Belgium, country of festivals

There are many different reasons to travel. Perhaps you want to go for adventure, get lost in a foreign country, maybe you want to immerse yourself in another culture, for some people it’s all about the food. And others, they just go to party.

Belgium has an ace up its sleeve when it comes to that: festivals. Belgium has a lot of them, among them the one voted “Best Music Event Worldwide” a few times in a row by the IDMA (International Dance Music Awards) in Miami, as well as “Best Major European Festival”. You may recognize the name Tomorrowland. This festival alone was so popular it attracted people from litterally all over the world. It became so big that a spin-off festival has been created, Tomorrowworld. It even has it’s own party flights to fly people in. Aside from that, many great DJ’s and bands have Belgian roots.

dimitry vegas and like mike tomorrowland anthem time with million of people cheering hd wallpaper night

A shot of Tomorrowland at night

But it’s not all dance music. There are techno, electro, folk, metal, reggae, world music, jazz and other types of festivals. Some are big, some are small. Some of the bigger names are: Graspop, Rock Werchter, 10 Days Off, Gentse Feesten, Tomorrowland, Reggae Geel, Pukkelpop, Laundry Day and I Love Techno .

Pretty clear what kind of festival Graspop is

People come from all over the world for the chill out vibes of Reggae Geel

People come from all over the world for the chill out vibes of Reggae Geel

Gent Jazz

Gent Jazz

Here’s a list of festivals you can find in Belgium. This list will always be incomplete as there are many smaller festivals that come and go. The links are pointing to the English versions of the websites if available:

A bunch of festivals can also be found on this map. Click the locations for more info:

So, if you’re in Belgium around summer time, there’s always a festival to go to. Leave a comment if you are missing a festival in the list and I’ll update it. Enjoy! 🙂

Belgium, you got balls

Atomium_by_day

The previous post dealt with the Eiffel Tower which was built for the world fair of 1889. Today, we’re having a look at another world fair construction. This time it’s the 1958 fair, and as you can see from the picture, the building is the Atomium.

The name has been derived from the model it was built after, the iron atom. The amount of spheres doesn’t match the iron element’s number of electrons or anything. The similarity is based on the whole form of the structure which resembles a pure iron crystal at room temperature, magnified 165 billion times.

Again, if you are interested in the numbers, you can find those on line. But you should know that the 9 pheres were used to symbolize the 9 provinces Belgium had at the time (that changed to 10 provinces in 1995).

Originally, the building was constucted out of aluminium, which was a relatively new material to use at the time. During a long restauration period from 2004-2006, the aluminium was replaced with rust free steel as it handles corrosion better. To help out with the costs, the replaced aluminium panels were sold. A 2 meter triangular piece sold for about €1.000. Lights were present in the original design, but they broke rather quickly. So during the restauration better lights were put on so that in the evening the structure is lit up nicely for the next 150 years. At least that’s how long they estimate the lights to last. There are 4 support colums (called bipodes) present that were not in the original design. They were added when wind tunnel tests pointed out that the thing would fall over at wind gusts at about 80km/h (50mp/h).

The reason the structure is still standing is due to the fact that by the end of the world fair it had become so famous and popular, they decided to keep it. The original idea was that it would be dismantled after no longer than 6 months.

But it’s still there! And it’s still famous. Famous enough for CNN to award it as one of the 11 most bizarre buildings in Europe.

Good news for those who want to get in and up. You can! The 3 most outer spheres are closed off from the public for safety because they don’t have any direct support. You can take an elevator to the top sphere (at 5 meters per second!) to have a good view over Brussels and something to eat, as a restaurant is located there. For some more food you can go to the central sphere to find a snack bar. There is a “children’s” sphere, which is only accessible to groups on school outings and the children can sleep in this sphere. The other accessible spheres hold permanent or temporary expositions.

Atomium in the evening (picture from structurae.de)

Should you be around, do have a look. It’s worth a few minutes of your time. And while you’re at it, make it to the top sphere to take in the panaromic view!

Have a look over here for more pictures of what you can expect to see when you get there 🙂

Thailand – man arrested for wearing “Peace please” t-shirt

They’re not kidding about the demonstrations in Thailand. Today in Bangkok a man has been arrested for wearing a t-shirt with the writing “Peace please” on it. This qualified as critiquing the current situation and the military coup.

The man has been living in Thailand for several years, so he was well aware of the situation and current laws. It is not clear if he was actively involved in a protest, though some sources seem to suggest he may have bean part of a small group of protesters. He may face up to 2 years in prison.

My advice to everyone who goes to a non-European country is to respect the laws, any and all of them. You can get away with certain things in Europe, but don’t expect the same kind of leniency in other countries.

The video below shows the man being arrested and taken away in a police car.

UPDATE: He was held for only a short time and so has already been released. It was to be expected that he wouldn’t be held long as the entire military coup is already under scrutiny and the attention of the world. Holding a foreigner for this reason would have put the current military government in a very unfavorable light.

UPDATE 2: The person in question has kindly and politely contacted me and requested the removal of his identifiable information. Which is his right to do. I have chosen to comply with the request since this article was written to make travelers aware of how things can work in other countries. It was not written to target the person in question or paint this person in any sort of negative light. This article does not imply that the person in question was not respecting the local law. I only want to point out that in certain countries it will be good to be aware of local laws (written and unwritten ones) and to respect them as it could get you into trouble if you as a traveler don’t do so and assume you can get away with it because you’re a foreigner or so.

Travel outside of Europe cheaper for Belgians

Vakanties_buiten_Europa_goedkoper

Good news for Belgians who want to travel outside of the European Union. Soon they will not need to pay the almost 4% travel taxes involved. Which makes travel cheaper for the people, but can also generate more income for the sector.

Since December 1977 Belgians pay 3.85% taxes when travelling to destinations outside of the European Union. No other country in the Union has such a tax. Because of that people book trips on line through agencies outside of Belgium, which in turn means losses for the Belgian tourism sector.