Tuesday, April 12, 2011

To the land of (milk and honey) beer and speculoos

Soon I will be traveling to the land of my forefathers (and foremothers). A land known as Belgie/Belgique or Belgium that was founded in 1830 by the English to contain French imperialism. Those wise English also provided our forefathers and foremothers with a king, Leopold Georg Christian Friedrich, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duke of Saxony, and even more importantly, uncle of Queen Victoria.

Blanche de Bruxelles

Leopold Christian etc. etc. was a lieutenant general in the Imperial Russian Army and distinguished himself in the fight against Napoleon, whose advances and job offers he had previously snubbed.

Things have changed quite a bit since Leopold Georg etc. etc., and the king, whose Prime minister Charles Rogier once said, "La Belgique sera Latine ou elle ne sera pas," would be shocked to find out that most people now speak Dutch and that the economic well-being has shifted from the French-speaking parts to the once poor Flemish region.

The Walloon region, the former economic center of gravity is now decidedly impoverished and in the country-side the difference between the two regions is quite visible. As one drives over the so-called language frontier (taalgrens), the scenery changes rather dramatically. Walloon cities such as Liege and Charleroi are also plagued with high unemployment, overrun with immigrants, and as a result look quite destitute compared to say, Brugge and Gent. Walloon cities also have more crime than their Flemish counterparts.

Brussels aka Bruxelles, on the other hand has become quite wealthy with NATO and the EU and its citizens still seem to prefer the Latin ways, leaving many overseas visitors with the impression that Belgium is a French speaking country. However, outside Brussels, speaking French is now invariably associated with lower economic status.

I have earlier posted intros to Belgiuminteresting tidbits about Belgium, as well as provided checklists for those considering to visit the country to race their bikes. I have provided ideas on places to stay and provided links to cyclist housing in Belgium.

In total I have published nearly 50 articles with information on bicycle racing in Belgium, much of it targeting younger riders, known as juniors in the US, but better known as nieuwelingen and juniores in Belgium. Here is the index with pointers for the first 32.

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