Belgium is a country where you can find medieval cities, quaint towns, gothic cathedrals and town halls, castles and carillons-all of them will keep you busy during your stay. At night go to a pub, there are more than 350 delicious beers to choose from. Flanders in the north, a flatland criss-crossed by canals, is proud of its great art cities, Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent. To the south in Wallonia, you will find the rolling hills of the Ardennes, numerous castles, and the cities of Liege, Namur, and Tournai.
Belgium is a multicultural and multilingual country. The official languages are Dutch, French and German. Dutch is slightly more widely spoken than French, and German is spoken the least. The country is heavily into exports, in fact, around 50 per cent of the produce generated is exported. Belgium has to its credit the world's 4th largest port, Antwerp, and also the world biggest diamond-trading center.
History of Belgium has always been linked to both commercial and cultural exchange, and much of its character is due to its role as the great meeting place of Western Europe. Over the next hundred years or so, starting with the rule of Louis XIV, France made several attempts to extend its control over Belgium. None of the other powers in Europe were particularly keen to see this happen with the result that many battles were fought over, and in, Belgium. Eventually, in 1713 the Treaty of Utrecht was signed where France agreed to leave Belgium to the Habsburg rulers of Austria. This meant virtual independence for Belgium, but not for long as infighting among the Belgians and the rise of Napoleon helped to return Belgium under French rule. After Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo the powers of Europe decided to merge Belgium with its northern neighbor, the Netherlands. However, a revolution soon started and on 20th January 1831 Belgium was finally granted independence.
The great interest of history in Belgium is noted after World War II, when Brussels took on a leading role as co-founder of the European Community, and became the capital of what is now called the European Union (EU). It is also the headquarters of the NATO. In 1957 Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg founded the Benelux Union.
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