The country of Belgium, officially known as the Kingdom of Belgium, is a sovereign state in Western Europe. A small, densely populated country that has an interesting blend of Germanic and Latin European cultures, it has two main linguistic groups: the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking communities. It is this beautiful little nation that Pallavi Vasireddi and her family visited recently. The group of eight landed in Brussels, and went on to visit Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent on a five-day trip. The family wanted a short, scenic vacation, and with its beautiful landscapes, fine architecture and culturally rich art, Belgium made an excellent choice.
The city of Bruges had several gems worth visiting, like the hugely recognisable Belfry and Halle, an impressive building that once functioned as the main town market hall dating back to the medieval era and now dominating the main square. Another outstanding sight was the Basilica of the Holy Blood, a spectacular blend of Romanesque and late-Gothic architecture that houses a sacred relic in its dazzling gild work interiors.
“Day trips to Ghent and Antwerp, allow you enough time to explore these picturesque towns,” said Pallavi. The family visited the Grand Place that sits right at the core of Antwerp, and then explored some of the finest examples of guild house architecture with its typical steeple-roofed shape. The Town Hall is a well-preserved example of 16th century construction. Its interior is filled with a collection of paintings that showcase Antwerp’s history, and the Grote Markt was also well worth seeing in this pretty little town.
The majestic Cathedral of Saint Bavo in Ghent was one of the sites Pallavi visited in Ghent. The cathedral’s high Gothic choir and Romanesque crypt, its stained glass windows and the famous artwork that graces the interiors (including the Altar of Ghent) were breathtaking. After this she visited Gravensteen, a hugely impressive fort that was once the grand home of counts of Flanders who took their inspiration for castle-building from the mammoth castles the Crusaders built in Syria. One of Europe’s best surviving moated fortresses, its strong and impressively thick and high walls rise up from the waters of the river Lieve, right in the middle of the old town of Ghent.
When asked about the best spots to visit, Pallavi remarked, “The city centre of Brussels is amazing, with its cobbled streets and antique store. The small houses set alongside the canal in Bruges make for a very pretty landscape.” An inveterate food lover, Pallavi couldn’t stop gushing about the amazing food she had gorged on in Belgium, “Chocolate covered strawberries were delicious, and while it’s a cliché, the Belgian waffles were almost the best part of the trip.”
After her vacation, which was filled with amazing landscapes and remarkable architecture, Pallavi could hardly find the heart to come back to the concrete jungle. When asked what her overall impression was of the country, she replied, “Belgium is a good place to go to if you are looking for a place to cover in a short amount of time. It has beautiful sites and great food. And of course, go for the chocolate and the waffles!” ---Tanya