Belgium is a typically stable, cautiously progressive, western European liberal democracy. The alliance with The Netherlands and Luxembourg became the Benelux Union in 1958, which, in turn, became one of the foundation stones of the European Community. Brussels is the headquarters of both NATO and the EU. Today, the anachronistic images of boring Belgium have been well and truly banished over the last decade as the country promotes its key destinations, along with a string of new attractions.
Easy to travel around, this pocketsize country is divided into the Flemish north, Flemish speaking and the Walloon south, French speaking. Brussels, the capital, is the heart of the country and the European Union. Belgium always had a lot more going for it than the faceless political and bureaucratic buildings that litter its capital with a string of engaging cities in Bruges, Ghent, and Brussels itself that offer impressive architecture, lively nightlife, first rate cuisine and numerous other attractions for visitors. Then there is reinvented Antwerp, now a hotbed of fashion and modern design, and the more bucolic charms of the beauty of the mountainous Ardennes region to the east, as well as the sweeping sand of the coastline resorts of the western seaboard. Belgium is also a land whose specialities include ubiquitous beers, delicate chocolates and Belgian waffles.
The principal domestic problem is continuing tension between the Flemish speaking north and the French speaking south of the country, known as Wallonia, not forgetting the capital Brussels. However, throughout the years, Belgium has evolved towards an efficient federal system. Five reforms have been necessary to achieve this in 1970, 1980, 1988, 1989, 1993 and 2001. In 2005, Belgium celebrated 25 years of federalism and for the first time ever, article one of the Belgian Constitution stated that Belgium is a federal state made out of communities and regions.
Enjoy the many Brussels museums such as the Museum of Ancient Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Comic Strip Museum and the Museum of the City of Brussels.
Relax over a meal of moules frites in one of the many reasonably priced restaurants of Brussels Rue des Bouchers, close to the Grand Place. Most have tables outside in the summer, from which to watch the world go by while dining.
Pay homage to chocolate, which is one of Belgiums best known products, with a visit to the Chocolate and Cocoa Museum off Brussels Grand Place, or Choco Story in Bruges.
Take a canal boat ride along the waterways of Bruges sometimes described as the Venice of the North, an excellent and relaxing way to appreciate the medieval architectural splendours of this historic Flanders city.
Sample some of Belgiums many fine beers at tBrugs Beertje a characterful bar in Kemelstraat in the centre of historic Bruges. It offers a choice of literally hundreds of varieties.
Brussels is superbly located for quick-trips to several charming cities in Belgium. The three day-trips in this article have been highlighted because of their proximity to Europes capital.A little over half an hour by train from the very heart of Brussels is the busy city of Antwerp. If you have a longer stay in Brussels, youll want to experience a day here to enjoy its interesting fashion shops and nice mix of good value restaurants. If you fancy a stay overnight then the abundance of good, clean hotels will be a welcome sight particularly as they charge significantly less than youll pay in Brussels. You can book a hotel from the tourist office in the town centre of Grote Markt.- After checking out Grote Markt amble over to the Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedraal one of the most impressive medieval churches to be found anywhere in Belgium, Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedraal dates back to the 15th century.- Quite similar to Brussels, there are no shortage of restaurants and cafes in Antwerp however it is significantly cheaper to eat.Bruges is slightly farther away from Brussels than Antwerp, but still conveniently placed for a day-trip. It takes about an hour to reach Bruges by train and its well worth the effort when you consider the beauty this well preserved medieval city has to offer. Because of this, Bruges can often be packed in peak season and it can be difficult to obtain accommodation so be sure to book a place in advance if you plan to spend the night. Being a tourist hotspot, eating out in Bruges can be somewhat more expensive than other places in Belgium, and the food tends to cater to the mass number of tourists that flood the city during peak times.- Make sure you take a romantic boat ride along the cities beautiful canals. You can get a ticket for under six Euros.- Bruges offers a choice of worthwhile museums such as Groeninge (displaying a fine collection of Flemish art from as early as the 14th century). The Gruuthuse Museum is another that museum lovers will enjoy set amidst a grand medieval mansion Gruuthuse offers an exquisite collection of art & tapestry.- Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk took over two hundred years to build and this sprawling church of our lady dates back to the thirteenth century.- The Markt is one of the two central squares of Bruges city centre an open market has been held here as long ago as the tenth century.GhentHere are the must-see sights in Ghent if you happen to come for a short stay:- It took approximately six hudred years to complete St Baafskathedraal Ghents most prolific and oldest Cathedral and some parts of this gothic masterpiece stretch back to the twelfth century.- Gravensteen Castle was constructed in the eleventh century and its one of the most prolific landmarks of Ghent. Closeby are the Museum voor Sierkunst en Vormgeving (with various displays depicting Ghent life over the past couple of centuries) and the fish market (Vishmarkt). There are alternative museums to visit Museum voor Schone Kunsten has a large display of art dating back to the 14th century while the Bijlolemuseum is held in a building that was first built in the 13th century.- Stroll along the river Leie for one of the most pleasant walks available anywhere in Belgium.- If youre planning on staying the night you should be able to find a room that meets your requirements. Accommodation is typically fairly easy to secure (except for July when the town hosts Gentse Feesten). Its possible to secure a basic room from as little as 25 euros or if youre able to afford something more extravagant you could kip in style for 400 euros.
