The most wonderful things that Belgium is known for?

Comics, waffles and chocolates of Belgium…

You knew that Johnny Depp is not the star of the 2017 remake of the classical movie ‘Murder on the Orient Express’…its Kenneth Branagh as the famous sleuth, Hercule Poirot. But did you know that Agatha Christie’s fictional detective was inspired by a real-life Belgian policeman, Jacques Hornais? For Christie whodunit fans like me, Belgium is (and will always be) synonymous with Poirot. As will be comics, waffles and chocolates. On the trail of other wonderful things in Belgium’s capital, Brussels…

1. Comics: A whiff of childhood fantasy

I would like to believe that Georges Prosper Remi is, in fact, Belgium’s national hero. Remi who? Herge…the Belgian mastermind behind the famous comic book series, ‘The Adventures of Tintin’! The city certainly does not forego any opportunity to mark his presence. Scenes from his cartoons along with those of other comic artists amiably light up hundreds of dull corners in the city. My personal favorite? The much-publicised wall mural with a scene from ‘The Calculus Affair’ depicting Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock using a fire escape as a background.

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Purest of treats await comic enthusiasts at the majestic and quirky Belgian Comic Strip Center. Tintin, Smurf, Asterix…you name it, they’ve got it covered. The permanent and temporary exhibitions are spread over 4000 square meters and attract 200,000 visitors per year. Gloat over walls and walls filled with murals, artwork, life-size exhibits and vintage comic book covers. Retreat into nostalgia as you lose yourself in the dream world of comics through the ages, from across the world. Love it, right? Then follow my league and take home a small model as a memory to cherish forever.

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2. Waffles: Aroma versus taste dilemma

Waffles, waffles everywhere, but for nothing but the best, roam the delightful Rue de l’Etuve. The preamble is pretty enough too…let your eyes guide you in admiring the jumble of Flemish-style brick houses, 18th-century mansions and modern buildings. But watch out for jostling crowds, beer-loving patrons and people-watchers sitting on tiny close-set tables along the pedestrian path. All along, tons of stores sell expensive Belgian chocolate. ‘I luv Brussels’ souvenir shops showcase common ‘take-me-homes’. Locals and tourists hog frites (fried potatoes) dipped in mayonnaise and half-baguette sandwiches crammed with potatoes, sauce, onions and deep-fried meat. Walkers munch on Parisian-style hot croissants as they stroll along. Immerse in the lively atmosphere of the historic centre.

Rue_de_l'Etuve_Brussels.jpg

Make a beeline for Le Funambule Waffles, a modest shop from 1867, graced with the company of esteemed neighbours like Neuhaus and Godiva. Right next to it, crowds are gathered around another famous icon…a bronze sculpture of a mischievous peeing boy. ‘The oldest citizen of Brussels’ from 1388 is usually dressed in costumes for major celebrations, events, and festivals in the city, but sometimes he is in his birthday suit too. If you’re expecting a larger monument…you will be surprised, even feel somewhat let-down. Believe it or not, the symbol of Brussels is only two-feet high!

Manneken_Pis.jpg

The sweet aroma of chocolate Nutella squeezed onto the fluffy, toasted waffle wafts into your nose. Naturally you are drawn like moth to the flame. Queue up for the sweet delight. The first bite is light as air. The slightly uneven crispy edges melt in your mouth. The piping-hot caramelized pearl sugar crunches musically in your ears. And the topping of whipped cream, bananas and strawberries spells pure perfection. The payout? Just 1 Euro! Round two then. Bring it on…

Waffles.jpg

3. Chocolate: A little indulgence never hurt anyone  

Endless Neuhaus, Godiva, Leonidas and Guyana storefronts…till you’re finally drawn in, hook line and sinker. The shelves overflow with temptations…basic chocolate for masses, artisanal chocolate for purists and avant-garde creations for connoisseurs. And your mind is filled with images of how it all started with Spanish explorers bringing cocoa beans to Europe from Mexico in the late 16th century. 100 years later, King Leopold II colonized the African Congo, and cocoa was introduced to Belgium. And today, the country known for the best chocolate in the world, producing around 220,000 tonnes of the coveted item every year.

Choices then. Go for the pralines…chocolates with a soft or liquid filling. Faultless taste and history to top. Pralines date back to 1857 when Brussels pharmacist Jean Neuhaus used chocolate to cover medicine and its bad taste. In 1912, Neuhaus Jr. replaced the medicine with a more tasty filling and called the sweet a ‘praline’. The first pralines were sold in a typical Belgian cone shaped bag, mainly used for fries. Obviously these were not fit to keep the delicate goodies safe and so Neuhaus Jr.’s wife designed a gift box, or ‘ballotin’, in which the pralines could be stored uniformly, safely and of course beautifully wrapped. The rest as they say, is history.

