May 2, 2011

Belgium (B188)

Scenes from the View-Master packet Belgium (B 188) from the Nations of the World Series.


View-Master Belgium (B188), Packet Cover

Packet Cover


View-Master Belgium (B188), Booklet Cover

Booklet Cover


From the 16-page booklet:


The small wedge of Europe called Belgium pushes against Germany and Luxembourg on the east and splits France on the south from the Netherlands on the north. In a similar way the rugged, freedom-loving people of this little country have wedged themselves into a firm place in history. In 48 B.C., Julius Caesar called the Belgae “the bravest of the Gauls.” Adolf Hitler, 2,000 years later, angrily concurred: “The Belgians,” he said, “refuse to submit to discipline and always try to evade the law.”

Belgium even has two official languages because of the stubborn pride of its two ethnic groups. In the north live the Flemings, whose Flemish tongue is a variant of Dutch; in the south, the Walloons, who speak a French dialect. The language “boundary” splits the country just south of Brussels.

With more than 9 million people crowded into an area of 11,779 square miles—slightly larger than the state of Maryland—Belgium is one of the most thickly populated countries in Europe. It is the crossroads of Western Europe; its ports, rivers, and canals are important trade arteries for the continent. With an economy based largely on the rich coal mines of the Sambre-Meuse valley, it is highly industrialized.

Belgium’s rolling lowlands, with no natural barriers, have left it open to invasion ever since the days of Caesar. Napoleon fought and lost at Waterloo; German boots trampled Belgian soil in both World Wars. The map of Belgium is dotted thickly with battle sites. Almost every city has its grim citadel.

Reminders of the past glory of Flanders—the land of the Flemish—abound in the north. During the Middle Ages it was the foremost European trading center, exporting lace and textiles handcrafted by Flemish women (a skill that survives today). And the great Flemish painters—Rubens, the Van Eyck brothers, Breughel, and others—left immortal masterpieces.

Today’s Belgians have the same zest for life as did their ancestors. They love fine food and gay festivals; solemn religious processions; and parades of clowns and huge giants. Full of beauty and variety, Belgium has much to offer the visitor.


Scene 6


View-Master Belgium (B188), Scene 6: Atomium

The Atomium, symbol of World’s Fair of 1958


From the 16-page booklet:


Bold symbol of the atomic age, the Atomium—representing the nine atoms of an iron crystal magnified 150 billion times—was the featured attraction of the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958. It stands in Heysel Park, 4 miles northeast of the city center, where the Fair was held. A restaurant in the topmost sphere, 334 feet above ground, provides diners with both a wonderful meal and a breathtaking view.


Scene 10

Ourthe River at La Roche

View-Master Belgium (B188), Scene 10: Ourthe River at La Roche

Village of La Roche lies in green valley of Ourthe


From the 16-page booklet:


Here, where the Ourthe River curves past a little village in a green valley, is the essence of the scenic charm of the Ardennes. La Roche-en-Ardenne, the village in the distance, is a popular summer resort. Above it, on a cliff, stands a crumbling old castle—which villagers say is haunted!

This portion of the Ardennes is in the Belgian province of Luxembourg, adjacent to the little country of the same name. The two Luxembourgs were once united as a grand duchy, but in 1839 the western half became part of Belgium.


Scene 16

Towers of Ghent

View-Master Belgium (B188), Scene 16: Towers of Ghent

Belfry and St. Nicholas Church, Ghent


From the 16-page booklet:


A place of famous tower—this is Ghent, one of the most picturesque cities in all Europe. For more than 400 years its three great towers have stood side by side looking down on the city. From the top of one—St. Bavon Cathedral—we view the other two. In the foreground is the Belfry; beyond, St. Nicholas Church.

The Belfry, which has a 52-bell carillon, dates from the 14th century. Its weathervane is a flying dragon. St. Nicholas Church was completed in the 13th century. Note the scaffolding around its ancient tower, which is being repaired.

Ghent, third largest city in Belgium (pop. 157,811), is built on a group of little islands and amid a network of canals, and has 200 bridges! Its cotton and flax mills are famous, and although 30 miles from the North Sea it has become Belgium’s No. 2 seaport, thanks to a ship canal built in 1886.


Scene 20

Green Quay and Canal, Bruges

View-Master Belgium (B188), Scene 20: Bruges

Sight-seeing boat passes Green Quay on Bruges canal


From the 16-page booklet:


Because of its beauty and its many old canals, Bruges is often called “the Venice of the North.” Instead of gondolas, there are motor boats to take sightseers past the red-tiled houses and under the arching bridges. (The name Bruges means “Bridges” in Flemish.) The boats often pass swans gliding over the water; swans have graced Bruges canals since 1488, and are maintained at public expense.

On summer and autumn nights Bruges takes on a special magic. The canals and old buildings are spotlighted in color.

Visible from the Green Quay, as from every other part of the city, is the old Belfry (right). It now has a 47-bell carillon, and broadcasts folk tunes instead of alarms.

Once every five years the Belfry is the backdrop for a great religious drama, the Play of the Holy Blood, staged by Bruges residents in honor of the city’s most precious relic—a crystal tube, brought from Jerusalem 800 years ago and believed to contain a drop of Christ's blood. Each year the relic is carried in solemn procession through the streets.

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