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The Medieval houses of Markt, Bruges

If Belgium's spotlight on the European stage is a little dim, it's only because its people are rarely boastful. This slow-burning country has more history, art, food and architecture packed into its tiny self than many of its bigger, louder neighbours.

A rich and bubbling vat of beer, chocolate, oil paint and bureaucrats, Belgium gives off the heady pong of the bourgeoisie. But stir the pot a little and you'll find an 'artificial state' roughly made up of two parts Germanic Flemings to one part Celtic-Latin Walloons.

Divided by pride first and language second, the country's binding agents are a pervasive sense of family, and an indomitable entrepreneurial spirit. Visitors, lulled by the locals' friendliness, will probably not even notice the tensions that spark across the Linguistic Divide.

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