Fairytales Come to Life in Belgium

{Originally posted by Janelle Hilmes, a Junior at CSU studying Nutrition and Food Science. Her blog is located directly here}.

This weekend, Meghan, Divleen and I flew to Brussels for our first trip outside of Spain! We visited Brussels and Bruges and had an amazing weekend!

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When we arrived we knew that we could take a train to our hostel and figured that it would be easy to figure out when we got there. Turns out, Belgium is a trilingual country where people speak French, Dutch, and German. In the North (where we were) they also speak Flemish which is a variation of Dutch. Despite signs being in several languages and people speaking all of these, we still couldn’t communicate because we don’t know any of these. Luckily, we found our way to the train and found a worker who spoke enough English to help us get to the Brussels central train station, but the trip started off a tad stressful. Over the course of the weekend, I was amazed at how many people do in fact speak English and we were able to communicate just fine.

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The first people we encountered were all speaking Flemish. We were certain that they were speaking whatever language they speak in the game The Sims because it sounds just like that. According to Google, The Sims speak a made up language but I am positive that whoever made that game was inspired by Flemish. We thought it was so funny and kept making references to this game all weekend.

It was pouring rain and very cold the first night so we found our way to the hostel, got dinner, and went to bed. We were so happy to have a break from Spanish food (which is bland and small portions) and our first meal did not disappoint. I got a burger which was big, flavorful, and delicious and made me really happy!

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The next day we got up early and hopped on a train to Bruges for a day trip. It took about an hour and only cost 12 euros round trip which was a pleasant surprise! Overall, Belgium was more expensive than Spain but it wasn’t outrageous, I think Spain is just really cheap! Bruges is one of the most picturesque places I have ever been. I absolutely fell in love.

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It has canals running through the city and cute little buildings that look like they popped straight out of a fairytale. There are horse-drawn carriages and swans everywhere which make it very romantic and just perfect. I couldn’t have dreamed up a prettier city. We took a boat tour through the canals which was touristy but very fun.

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Later in the day we went on a brewery tour of De Halve Maan Brewery (the only working brewery in the city of Bruges) which was really interesting and we learned a lot about the history of the city because this brewery has been around for a couple hundred years. We also got a great view of the city from the roof of the brewery. And the beer was good too!

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Belgium is famous for waffles, beer, fries (which apparently originated in Belgium not in France), and chocolate. We ate/drank all of these things and they were all amazing!

There is a bar in Brussels called Delirium which is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most types of beer (over 2000 different types!). We went there and tried unique things like cookie beer and chocolate beer, yum!

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I also tried cherry beer and it was sweet and delicious! It tasted like if beer and sangria had a baby, best beer I’ve ever had! It was called Belle-Vue and it is a Belgian beer. If anyone knows how to get it in the states let me know because I want to buy it!

We ate a lot of Belgian waffles too. They are cheap and delicious!

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Belgian chocolates are famous too and there are chocolate shops everywhere! We got a few fancy chocolates and they were really good. They also have friteries everywhere that sell fries. The traditional Belgian way is to get a cone or bowl of fries with a glob of sauce (basically mayonnaise) on top. We tried several different sauces and the fries were so yummy!

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I’m sure it’s obvious but I just have to say one more time that the food in Belgium is amazing!

The next day back in Brussels we visited The Atomium. This consists of 9 giant balls with escalators running between them. It is supposed to look like the atoms in one unit of an iron crystal. It is huge and if you go inside there is a museum and you can apparently get a good view of the city but we just saw it from the outside. It was strange but pretty cool.

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Then we took a free walking tour of Brussels which was the best tour I have ever been on. Our guide was knowledgeable, funny, and interesting and I learned a ton about Brussels. Before the tour I was not super impressed with Brussels because it seemed to be just a city, nothing special. But I realized that it really is a pretty city when you find all of the hidden gems.

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The main square is gorgeous and all of the buildings have gold covering the front.

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I am so happy that I chose to go to Belgium and see this beautiful place! Despite it being very cold weather, it only rained the first night (which is lucky because it apparently rains 1 out of 2 days in Brussels). It really was a perfect weekend and we had great luck with everything we did. Though it was not somewhere I had ever really considered going, I’m so glad I did. Belgium, especially Bruges, exceeded my expectations. Hasta pronto!

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Broadcasting in Belgium

[Originally posted by Courtney Deuschle on May 30. Courtney is currently taking part in the International Media Studies program in Europe. You can visit her blog here.]

MEDIA STOP #2: GHENT, BELGIUM

Today we visited Ghent University in Belgium to learn more about Belgian media. The presenter’s name was Rebeca De Dobbelaer. She gave us a 2 hour run down about the media in Belgium, which was surprisingly complicated!