If your stay in Brussels extends to a week or more, you should certainly consider a day-trip to at least one of these wonderful Belgian cities.
Traveling by Eurostar between Europe and Britain is very convenient since it bypasses all the hassle of getting to and from airports. The overall journey is shorter and more pleasant.
Eurostar connects Brussels South with St. Pancras station in London, stopping once in France and once in Britain between these end destinations. Getting to Brussels South in Belgium by train is included in the price of your Eurostar ticket although there is no equivalent benefit in England.
Since both the Eurostar Brussels station and St. Pancras have both been remodeled it is a pleasure to board and alight and go on your way. Both have been modeled on the best airport facilities with small shops, restaurants and all the facilities.
Indeed the journey on Eurostar itself is much like flying. I traveled from Brussels to London in Leisure Select class, which is equivalent to traveling first. There is also a Leisure Select business in which businessmen can meet and/or work. That costs a little more. There is also a standard class that is somewhat cheaper.
In Brussels you pass both Belgian and British immigration services on the way out and coming back I passed through British and French immigration services, even though Britain is part of the European Union. That surprised me but added to the international flavor of this train.
On board Leisure Select you are met by the cabin attendant and conducted to your reserved seat. Mine was a single seat on one side of a large aisle, which was comparable to a business-class seat in a good plane except that there were no seat belts. That felt a little odd.
During the journey I was served a breakfast in one direction and lunch in the other. These were both excellent meals, well cooked and hot with all the trimmings and good wine. They were equivalent to first-class plane meals before the airlines had to start economizing.
Travel itself was very fast and the journey interesting except that the Chunnel’ is merely a long tunnel. The one thing, on my journey, that brought the real meaning of the Chunnel to mind is that the train was delayed for an hour on the French side because an unauthorized person had been found on an earlier train in the Chunnel. That delay, however, rarely occurs. We saw more of the Chunnel train sidings and work facilities on the British side.
From France, open flat farm country is left behind, while emerging into England, the countryside changes to that of Kent’s undulating green. In a plane you would have seen nothing of that between identical plane tarmac landing strips.
Furthermore, I would have landed far from London at Heathrow making subsequent travel difficult. In passing, I should add that any mode of travel that avoids Heathrow is worth any cost since Heathrow is undoubtedly the worst airport that it has been my displeasure to visit. That alone makes the small additional cost of the Eurostar worthwhile.
As a postscript, I should mention that this was not my only visit to the Chunnel. During construction, before Eurostar existed, I was able to enter from the English side and travel to the center of the Chunnel by small work train. There I could see the work of the tunnel being clad with concrete. I was nice to return as a passenger.
by Michael Webster: Investigative Reporter Aug 16, 2008 12:01 PM PDT
L.A. Times reported that Russia and its allied forces destroyed a key railway bridge linking war-weary Georgia’s capital to the Black Sea coast, and blow up Georgian coast guard and other vessels, effectively severing all east-west transportation routes within the small country, the Georgian Foreign Ministry announced. The move came a day after the Georgian president signed a French-backed cease-fire proposal during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Russian soldiers occupying the central Georgian town of Gori also pushed forward 14 miles toward the capital, Tbilisi, setting up positions on the country’s main east-west road 25 miles from the capital. Adjacent agricultural fields were set afire, apparently by Russian soldiers.
Global Research’s Michel Chossudovsky reported that during the night of August 7, coinciding with the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, Georgia’s president Saakashvili ordered an all-out military attack on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia.