Neuhaus_chocolates.jpg

Neuhaus, the 92-year-old chocolatier, is a favourite of the Belgian royal family, and is known for its inventive caramel, marzipan, chocolate mousse, ganache and cream-filled pralines. They say, Henri Escher, Mayor of Zurich, drank his first cup of chocolate on the Grand Place in Brussels. Impressed with its flavour, he exported the recipe to Switzerland. So much for Swiss chocolates!

neuhaus.jpg

These days chocolate and chocolate making is part of the Belgium heritage. At every gourmet chocolatier, spreads of satiny bonbons entice…and the global ingredients like figs from Izmir, ginger from Guilin and hazelnuts from Piedmont, are pushing the boundaries of creativity, rewriting the history of Belgian chocolate. 

So what’s the one thing you wouldn’t leave Belgium without? 

 

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Comics, waffles and chocolates are the most wonderful things that of Belgium is known for #belgium #brussels #chocolate #waffles #foodculture #localfood

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45 thoughts on “The most wonderful things that Belgium is known for?

  1. I was supposed to visit Belgium in July, but a very irritating mistake by my day trip tour operator squashed that unfortunately. So much to see! I didn’t know that about the Agatha Christie detective and I did read some of those books! The chocolate, waffles and architecture are what I was wanting to eat and see while there. I haven’t heard of Le Funambule Waffles so looking forward to adding that to my waffle place list because yes to all things Nutella please! Interesting that the mayor of Zurich had his first cup on chocolate in Brussels considering how great Swiss chocolate is and I have been…really interesting!

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  2. I would have to say Belgium Chocolate has my heart, but I wouldn’t overlook a good Belgium beer. It’s smooth, balanced, and not too bitter, while at the same time, not being a typical American lager which lacks definition. We would love to make a pilgrimage to Belgium for all of the above.

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  3. My other half grew up in Belgium, and grew up with The Adventures of Tintin and Asterix! We’ve strolled around and seen the murals too! Also we LOVE Neuhaus chocolate, I hope you stocked up!

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  4. My mom loves Poroit. One of her favorites. I went to Belgium last year. It was really nice. Very cool you got to se the peeing boy with clothes, I didn’t but I know theres a museum with tons of his outfits.

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  5. Belgium chocolates, Belgium waffles, Belgium beer (you missed the beer?) and of course those of us who are Agatha Christie fans know of the inspiration behind her detective! Would love to see the comic museum … I grew up on Look & Learn and Biggles comics sent from my family in Great Britain, so would be fun to see if any of those were there.

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  6. Now I want waffles! My favourite combo is a waffle, nutella and a scoop of maple walnut ice-cream! I had forgotten that Tintin was Belgian – I might re-read them now – what literary treasures! I must get back to Brussels soon.

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  7. I remember reading Tintin in French class when I was little and always thinking that it originated from France so definitely didn’t know that the writer is actually from Belgium! Also, Belgium waffles are just an absolute delight. We have an amazing waffle bar here in Vancouver – although I’m not sure if it compares to the real deal. Seems like I may need a visit there now myself!!

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  8. I loved eating waffles in Belgium, Liege variety, denser and heavier than Brussels variety. The best one we’ve had was in Brugge, topped with strawberries and chocolate. The other thing I couldn’t leave Belgium without trying it out were mussels with frites. And the beer of course!

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  9. I hadn’t realized the Smurf were originated in Belgium. I loved looking around the shop at all the miniatures and remembering how much i liked the show as a child

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  10. You had me at the photo of the first little Tintin sculpture. We have all the Herge Tintin books, in both English and French. Major fans over here! For such a tiny country, Belgium is filled with great food, history, and genius in call things comic. We love Galler and Pierre Marcolini chocolates – just amazingly good!

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  11. Belgian chocolates and waffles are world famous and of course I have to try them when I go. However, Belgian Comic Strip Center is a place I had not heard of. I’d love to visit there. The Tin-tin street art is so cool!

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  12. Didn’t know that Belgium is famous for comics, wafles and chocolate. Tintin was one of my favourite comic character. Happy to see the large painting of Tintin. Would like to explore this country once. Thanks for sharing.

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  13. I miss our waffle maker and want to visit Belgium just to get some of those delicious looking waffles. The chocolate looks yummy too. Definitely some compelling reasons to visit Belgium.

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  14. Perfect timing: My daughter moved to Brussels for one semester and I’ll be visiting for Christmas – so I guess we’ll drown in beer and chocolate – and probably many other delicacies. Also, I’ve been a huge Tin Tin et Milou fan forever – read them all. So there is no way I’m not visiting their…home!

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  15. We loved the Tintin museum, though a bit far away from Brussels. Also other Tintin related spots, like the escape mural. The chocolates were the second attraction for us. Unfortunately the waffles, though good, was nothing special.

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  16. We have to visit Belgium for sure and my husband is surely gonna love it. The waffles and chocolates they are enough to tickle the senses and enjoying scenes from the comics of childhood will be superfun. Great post and pictures as always.

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  17. Haha… oh yes the Manneken Pis is just a small statue! We always find it quite funny when our friends or family tell us they want to go all the way to Brussels to see it. Did you also get a chance to go to one of the best second-hand bookstores? It’s called Pêle-Même. We loved spending days in there whenever we visited our nephew in Brussels.

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