The Flanders Festival in Belgium was my first stop in Europe and boy was I glad that it was. This is my first time that I have been in Western Europe proper outside of living in Southern Italy (Sicily) and making a stop in London for a one day layover.
I was excited to visit Belgium because I knew that the people of the country are some of the nicest, open-minded, and generous people that I have met on the road. I think I have met a Belgian traveler in every country I have visited outside the offbeat locations like South Sudan, Somaliland, and the Guyana’s.
I have to be honest and say that I was never excited about visiting Western Europe proper because Europe to me is like pop culture, everyone does it.
Everyone travels to Europe, everybody has pictures of gorgeous European architecture, and everybody rants and raves about the old world European charm (although there are rumors that the French aren’t charming, kidding).
I say Western Europe proper because I used to live in Sicily for close to two years but the Italian island is more Latin culture than Western European culture.
I not only was going to visit the popular Flanders Festival but I also was going to be traveling through many of the top tourist destinations in the country of Belgium. I thought I’d take this time to explain a bit about Belgium and what makes it unique.
The Flanders Festival was held in the Flemish part of Belgium, the country is split into three distinct regions which is the North, South, and Brussels. Brussels, the capital Belgium, is often described as the capital of Europe as the European Union headquarters is based there. Think of it as the political capital like Washington DC is in the United States or how Berlin is the capital of Germany but it’s financial headquarters are in Frankfurt.
The North is Flanders where they speak Flemish, a dialect of Dutch, the South is the region known as Wallonia where they speak French, and in the capital Brussels, most people are bilingual but I heard most people speaking French.
Belgium is a very small country tucked in between the large historical powers of France, Germany, the Netherlands (Belgium also borders the small country of Luxembourg). There are three official languages which are Dutch, French, and German.
Considering that the global business language is English you can throw English on top of that as well. One of the things that fascinated me about Belgium is the fact that they can practically speak any language.
The Flanders tourism board was kind enough to invite me to the Flanders Festival and I was able to visit the following cities:
- To a smaller extent, Brussels
I found the entire country to be absolutely amazing, from the whipped cream topped Belgian waffles, to the history, and of course the people. There were some surprises as well including some of the cities I visited and I can’t wait to share my experience to what I call my first time actually exploring Western Europe.