The aerial bombardments and ground attacks were largely directed against civilian targets including residential areas, hospitals and the university. The provincial capital Tskhinvali was destroyed. The attacks resulted in some 1500 civilian deaths, according to both Russian and Western sources. “The air and artillery bombardment left the provincial capital without water, food, electricity and gas. Horrified civilians crawled out of the basements into the streets as fighting eased, looking for supplies.” (AP, August 9, 2008). According to reports, some 34,000 people from South Ossetia have fled to Russia. (Deseret Morning News, Salt Lake City, August 10, 2008)
The importance and timing of this military operation must be carefully analyzed. It has far-reaching implications.
Georgia is an outpost of US and NATO forces, on the immediate border of the Russian Federation and within proximity of the Middle East Central Asian war theater. South Ossetia is also at the crossroads of strategic oil and gas pipeline routes.
NATO encouraged Georgia to attack according to Russian envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin. He sent an official note to representatives of all member countries in Brussels in connection with Georgia’s military actions against South Ossetia. He’s calling on them not to support Mikhail Saakashvili.
Russia has already begun consultations with the ambassadors of the NATO countries and with NATO military representatives. Rogozin said. “We will caution them against continuing to further support of Saakashvili.”
Rogozin says Georgian aggression against South Ossetia is obvious. “It is an undisguised aggression accompanied by a mass propaganda war,” he said.
Rogozin has linked Friday’s onslaught to the support given to Saakashvili at the recent NATO summit in Bucharest. At the meeting, Rogozin says, it “was hinted Georgia has prospects in NATO.”
South Ossetia close to humanitarian disaster Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says he hopes Georgia’s Western partners take note of what has happened in South Ossetia and draw conclusions.
“It all confirms our numerous warnings addressed to the international community that it is necessary to pay attention to massive arms purchasing by Georgia during several years. Now we see how these arms and Georgian special troops who had been trained by foreign and U.S. specialists are used,” he said.
They also accused the Georgian authorities of ignoring the UN Security Council’s call to observe a ceasefire during the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Meanwhile, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili told CNN on Friday that Russia “is waging war against Georgia”. Claims over 2,000 Georgians have been killed during the Russian invasion so far.
He said it was in the interests of the USA to help Georgia.
“It concerns not only Georgia -it concerns the U.S. and its values. We are a freedom-loving country which is being attacked,” Saakashvili said.
Georgia has called on the U.S. and other countries to put pressure upon Russia “to put an end to a military aggression” in South Ossetia, Georgian ambassador to the U.S. Vasil Sikharulidze told the American media on Friday.
“We ask our friends, including the U.S., to be mediators and try persuading Russia to stop this military aggression and incursion into Georgia,” Sikharulidze said.
Earlier U.S. president George W. Bush said the U.S. supports the territorial integrity of Georgia.
The President of the breakaway republic of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity claims about 1,400 people have been killed by Georgian shelling.
“It is the third genocide of the Ossetian people from the side of Georgia, and Saakashvili is the main murderer,” Kokoity said.
In connection with the escalating tensions in South Ossetia, Abkhazia’s armed forces have moved to the border with Georgia, the breakaway republic’s president Sergey Bagapsh said on Friday.
“Irrespective of the development of situation in South Ossetia, we won’t stop moving to the border with Georgia. Today they launch a military aggression against South Ossetia and tomorrow it could be Abkhazia. It cannot go on like that,” Bagapsh said.
Meanwhile the EU has called for an immediate cessation of violence. It says it’s ‘deeply concerned’ about the dramatic escalation in the conflict between Tbilisi and its separatist republic.
A spokesman for the EU Council said The Union’s high representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, had spoken to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on Thursday. He said Solana urged Saakashvili to show restraint and to return to the negotiating table.
Javier Solana’s spokesperson, Cristina Gallach, said on Friday that urgent action is needed to stop a further loss of lives.
“We are extremely concerned with the latest developments and we think that it is very regrettable that there has been loss of lives. The most urgent thing at the moment is to calm the situation down,” she said.
The NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has called on the authorities of Georgia and South Ossetia to stop the violence and to restore peaceful negotiations.
U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, Told the president today at the Crawford ranch that she also urged Russia to stop attacks on Georgia, respect its territorial integrity and withdraw its troops from Georgian territory. There is a ceasefire in effect but no one seems to be honoring it. Russia is promising to pull out of Georgia but as of this writing they have not. Russia has cut the country vividly in half and is controlling the roads and the harbors, hence controlling commerce including the flow of Georgia’s oil pipeline. The EU is not expected to do anything either as Russia already controls forty percent of all of Europe’s natural gas and an even larger percentage of their oil.
