Beneath the hustle and bustle of European affairs lies the treasure one would expect in a European city with a one thousand year history. Elaborate guildhalls line the Grand Place of Brussels, the most beautiful city square in Europe. Every European architectural trend since the tenth century is represented in the city’s streets. The city’s museums feature paintings, sculptures, and artifacts from all over the world. Brussels maintains a style of life that is distinctly European.
Belgium is at the crossroads of Europe.
As a political entity, it is relatively young, existing as an independent state only since 1830. However, as a geographic entity, it is ancient and it has occupied a prominent place throughout European history. Indeed, it is said that Belgium has provided the stage and the actors for the greatest dramas in European history.
It was here that Julius Caesar encountered “the most fierce of the Gauls.” It was here that William I of Orange launched the rebellion against Spain that would lead to the independence of the Netherlands. It was here that Louis XIV battled the Spanish and the English. It was here that Napoleon met his Waterloo. It was here that the British Empire lost a generation of her finest young men in the trenches surrounding Ypres. It was here that the American army drove back the Nazis in the Battle of the Bulge, to this day the largest battle in American military history.
European politics is a distinct feature of Brussels' character.
These days, Belgium’s place in history is far less violent, but it remains the meeting point of every European culture. The presence of the European Union and NATO gives Brussels a distinctly European atmosphere. Almost every country in the world is diplomatically represented in Brussels, and many countries have as many as three embassies: one to the Kingdom of Belgium, one to the European Union, and one to NATO. As a result, Brussels has both the largest press corps and the largest collection of lobbyists in the world outside of Washington, DC. Brussels is truly an international political capital.