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BELGIUM

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Belgium description

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All was not completely lost in Belgium, as during the war it overtook Ruanda-Urundi (present-day Rwanda and Burundi) from Germany, as well as several other African territories, and after the war annexed the Prussian districts of Eupen and Malmedy.

In 1939, as Germany invaded Poland at the start of World War II, the Belgian government announced its neutrality. Not at all deterred, Germany began their infiltration of the country on May 10, 1940, sparking the Battle of Belgium. Unfortunately for the Belgians, their King surrendered eighteen days later.

In late 1944, Belgium was liberated by the Allied Forces of Britain, Canada and the US. It was at this time that the Second British Army took control of Antwerp, and the First Canadian Army used the area as well to conduct combat operations.

Well, Germany didn't like the idea of the Allies using the port to bring new materials to shore, and dropped thousands of missiles onto the city. Although the city of Antwerp was battered and bruised, the port remained intact.

Post-war the government erased Belgium's debts. Naturally this jump started the economy, and amongst many rebuildings around the country, this was the time that Belgium's well-known highway system was constructed. In fact, the streetlights make the roads easily seen from space at night.

In 1960, Belgium played an ambiguous role during the Congo crises, which ultimately lead to the independence of Congo. Two years later Ruanda-Urundi followed with their own independence.

The 1970's through the 1980's saw the rise of the federal state in Belgium, as the country moved forward to find solutions to alleviate the tension between different sides of the Belgian population, particularly the two main Dutch and French language communities.

French-speaking Wallonia and Dutch-speaking Flanders were at the forefront of this language war. This tension pushed Belgium from a unitary state into a federal state with communities, regions and language areas, and to this day it remains a matter of great debate as reforms are still being made.

History was made in 1999 as elections were held for government officials, and for the first time since 1958 Belgium had a government that did not include the Christian's People Party.

These days, modern Belgium is a self-sufficient, industrialized nation, and is home base for NATO and the European Union (EU). In 1999 the Euro was introduced, replacing the Belgian franc. Then in 2003 the country became only the second ever to legalize same-sex marriages.

One of Europe's great destinations, Belgium is known for its art, cathedrals, medieval cities and castles, fine chocolates, beers, gourmet foods and friendly, hospitable people.

Travelers to Belgium can't get enough of Bruges, a beautiful Medieval city that is sometimes called the "Venice of the North."

The same is true for Brussels, the stylish capital city, known for a variety of architecture, fashion, food and nightlife. The city's main attractions include the UNESCO World Heritage Site - the Grand Place - and the bronzed fountain Manneken Pis.

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