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The best dog breeds for lazy people are dogs that don’t exist. Dogs require as much love, attention, training, care and grooming an owner can afford to give them. If a person is truly lazy, then owning a dog is not in their or the dog’s best interests. However, if by “lazy,” we mean “couch potato,” then there are a few small dog breeds that are naturally easy to maintain and exhibit low energy levels in an indoor environment that may fit the bill.
According to the web site, Go Pets America (www.gopetsamerica.com), there is a short list of dog breeds that are non-shedders, are small in size and have relatively low activity requirements indoors. Extensive outdoor exercise or long walks are not necessarily required as long as the dog receives adequate indoor exercise and maintains a healthy weight. Some toy breeds may have high energy levels, but can get the exercise they need running around in compact, indoor areas such as apartments or town homes. Some of these non-shedding, small, low activity dog breeds are:
2) Bichon Frise
4) Brussels Griffon
5) Chinese Crested
6) Coton de Tulear
8) Shih Tzu
9) Toy Poodle
Keep in mind that any dog left to their own devices will become destructive. Providing plenty of chew toys and playthings to keep the dog busy throughout the day will curb his desire to take out his frustrations on your new couch.
Small dogs, especially toy and terrier breeds, are known to be yippers, expressing themselves loudly and continuously at the slightest provocation. Although the concept of training may conflict with a leisurely lifestyle, some early instruction in this area should keep the behavior to a minimum.
Crate confinement can be utilized to redirect energy and prevent damage to belongings when the dog is left by himself. A crate is simply an artificial den made of Fiberglas or wire that can located in any room. Choose a crate that allows the dog to easily enter, turn around and exit without difficulty. Once he learns that this is his special place, he will seek it out to nap or just relax. The crate can also be used as a “time out” location if the dog has misbehaved or needs to be kept isolated from small children or other animals for a short period.
Small, non-shedding, low-activity dog breeds make good pets for many people, regardless of their particular laziness factor. A clear benefit to those of the lazy persuasion may find that owning a dog will slowly draw them out of their couch potato existence and find that they enjoy the simple pleasures associated with dog ownership. Training, exercising and playing with their dog may become more rewarding as the relationship develops, which is what owning a dog is really all about.
The key to healthy holiday eating, or for that matter ANY sensible eating plan, and its vulnerability to the stresses common during the holidays, mood swings, economic strife, or any of myriad opportunities to “be bad just this once”, is the same as for any substantial and long-term lifestyle and behavioral change – sustainability. And the key to the sustainability of any permanent personal change is ATTITUDE.
Wait! I can hear those hard-drives beeping “over and out” right now! But fear not! Believe me, I understand the trepidation toward the cookie-cutter “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” monologue, wielded by so many guru-wannabes who feign the hard-learned and hard-earned wisdom of the rogue-gone-straight. Most advice that dares to don the faux-humble crown of ‘attitude’ seems to fall just short of being a hellfire sermon from on-high, effectively guilting the receiver into placating the guru with the obligatory and contrite head nods that only yield to headaches in the absence of the hovering of said authority figure.
So, what of this holiday eating? It’s remarkably, liberatingly simple: don’t set yourself up to fail! Commit to *sensible* eating that you can live with! Who among us can honestly say that they have unfailingly complied with some oath to, oh, eat 2 servings of Brussels’ sprouts a week, every week, for the past 10 years? Okay 5 years? One year? One serving a week? Ahhha hand went up! Ohhhhyou LIKE Brussels’ sprouts!
Understand? Your plan has to be one you can LIVE with not just your body but your soul! If you are miserable as you stay ever so healthy, what’s the point, gov’nuh? One of two things is gonna break eventually your spirit, or your plan I’m talking about sustainability, here. Your plan isn’t gonna work if you can’t bring yourself to work your plan. The only way to ensure that you are able to work your plan over the long haul, is to be able to find some satisfaction and enjoyment out of not just getting past it but of DOING it.
But we’re not talking about the long haul, right? Just get me through ChristmaHanuQuanza and the two hellacious weeks of my mother-in-law’s visit! But isn’t life already stressful enough, ESPECIALLY during the holidays? Why add to your burdens some lofty sacred vow to swear off all cheesecake and especially Aunt Behemoth-Bottom’s 2-cheese mashed potatoes? The answer isn’t rocket science, I promise. It’s the tried and true but ever thus: “moderation”! Have *a* serving of the delectable spuds, and accompany
Brussels is a little bit of everything, an agglomeration of 19 communes forming one of the three Regions of the federal Belgian state. The capital of the Kingdom of Belgium, the headquarters of the French and Flemish Communities. Brussels is also the home of the European Commission and the Council of the European Union.
