Saturday, July 11, 2009

Brussels - Capital of Belgium

Brussels has grown from a 10th-century fortress town founded by Charlemagne's grandson into a metropolis of more than one million inhabitants. Since the end of the Second World War, Brussels has been an important center for international politics. It hosts the main institutions of the European Union as well as the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Brussels is officially bilingual (Dutch and French), although most of the locals are native French speakers.

Brussels has been fought over countless times and ruled by the Dutch, Spanish, Habsburgs and French, among others. A third of the city was destroyed in the French bombardment of 1695, and most of the magnificent Renaissance buildings extant today date from just after that time. Napoleon suffered a spectacular defeat at Waterloo, just a few miles south of Brussels.

On July 21, 1831, Belgium installed its own king, Leopold I, ending Dutch rule. In the years before and after 1870 the Senne River and its canals were covered over, allowing redevelopment. As a result, many of the grandest buildings of Brussels date from the 19th century (examples are Parliament, the Royal Palace, Law Courts, Opera House and Stock Exchange). The Grand Place, shown in the photo above, in the lower town is one of Europe's most spectacular town squares.

Today Brussels is known for lace, puppet shows, tapestries and (above all) chocolate!

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