Category: Belgium

Armistice Day

I remember an evening sitting through one of those ghastly, self-righteous arguments about the Vietnam War that seemed to plague any attempt at serious conversation in the 1970s. The wild-eyed beard next to me showed no interest whatsoever and seemed to regard all the hot air as little […]

Doel

The first thing you notice in this village on the Scheldt Estuary east of the port city of Antwerpen is the shops, restaurant, and hotel–there aren’t any. Anything that resembles a civic structure is boarded-up and ready for demolition. Then you notice that the only other human beings […]

Waffles

Waffles are yet another example, along with modern beer, French Fries, and the saxophone, of how Belgium has been slowly and quietly conquering the civilized world.

Orient Express

The original Orient Express started running in 1881 from Paris to Istanbul via the northern, Romanian route (Paris-München-Wien-Budapest-București-Istanbul). After World War I, the southern route substituted Belgrade-Sofia for București to bypass the worst of the Balkan political mayhem. After growing up with Agatha Christie (Murder On the Orient Express), Graham Greene (Stamboul Train), and Ian […]

Waterloo

It was the bloodthirsty celebrity matchup the world had been waiting for. Not until El Alamein in 1942 would the world see a more anticipated and personalized battle than Waterloo. That earlier conflict, on 18 June, 1815, pitted the invincible French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte against Arthur Wellesley, the brilliant […]

Dinant

Here we help the city of Dinant celebrate the birth of its favorite son Adolphe Saxe, who first patented the saxophone on 28 June, 1846. The Belgian musician was a human catastrophe who survived falls, poisoning, drowning, burning, explosions, two bankruptcies, and—most tellingly—lip cancer, only to die in abject poverty […]

Bruxelles

For people who bemoan the state of US politics, Belgium provides an instructive example. The usual Left, Center, and Right political parties are each divided by ethnicity into French Wallon and Flemish, producing six major enduring parties and a host of splinters. Things get so bad that the […]

Woluwe-St.-Pierre

This shot of our neighborhood in Bruxelles says everything about the Belgian dilemma. In the distance, le Cinquantenaire, a massive memorial to 50 years of Belgian independence built out of the profits of Congolese slavery. In the foreground, Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery surveys the parks and boulevards he […]

Bruxelles

That aging grand dowager of Bruxelles, the Hotel Metropole, has enormous historical significance, considering the minor capital in the tiny country it dominates. In late July of 1903, a bunch of obscure and excruciatingly long-winded Russians took tea here as they plotted the 2nd Congress of the Russian […]

Schaerbeek

This tiny, hidden cemetery in a Flemish suburb of Bruxelles was originally cleared for the Tir National, a rifle range for training Belgian sharpshooters. In both World Wars, I and II, the German occupation authorities took advantage of its hidden location to use it as an execution ground […]

Bruxelles

Down the street from his famous neighbor, Le Mannekin Pis, in Bruxelles, the capital city of Belgium, this statue, Le Cracheur (The Spitter), sits on a corner outside one of the city’s premier gay bars and vents his low opinion of tourists and citizens alike in a never-ending […]