#CIJRoadTrip – Belgium: Leuven

Contributor post by Michelle of EviesToolEmporium

Let’s travel to Belgium – Leuven with Wezz from cyberwezz

1. What city do you live in? What makes it special?

I live in Leuven. If you look on a map it’s about 20 miles east of Brussels, our capital. Leuven is the capital of the province of Flemish Brabant.

It’s a vibrant student city with the oldest Catholic university in the world. It was founded in 1425! Thanks to the mix of students from all over the world we have an amazing variety of restaurants and bars. The nick name for the Old Market is “longest bar in the world” with roughly 40-50 bars siding around the square. Since the square has been made pedestrian area it is the best place to enjoy a drink and go “people watching”. It’s also a place where various free concerts and other events take place during the summer months. We have a sublime patrimonium of classified architectural buildings, lots of them belonging to the city or university, especially the city hall and the university library are worth mentioning. Leuven is also called “Little Bruges” for it’s lovely architecture and everything is within walking distance. Lots of shopping streets are for pedestrians only. Lots of walking tours are organized, ranging from a historic walk from when the first stones of the city were laid, architectural tours, the seven wonders of the city, and of course this year especially the commemorative tours on the first World War when our city was bombarded.

Leuven is also the home town of the Stella Artois beer, brewed here since 1366. Beer is Belgian heritage and lots of new micro breweries are starting up again, and produce good beers!

Then, of course, there’s Belgian chocolate…. Need I say more?

Leuven Stadhuis - Belgium

Leuven Stadhuis – Belgium

Old Market - "Marktrock" - Belgium

Old Market – “Marktrock” – Belgium

2. What are several places everyone visiting your country should see?

– Leuven of course!!

– Brussels, it’s our capital city, the heart of Europe and has an interesting architecture. There’s the lovely old buildings contrasting with the modern office buildings. Belgium is a kingdom, and the Royal Family resides in Brussels. You may have seen one of the quirkiest buildings ever in a picture, the Atomium. It was build for the World Expo in 1958 held in Brussels and is THE tourist attraction of our capital. It represents an elementary iron crystal, but enlarged enourmously. The top ball has a 360° view restaurant.

– Bruges, the Venice of the North as it’s also called. Particularly look for the famous lace. (also Brussels is known for its lace work) Very touristy, very busy in the summer months so remember Leuven is called Little Bruges!

– Waterloo for those interested in history there is the site where Napoleon lost his battle. It’s not far from Brussels or Leuven. Well, actually, nothing is ever far in our country as it’s so tiny you can drive 2 hours in any given direction and be in another European country!

– Ieper with the Menengate where they still play “The Last Post” every evening at 8pm and they have been doing so since 1928 to remember the fallen soldiers of the first World War. Over 54000 names are carved in the stones of the gate. While you are there you should also visit the museum of the Flanders’ Fields and make a trip to at least one of them, the poppy fields look amazing and the white crosses will make you silent and reflect on what never should happen again.

– Antwerp, the Diamond city. Do visit the Diamond Museum. It’s also our fashion capital with a fashion academy that has produced some famous designers; like Dries Van Noten, Dirk Bikkembergs and more.

All I have told you so far is mostly about Flanders, the northern half of our country. The north has a coastline with vast sandy beaches and dunes, and borders the North Sea, the great divide between Belgium and the United Kingdom.

In the south, we have a more hilly landscape featuring the Ardennes where many battles have been fought during the second World War. The Battle of Bastogne is a famous one, and was fought under very harsh winter circumstances. The series “Band Of Brothers” is worth watching, for this alone, to see what our people and the allies went through. Now, the region is very pretty, and many go there to spend their holidays.

Our country may be a tiny speck on the globe, but we do have 3 official languages. In Flanders, we speak dutch, the same language as The Netherlands although there are some significant differences.

In the southern part we speak French, like in France, but again, with some differences. The French usually can tell.

And then there is a smaller German speaking community. With Brussels being a tourist attraction, a home to a tremendous amount of international companies and having the headquarters of the NATO based there, English is a good language to learn if you want to stand a chance on getting a good job in the capital.

We learn all those languages in school. Depending on what direction you pick, at the very least you’ll be taught the basics.

Our main national sports are cycling and football. And not soccer as the US calls it, this one is actually played with your feet!

Oh and when we were traveling in the US we noticed that what is sold there as “Belgian waffles” doesn’t even come close to the real thing. What you really want is a Brussels waffle, or a Liège waffle. In fact, there is no such thing as a Belgian waffle! Each region has their own specific version and is very different from any other.

I’m sure I did not cover even half of what I could have told you about Belgium!

There is so much to see in our little country, I can never give a complete list!

Brussels - "Atomium" - Belgium

Brussels – “Atomium” – Belgium

Flanders Fields - Belgium

Flanders Fields – Belgium

Menenpoort in Ieper - "Last Post" - Belgium

Menenpoort in Ieper – “Last Post” – Belgium

Antwerp - Belgium

Antwerp – Belgium

3.  How have the customs, traditions, geography, nature etc. inspired the items you create?

Since I live in a student city and in a country with an abundance of greenery and flowers thanks to the soft climate, I very much like to use vibrant colors, but also quality materials for “easy to wear with every outfit” jewelry. Recycling is a big thing here, so I try not to waste anything, and this works especially in the glass fused jewelry I make.

Ardennes Region - Belgium

Ardennes Region – Belgium

4. What are you doing this fall to drive your business in your community? Are you doing a festival or show? How do you reach out to your community?

I’m working on a line of commemorative glass jewelry with poppy fields as well as a line of sterling silver combined with pearls and gem stones.

I will be doing a few shows in the fall, some of which are small and very close to home.

Since about 5 years there is an active community in our street and we organize quite a bit of events. Last winter we did a “street talent” month where everyone could show their talent to everyone else. The idea was that behind each door lives someone with a talent, no matter how big or small, everyone has a talent. Let’s open our door for others to see that talent. I was amazed at the diversity! There was music, theatre, pizza baking, italian cooking, painting, sketching, green thumbs, trip organizing, beer brewing at home and more. And that’s just our street alone, imagine what would happen if this was done on a bigger scale! (I gave a few workshops on making your own earrings, so much fun!)

Glass Fused Earrings from cyberwezz

Glass Fused Earrings from cyberwezz

Heart to Heart Earrings In Matte Gold From cyberwezz

Heart to Heart Earrings In Matte Gold From cyberwezz

Cretan Stone Pendant III From cyberwezz

Cretan Stone Pendant III From cyberwezz

5. What are your social media sites?

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/The-World-Of-Wezz/145042285605164
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/cyberwezz/
Twitter: twitter.com/cyberwezz