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04 AUGUST 2007


The Kingdom of Belgium is about twice the size and population of Yorkshire.  It has only about forty miles of sea coast and much land reclaimed from the sea.  The hills and woods of the Ardennes stand out against the flat plains of the north, the industrial landscape of Antwerp compares with the medieval prettiness of Bruges.

It’s only been a country since 1830 currently under Albert II. It was previously ruled by France and then the Spanish before becoming an Austrian possession.  It was in Belgium that much fighting took place in the trenches of the First World War.

Brussels is now the home of the European Union but there are strong divisions between the French speaking Walloons and the Flemish speaking Flemings of the north.  However a country that has produced both the old master Rubens and the surrealist Magritte, the grand organ music of César Franck and the jazz guitar of Django Reinhardt, is the birthplace of Audrey Hepburn and Jean Claude Van Damme and home to 700 varieties of beer - has got to be worth exploring.

John McCarthy meets three regular travellers to Belgium to find out what it has to offer to its visitors.  John Lee is a guide for a battlefields and history tours company, one of the founders and publisher of the Rough Guides; Martin Dunford is co-author of The Rough GuideTo Brussels and The Rough Guide to Belgium and Luxembourg; Roger Protz is an award winning writer and expert on Beer.

Presented by John McCarthy

Atomium monument in Brussels

Photo: Atomium monument in Brussels

This week’s guests:

John Lee has been a guide for a battlefields and history tours company* for the past ten years. John specialises in the British section of WW1 western front, which was essentially the area along the Belgian and French border.  John visits Belgium about eight times a year, either leading tours for four to ten days each or checking and researching.  John most of the time stays in Ypres an ancient town in the Flemish province of West Flanders and the scene of the infamous battle of Passchendaele.

*Holts Tours

Martin Dunford is co-founder, publisher and an author for the Rough Guides. Martin is the author of the Rough Guide to Belgiumand Luxembourg. Mark’s first guide was called catchily ‘Amsterdam and Holland with selected Belgian Cities’.

The Rough Guide to Brussels - Edition 3
Martin Dunford, Phil Lee
Publisher: Rough Guides Ltd; 3Rev Ed edition
ISBN-10: 1843535742
ISBN-13: 978-1843535744

The Rough Guide to Belgium and Luxembourg
Martin Dunford,Phil Lee
Publisher: Rough Guides Ltd; 3Rev Ed edition
ISBN-10: 1858288711
ISBN-13: 978-1858288710

Roger Protz is a leading writer on beer in the UK and is a Contributing Editor of Roger is Britain's foremost taster, who is also well-known to beer connoisseurs in the United States and mainland Europe.  He has been visiting Belgium regularly for over twenty years.  The Belgians take their beer as seriously as the French take their wine and there is usually a beer menu in restaurants with beers laid down in much the same way as wine and with tasting notes.

Good Beer Guide 2007
by Roger Protz (Editor)
Publisher: CAMRA Books; Rev Ed edition
ISBN-10: 1852492112
ISBN-13: 978-1852492113

"Every evening since 1928, at eight o'clock, the Last Post - the traditional salute to the fallen warrior - has been played under the Menin Gate Memorial in Ieper, Belgium.  It is performed by a team of local buglers to honour the memory of the soldiers of the British Empire, who fought and died at Ypres Salient during the First World War."

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John McCarthy John McCarthy is a widely travelled journalist and presenter with a particular interest in the Middle East.
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