implies a winning rate above 33% (approx. one-third).
- He dominated both single-day and stage races during his career, a rarity in recent cycling.
Merckx started competing in 1961. Three years later he became world champion in the amateur category, before turning professional in 1965. In 1966 he won the first of seven editions of Milan-San Remo. He started his first grand tour at the 1967 Giro d’Italia. He would win his first stage here and finished seventh overall. Later that year he outsprinted Jan Janssen to become world champion in the professional category in Heerlen, The Netherlands. He would win this title twice more.