Since 1 January 2002 the EURO is the official currency of Belgium, together with 10 other European countries. Around the main town square there are a lot of money exchange booths, banks and automatic money machines. Most shops, restaurants and hotels accept all major Credit Cards.
In recent decades, the arrival of European officials as well as of immigrants and refugees from all over the world have made it a bustling town with a very colourful, varied population, but also one with increasing traffic and parking problems. But fortunately, there are spaces and parks where one can find some quiet and rest away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
The world famous peeing boy can be seen every day and night at the corner of Eikstraat Stoofstraat near the Grand Place. Between April and September the town square and its buildings are illuminated at night to the rhythm of classical music.
Created in 1958 as part of the World Fair, the Atomium is one of Brussels most recognisable sights, and at 102 metres tall it affords a wonderful view to those who reach the top. Mini Europe is also worth a visit, with its small scale representations of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and more. Representing Belgian irreverence, Mannekin Pis, the world famous statue, can be found at the corner of Eikstraat Stoofstraat, near the Grand Place.
The country objectively has the best beer in the world. Therefore, your stay in Brussels cannot be complete without a visit to one of the many typical and beautiful cafes and pubs that you will find here. Try the local beers of Brussels Gueuze or fruit beer, cherry beer, raspberry beer, peach beer or a wonderful Trappist beer, made in one of the Abbeys of Belgium. Be Careful when drinking a Trappist beer. These beers tend to be very strong.
Everywhere in the city you will find chocolate shops.
Brussels is officially bilingual, French and Dutch, although French, mother tongue of the majority of the population, is the lingua franca and the most widely used language in Brussels.
Antwerp is one of Belgium’s most influential provinces. It is best familiar for the charming and light-hearted nature of its folk. It is also known as the diamond capital of the world because 70% of the world diamond trade takes compass in the area. It could also be said that Antwerp is one of the economic capitals of Belgium – this comes as no surprise since Antwerp has long been an economic powerhouse in Belgium, with a successful financial past events dating back to the 1500s. This historical wealth gave rise to the ancient-searching constructions of Antwerp, which are some of the tourist bait of present.
Vacationists are drawn to scarcely any hotspots in Antwerp. Appealing Antwerp tourism destinations include the Cathedral of our Lady, notable for its architectural design, the Steen, noted for it’s archaic castle like structure and the fact that it is one of the oldest edifices within the place; the home of painter Peter Paul Reuben; Antwerp’s urban place Hall erected in the sixteenth century, and the zoo. Don’t forget to check out the Grote Market in Antwerp where vendors regularly sell their wares. Antwerp tourism is a bustling industry because the center has so many spots of leisure!
Aside from the casual stroll and site-seeing, there are other treat and insightful activities that you could do in Antwerp. Fundamental tours in Antwerp include the Port Antwerp journey. The port is the 2nd greatest in Europe and the 5th biggest in the world. This port was one of the instruments of free trade in Europe as it welcomed goods from Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The Antwerp Ghostwalk is a center journey that explores the darker side of Antwerp. The tour tells the collapse of Antwerp due to a succession of wars in days of yore it turned around and became termed it is nowadays.
Antwerp has its own brand of entertainment found in the dated city centre. The Cafe Beveren is a quaint shop frequented by university students, singles, and sailors. There is also an antique organ and jukebox that is played by local talents. The Bourlaschouwburg is a round theatre that was once constructed for the French elite in the 1830′s. Present, you can watch the Het Toneelhuis theatre company display their talent in this theatre. Cartoons is a cinema house for foreign films and independently produced features. You can sit down and take in the cosy atmosphere of the cinema house with your date.
Antwerp stands out from the rest of Belgium when it comes to food. While Brussels is well-known for its chocolate, Antwerp has a delicacy christened “smos” which is made out of bread. It is difficult to say where the ultimate “smos” is, as every character in Antwerp has a various opinion about it, but one well-known store is Jean-Pierre. The friendly humans of Antwerp will gladly direct the sightseers to a compass near the university where the accepted “smos” is served.
The better restaurants in Antwerp do not offer Belgian food, unfortunately. The common food offered is just like the other sites with regard to ethnic food.
Antwerp’s history as a trading hub allowed it to accumulate ethnology and experiences divergent from other places in Belgium. Now, Antwerp is going back to top form economically. Antwerp is one of the minute tourist ports in Europe that is classic and progressive, ready to bring its spirit in the new century.