For some, Belgium is the homeland of EU bureaucrats removed from reality, and for others it’s a beautiful romantic getaway. What’s going on in Belgium?
I always tell people that Belgium is a toy country. A few years ago, the beer-producing country infamously had no government for 541 consecutive days and got along fine – thank you very much. Its quirky houses and neat and tidy appearance make it a quaint holiday destination, or, if you’ve got Belgian relatives like me, a bizarre family fixture with picturesque beaches and unsmiling ice cream vendors. It’s full of charming villages and wide, flat landscapes, and for anyone who’s seen In Bruges, is a bit like a fairytale.
The Belgium visits of my childhood were filled with huge portions of chocolate and waffles, and a walk on the beach would inevitably result in hiring a wacky pedal-car with which to “accidentally” smash into other kids, but it was not uncommon to see whole families cycling through the streets on a giant 6-person bicycle. Is Belgium even real?
The best example of why I tell people this though, is Plopsaland. Plop is a television gnome who lives under a toadstool and whose catchphrase is “ploperde ploperde plop!”. A bit weird, right? Bear with me.
Plopsaland is a children’s adventure theme park with small roller coasters and other attractions centered around Belgium’s child entertainment business. Samson and Gert, the gruff-voiced singing dog and his owner, have their own water ride where such classics as “Wat Eten We Vandaag? Spaghetti, Spaghetti, Spaghetti!” (What Are We Eating Today? Spaghetti, Spaghetti, Spaghetti!) will be played for you to sing along with as you get soaked in the leaky castle. You can have photos with Plop and Samson and Gert and get all the waffles you can eat as you wander around the park.
Plopsaland is a fantastic family day out. It’s not uncommon to find fully grown adults enjoying Plopsaland’s delights; after all, can you ever be too old for a treasure hunt that leads to a food village consisting of pancakes and beer?
I haven’t been to Plopsaland since I was a child, and looking back on it, I realise how bizarre the whole thing was. Much like Belgium as a whole, though, the child entertainment business takes itself far too seriously, which only adds to the amusement I get from being a Brit abroad.
If Plopsaland doesn’t appeal, try the waffles. Try the pancakes. Try the chocolate. Try the beer. Belgium’s never-ending selection of unhealthy luxuries should be enough to keep its economy afloat if its cocaine and illegal diamond trade suddenly packs in, but don’t forget to say hello to Plop & co. on your way through. I promise it won’t disappoint.