Saturday, March 14, 2015

Comparing Holland and Belgium

How much do you know about these countries? Well, you probably know that they are both low countries, both in Europe and relatively small in size, but what else? For instance, which would you rather visit if given the opportunity? Holland and Belgium may lie next to each other, but their cultures, cities and landscapes are actually quite different - they don't have the same national language! Let's take a look at these small but proud nations, and then you can decide which country you'd rather explore.

Also known as The Netherlands, this Dutch-speaking country was  one of the most powerful countries in the the world up until 1702, when France and other nations contributed to its downfall. This period of time was known as the Dutch Golden Age, and it lasted from about 1588 to 1702. Nowadays, Holland is much smaller in land area than it used to be, but it is still a very important and significant country in the world today. It was the first country in the entire world to legalize same-sex marriage (in 2001), which reflects its strong liberal values. The largest city, Amsterdam, is full of history and culture to be explored. The famous Anne Frank house is open for visitors on most days, and the Van Gogh Museum is the largest collection of Van Gogh's work in the entire world. It is an unforgettable experience to take a boat trip around Amsterdam's canal ring, and if the temperature stays below -4 degrees C (24.8 degrees F) for four nights in a row, people skate on the canals! Best of all, there is an actual floating flower market on one of the canals (the Singel canal) where one can buy the world famous Dutch tulips. These are just a few of the wonderful sights in the Netherlands, and there are countless others all across the nation.

Tulips in a flower market in Amsterdam

Belgium was actually a part of the Netherlands until the Belgian Revolution in 1830. This country has three national languages: Dutch (sometimes called Flemish), French, and German. Dutch is the most spoken language, with 59% of the population as native speakers. French is spoken as a first language in Brussels and Bruges, while Dutch is spoken in Antwerp. Brussells is not only the capitol of Flanders and Belgium, but also the unofficial capital of the European Union. Many people travel to Belgium for their legendary Belgian chocolate and Belgian waffles. While you're here, though, you can sightsee a bit as well. The Grand-Place is the main market square in Brussels, and an enormous flower carpet is laid out every two years in August, attracting millions of visitors. Don't miss the famous Manneken-Pis ("Pissing Boy") fountain that has been a humorous Brussels landmark since 1965. The classic Belgian specialties (chocolate, beer, waffles and muscles) won't be hard to find. There are countless chocolate shops and waffle stands lining the streets in Brussels, and Belgian beer and mussels are offered in most restaurants.

The Grand-Place flower carpet

So, we have two different countries which are close to each other geographically but offer different sights, activities and experiences for tourists. They are both great options for tourists, but which would you choose? Holland, Belgium, or both?

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