It's such a random little country. You never hear newlyweds say, “Gosh, we're so excited. Guess where we're going on honeymoon? (The Maldives?) No. Belgium.”
Images of grey, drizzly weather and the Mannequin Pis – a statue that actually pees – they're original, those Belgians. It's one of those places where the people drive through it as quickly as possible. En route to Amsterdam from Paris, or thereabouts.
Perhaps it's random, because I believe Belgium has a bit of an identity crisis. It's not quite France, and it's not quite Holland or Germany. It's got Middle Child Syndrome. It just doesn't get the same attention as it's neighbouring countries.
I, personally, loved Belgium. I did the place top to bottom in a month, during Spring. It's actually two countries, notsostrictly speaking. The French Wallonie in the south and the Flemish north. Both hate each other. Obviously.
I drank a shitload of beer there – for taste alone, not in a bid to get whoringly drunk, like the reason I imbibe alcohol here. The French side meanders endlessly into the Ardennes forest, with the odd dottings of chateaux, cafés and the purest form of French you've ever heard. The Flemish north is friendly and achingly beautiful, with the architecture of Brugges and Antwerpen quite breathtaking. Where men are men and sheep are scared.
Brussels has a larger, freer red light district than Amsterdam. (Who knew? I found out by mistake, on ogling a woman's ginormous breasts from the train. Jumped off at the next station to get a closer look. Women find noombies fascinating too, FYI).
I got involved by pole dancing there every weekend. With my clothes on. Brussels from the outset, seems like an average European city with nothing much on offer barring a palatial square with gold everywhere. Wrong. Dig deeper, and you'll find whole Arabic districts and adult shops selling 250 types of dildo.
Belgium is so amazingly random at face value. But peel away the layers, and you'll find something most foul. You'll find there's a lot of shit going down.
Let's take paedophilia and Belgium.
Out of ten of the world's most heinous, most wanted paedophiles, EIGHT come from Belgium. This is a country smaller than KwaZulu-Natal.
That's a lot of paedophilia in one tiny area. I read a biography by a girl who, when 12, was locked up in a hole by a notoriously sick fellow for 80 days. And lived to tell the tale.
I stumbled across a Jewish concentration camp in Mechelen. By accident. Everybody talks about Auschwitz until their ears bleed, but nobody knows about Mechelen. A town harbouring every single Jew in Belgium, with real life gas cannisters on display at the museum. I needed a few Leffes after seeing that.
My mother was irate when she heard I'd gone hiking by myself in the Ardennes, with no phone, and a note merely telling my boyfriend, “I've taken a train down south. See you later.”
Mum: Peas, for God's sake, there are child molesters in Belgium!
Peas: I'm 24.
But it's still an interesting thought:
Here's a country that's so incredibly twee, it's like a home industry shop on steroids. Those cakes with inflated packets over them you buy at church fêtes? Belgium in a bag.
Belgium at face value, is known for it's lace. I shit you not.
And beer. And a population that eats a shitload of mussels. And cutesy chocolate truffles, all decorated-like. Read a Biggie Best catalogue, and you'll get the idea.
I mean, we had rabbits running around the hotel gardens. There were warrens all around us. That's how storybook is it. It smacks of Beatrix Potter.
With one little problem though: paedophilia.
Could it be because the country is so perfect? Or more likely, so random?
The BBC: Authorities in Belgium are trying to prevent the circulation of suspected or convicted paedophiles. [A] magazine in Luxembourg is attempting to publish the list of 50 such people, resident in Belgium.
Well spank me and call me Bruce. Holy fuck.
Something's rotten in the state of Belgium. Maybe, too many lace doilies, do, in fact, make people mental.
PS: I don't do lace doilies. But my neighbours do. They're hanging on the line outside.