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Belgium - Overview
Population: 10,364,388 (July 2005 est.)
Languages: Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)
Religions: Roman Catholic 75%, Protestant or other 25%
Currency: euro (EUR)
Located in Western Europe between the Netherlands and France, with the North Sea to the west, Belgium enjoys a variety of landscapes, including coastal plains, rolling hills and a mountainous forested region. It consists of a federation of three distinct regions with their own culture and language: French-speaking Wallonia in the south, Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north, and Brussels, where both French and Dutch are spoken. Flanders and Wallonia have been granted formal autonomy and have a high degree of independence in public administration and the educational sphere.
The main cities of Flanders are the charming and picturesque medieval centres of Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent, with their cobbled streets and beautiful architecture. In this region the landscape is flat, and there is a network of canals.
Wallonia by contrast has lush hilly countryside and forest, and its characteristic enchanting castles. In this region of Belgium, the main centres of population are Leige, Namur and Tournai.
Belgium is rich in culture, art and history, which are reflected in its mix of architectural styles, its many festivals, its abundance of museums, galleries and theatres and its famous battlefields and preserved trenches. It is also renowned for its excellent food and drink, particularly the beer and chocolate! Brussels is particularly famous for its many restaurants and lively nightlife.
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