Belgium

A tiny kingdom slap bang in the middle of Europe, Belgium commands attention and admiration in equal measure - the stage for many pivotal events in world history, this flat and verdant landscape, as beautiful a sight as it is, is still rife with memories of battlefields of the past. It was in Belgium where Wellington defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, where much of WWI and WWII were fought in trenches and where its own national narrative wages a war of language along internal borders, as Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia meet and divide in a war of words.

But enough about all that. Belgium pirouettes on the world stage with creative flair too, you know, from the cartoonist genius that is Hergé’s Tintin, to the first Art Nouveau building ever built, and its grand ascent with local artistic greats such as Brueghel, Rubens, Van Dyck and the father of surrealism himself, René Magritte.

Full of more charming cities than you would believe could exist in such a small space – Bruges, Brussels, Antwerp, and the kind of chocolate, waffles and Moules-frites you would sing a song for, let’s raise one perfectly frothy Belgian beer and toast to this land of resilience, before going to find their famous ‘Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’. (What? They’ve been through a lot you know – you need things to get you through sometimes, even if they are mystic lambs).