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Cycling in Belgium and Brussels


I always loved the country. And I have been doing a lot of cycling in Belgium. Apparently some have the idea Belgium is boring and not much of interest. I disagree. The country has a lot of cycling options.

Gent, an old Medieval city
Gent, an old Medieval city

I have cycled in both Flanders and Wallonia. The Dutch speaking Flanders is very different from the French speaking Walloon part of the country.

Where Flanders is for the most flat, Wallonia is hilly, where you find plenty of Medieval cities in Flanders, Wallonia have less of that. But Wallonia have plenty of nature where Flanders is more industrialized.

This page talks about Flanders and Wallonia and finish the page with some ideas where and what to do in the country.

But if you have to, you can cycle from Knokke to the German border in a day or two if you have to. Don't get me wrong, you won't see anything but yes, it IS possible.

Brussels

Some travelers will arrive by flight in Brussels. The heart of the city is truly interesting but for the most, Brussels is forgettable. However the city center has much to offer which is hardly surprising when you realize the city is more than 1000 years old.

When you come to Brussels you have to pass some if the most ugly suburbs imaginable. True, the heart of the city dates back 1000 years, just like other Belgian cities as Antwerpen, Liege, Brugges or Gent.

Yet the real beauty you will find in the city center. This was mostly build by the Burgundian merchandizers in the 14th and 15th century.

But it was during the 80 Years War that Belgium, although it was not a country at the time, was divided into the northern United Provinces and the Southern Netherlands.

This division in ruling the south by the Spanish and Autrian Habsburgs is still the reason why Brussels is divided into a French speaking (the majority) and a Flemish speaking part. The influence of the Habsburgs also explain why a small part of Belgium still speaks German.

But Brussels became only one nation in the early 19th century with Leopold I.

Language

In Belgium there are 3 languages spoken, which, for many years generate problems. For example, to please both Felmish and French speaking communities, the king will have both a Flemish and a French name.

The Flemish part of the country speaks primarily Dutch (orange), the Walloons speak French (red) while at the German border there is a significant part of the population which speaks German (green).

In Brussels speak both French and Dutch (though more French than Dutch). When you travel in Belgium, you can use French almost everywhere, especially if the Dutch speaking community understands you're not a Belgian. In reality, traveling in Belgium is easy.

Here's a little story how easy it can be .Cycling in Belgium

Help in Belgium

walloons sceneryIt's Easter Sunday. In the early morning. I had left Bouillon at the border with France. I knew Champlon was not far. I had been on this road several times and decided to take a much smaller and more scenic road to Bertix.

This road would lead me through the hills where few people live.

It wasn't my lucky day as I rode into a hole and my front wheel was completely outlined in a way I couldn't even cycle further. Fortunately Bertix wasn't too far, just a few km's.

There wouldn't be any larger towns on the way until I would reach Liege but in this condition I wouldn't go anywhere.

Bertix wasn't far, just a few km or so.

I walked with my bike into the town when a man saw me. He asked me what the problem was and I showed him. To my never ending surprise he told me he owned a bicycle shop. He asked me to come with him so he could repair the damage before he had to go to the Easter Sunday mass. When he finished his work, he went back home, took a quick shower and went to church.

He told me I should change the rim of the wheel as it wouldn't last very long. But I could continue the journey until the next day I was in Maastricht and could take the train back home.

Yes, cycling in Belgium is great. Personally I find the historical part the most interesting in Flanders but cycling in Wallonia is pretty challenging. There's more nature, less development, especially in the south east and the border with Luxembourg.

The Ardennes are the obvious choice for many cyclists who search for challenges. But Flanders has just as much to offer.

Cycling in the city center

Brussels is not really a city for cycling. Cycling into the city is not too bad but not much fun too. And once in the city, you probably prefer walking around than use your bicycle. But there is enough to see to keep you busy for a couple of days at the minimum.

Bicycle shops in Brussels

One of the best bike shops in Belgium in located in between Brussels and Gent: Van Eyk Sports. It's a huge shop where you can not only get all your spare materials but also clothing. Van Eyk Sports.

There are 3 branches.

  1. Gentsesteenweg 89 – 9300 Aalst (Tel: +32 (0)53 78 12 78)
  2. Waterstraat 31 – 2440 Geel (Tel: +32 (0)14 58 93 17)
  3. Meensesteenweg 168 – 8890 Dadizele (Tel: +32 (0)56/54 04 40)

Brussels, capital of BelgiumIf Van Eyk Sports can't help you, you probably won't be able to get your problem solved anywhere else in Belgium. Aalst is about 30 km west of Brussels on the way to Gent.

Accommodation

Cheapest accommodation, as usual in Europe, is camping. In winter however you might want to use the extensive Youth Hostel (Auberge de Jeunesse) network. Brussels alone has 4 youth hostels. I've been using youth hostels all over Belgium and they're usually very good, cheap although the newer hostels can be slightly more expensive.

The Youth hostels have the lowest prices you can get (except camping) and it's worth to become a member as soon as you start traveling/cycling in Belgium and further in Europe.

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