Basically, there are three different regions, or “communities,” of Belgium. There is a French speaking community, A Dutch speaking community, and a German speaking community. In each community, there are newspapers, TV stations and radio stations.

The first newspapers dated back to the 17th century. Newspapers had to have a license, and if anything negative was said about the government, the paper wouldn’t get released, and would most likely be shut down. Taxation made newspapers very expensive during the French rule, and they were only available to liberals and Catholics. During the Dutch rule, papers became more affordable, but they were only written in Dutch.

The Belgian Revolution began in 1830. During this time, liberalism was widespread in the media. The freedom of speech was enacted in the constitution that was co-authored by journalists. However, nothing bad could be written about the government, the king, or the law.

In the Belgian press, there were three differing ideological orientations: Catholics, liberals and socialists. The government in Belgium gets even more complicated. They are part of the European Union, but they also have a central government, and then each community also has a community government.

3 languages, 3 communities, 3 media ministers. Talk about complicated.

There are three different types of journalistic culture in Belgium:

-Pluralist-must represent all sides
-North Central-parallelism–>professionalism
-North Atlantic Liberal-Neutral news

Belgium media today is typically North Central. They are historically a strong party press, with strong professionalization and internal press regulation.

German speaking community:
-Smallest community in Belgium, 9 cities and villages, <75,000 inhabitants.
-Newspaper: Only 1-Grenz Echo
-Approximately 10,000 copies
-Public Broadcaster: Belgischer Rundfunk
-2 radio stations, 1 TV station

French speaking community:
-2nd largest community, >4 million people
-1887-evening newspaper, 1856/1857-Sud presse, local morning newspaper, 1881-L’echo, quality newspaper, strong economic focus, 1884-La Libre Belgique, quality newspaper, conservative, catholic ideology, young age group, 1906-La Derniere Heure, popular newspaper, tabloid-like, liberal ideology , 1839-1918-Vers L’avenir

Flemish( Dutch speaking) community:
-Largest community, 76 million people
-Newspapers: 1918-De Standaard, largest quality newspaper, Flemish nationalist, catholic ideology, conservative–>neutral, older audience, rich, intellectual, 1928- Het laatste Nieuws (the latest news…best spelling of that title EVER), most popular paper, tabloid-like, liberal ideology, focuses on sports, celebrities and gossip, 1928-Het Nieuwsblad, popular magazine, catholic ideology, only a Sunday paper since 2003, 1978-De Morgen, quality newspaper, socialist ideology, progressive stances, 1968-De Tijd, quality newspaper, strong economic focus, factual (it took her a long time to think of the English word “factual,” and then once she got it, she said it about a million times. So I guess this paper was factual.), 1891-Gazet Van Antwerpen, popular paper, regional focus, conservative catholic ideology, 1933- het Belang Van Limburg, popular paper, regional focus, catholic ideology, 2000-Metro, free paper, local initiative, Dutch and French versions, distributed in public places.

Pros and Cons of separating the media into concentrations:

PROS: Higher yield-survival chances, circulation-advertising spiral, break political barriers, international perspective, editorial and promotional options

CONS: Less diversity, development of enormous media corporations, newspaper companies have an influence on political decision-making processes, impact of marketing department on content, no room for new initiatives

BROADCASTING IN BELGIUM:

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of broadcasting in Belgium, public and commercial. According to the presenter, public broadcasting is much more popular among the people in Belgium. She says the programs are a higher quality.

-1923-Radio Belgique (french), 1928-Vlaamsche Radiovereniging (Dutch), 1953- Introduction of television (France-1944, Netherlands-1951), 1987/89-Introduction to commercial television, 2001-Introduction to commercial radio

CHALLENGES IN BELGIAN MEDIA: Decline in reading, shrinking ads, less possibilities concerning ads because of online media, public broadcast and competition: different balance, different stakeholders, different dynamics, expansions, internationalization and regulation , impact of technological innovations on production and perception, credibility, pressure of work vs. commercialization, content recycling, “tabloidization” and and searching for maximum range in a small language community, competition of online platform of public broadcast, bottom-up journalism

GENERAL MEDIA OBSERVATIONS IN BELGIUM: I didn’t notice too many differences in Belgian media. The language barrier was definitely prominent, especially since we encountered at least 3. I felt like the people in Belgium definitely noticed us more than in London. I wonder if seeing Americans is a rarer site here, because almost everyone we passed came up to us or tried to talk to us. During the presentation, I was surprised to hear that journalism is a male dominated field in Belgium. ⅓ of the students enrolled in the journalism program at the university are women. That is different from the United States because at CSU, there are definitely more women than men in the Journalism department. She explained that most women end up dropping out of college to start a family.