BELGIUM

Remarkable Facts

Remarkable Belgian facts

The word "spa", used worldwide to refer to an area for relaxation, comes from the name of the Belgian town of Spa, famous for its thermal waters !

Waterloo, the battlefield at which Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated, lies just south of Brussels.

In 1899, Belgian engineer Camille Jenatzy was the first driver to reach a speed of 100 kph in his electric vehicle "La Jamais Contente" (The Never Satisfied).

Along with Washington DC, Brussels has the highest number of diplomats and foreign press correspondents in the world !

What became known as the Big Bang theory of physics was proposed in 1927 by Belgian priest and scientist Georges Lemaître !

From space, astronauts can see only two man-made points on Earth: the Great Wall of China and ... Belgium, on account of the cluster of light visible at night from the country's fully illuminated motorway network ! (Alas, that recently died because of budget cuts...)

Belgium has more castles per square kilometre than any other country in the world !

During the 1970's, Belgian tax pressure reached absurd heights. For those who made slightly more than the average, 72 percent tax was no exception ! Since the tax burden was spread over progressively higher brackets, the taxes on the highest bracket - if you made no prepayments - reached the unprecedented level of 102.25 percent, or slightly more than what was earned in the first place...

Of all European countries, Belgium charges the highest fiscal and social taxes on salaries.

The cartoon characters Tintin, the Smurfs and Lucky Luke were created by Belgians.

The first international football match (soccer) was officially played in Brussels in 1904.

the Lion of Waterloo La Jamais Contente
the Lion of Waterloo
La Jamais Contente

The very popular King Baudouin ruled from 1951 until his death in 1993. In 1990, however, his long reign was briefly interrupted by another creative Belgian maneuver... In April 1990, the king refused to sign the abortion law, on grounds of conscience issues. To resolve this extremely delicate impasse, Prime Minister Wilfried Martens simply noted that the King was in "actual inability to rule". King Baudouin was therefore relieved of his duties on April 3, 1990, or in other words, deposed ! Moments later, the entire government signed the abortion law in the name of the Belgian people, and the very next day the government decided that the "actual inability to rule" suddenly no longer existed ! So the king could again be king, after 36 hours of "not being king"...

The first permanent President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, is a Belgian !

Belgium also has the doubtful honor of having obtained a world record, that somewhat cynically has been duly noted in the Guinness Book of Records. The most recent government formation, from 26 April 2010 to 06 December 2011, or five hundred and forty one days of endless political bickering and fruitless negotiations, is the longest government formation ever recorded anywhere... It was followed (and still is at this time...) by the longest and toughest negotiations between the political parties over the distribution of the top 65 administrative cushy jobs to "friends of friends", another 200 days...

The Bank of England was founded by John Houblon, a Walloon protestant, whose family had fled from religious persecution. His portrait is on the £50.00 notes !

John Joseph Merlin, from the town of Huy, invented the roller skate, and brought it to a masquerade party at Carlisle House in London, in the 1760’s.

The saxophone was invented by Adolphe Sax, a Belgian from the town of Dinant.

The famous song "Pump up the Jam", was written by the Belgian band Technotronic.

The most translated books in the world, after the Bible, are the books of Inspector Maigret, by author Georges Simenon, who was born in Liege.

Béguinages were founded around 1160 by a priest from Liège, named Lambert Le Bègue (Lambert the stutterer), as homes for women who lived alone, and devoted themselves to prayer and good works, without however taking vows. The name Béguines and Beguinages actually stem from his nickname ! Forty years later, Liège's example was followed in Flanders, the Netherlands, and Germany.

On grand ceremonial occasions, nothing has the power to stir the heart and unite the public quite like the national anthem. That is, unless you happen to be the Prime Minister of Belgium, Yves Leterme... On 21 July 2007, Belgium's National Day, when asked if he knew the words to his country’s national song, he sang the opening lines of the Marseillaise - the French anthem !...

Video : the "Belgian" national anthem...

 

 

Already in 57 BC, Julius Caesar attested in his "Iulii Caesaris Commentarii De Bello Gallico" that "Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae", or "the Belgians are the bravest of them"... We have to be !

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