Europe : Benelux
Benelux is an economic union comprising three neighbouring monarchies, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The name is formed from the beginning of each country's name. It is a precursor of the European (Economic) Union and as such, borders here have been 'open' for many more years than in the rest of the EU.
The rest of the area is what is known as the The Low Countries; this is the delta of the rivers Scheldt, Meuse, Rhine and Ems. Originally swamp land, enterprising fishermen discovered a flair for trade when trading routes started to emerge between the grain markets of the Baltic Sea and the renaissance-bitten luxury goods markets of northern Italy. Here is where stocks were invented.
This attention to trade made Bruges one of the largest cities in Europe in its day, and the mediaeval town is still well preserved. When the secession war with Spain progressed, French and Flemish alike fled to Amsterdam, which became the new world capital of trade, which is still witnessed in the many 'Houses of the Lords' lining the famous canals.
Dutch (or Flemish) is the main language in the Netherlands and in the north of Belgium (Flanders) plus Brussels. French too is spoken in Brussels and in the south of Belgium (Wallon). On the east side of Belgium there are a few German speaking communities. Luxembourg has three offical languages: Luxembourgish, French and German. Many, especially in the Netherlands, speak English. Frisian is spoken in Friesland (Netherlands).
Much of the swamp land in the Low Countries has been reclaimed, resulting in some of the largest water works in the world, and in other attractions such as the wind mills of the Kinderdijk in Noord-Holland. Much has not been reclaimed, resulting in interesting biotopes, such as the Zwin on the coast of Belgium and the area around the Waddenzee in the North of the Netherlands.
- Rent a "bike" and explore Amsterdam.
Try Moules et frites - Belgium's answer to fish and chips.
- Try the famous Belgian brewed beers!
This page was last edited at 04:38, on 23 March 2009 by Peter Fitzgerald. Based on work by Ronnie Pander, Todd VerBeek, Ryan Holliday, joel thornton, Evan Prodromou, Colin Jensen, Yann Forget and Michele Ann Jenkins, Wikitravel user(s) Shaund, Rein N., Episteme, Mnd, Hypatia and Huttite, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.