Monday, December 31, 2012

Wishing you "ALL"

                          " Happy New Year"

            2013 with lots Success and
            happiness to the heart


Thursday, December 27, 2012

History of Belgium

Belgium has been a land of conflict throughout the turbulent history of Europe. Initially settled by migrating tribes from Eastern Europe and then thrown into conflict by the Roman invaders, the Visigoths, then the Spaniards. Then it became the battle ground between the Kings of France and England in the hundred years wars and the Napoleonic wars; then, between Prussian and German forces and the Allies in WWI and WWII. Since WWII Belgium has had a period of peace.

The word “Belgium” has its origin in the name “Belgica” which the Romans gave to the northern part of Gaul, which Julius Cesar conquered a few decades before the Common Era. It is based on the name of the fierce tribes which they had to subdue there.

A quick synopsis

In the Middle Ages, Belgium was divided in fiefdoms: 
  • Flanders by the sea, 
  • The Duchy of Brabant, 
  • The Principality of Liège along the Meuse river
Trade created the base for Merchant Barons to extract independence from those feudal lords. 

Then, during the Hundred Years War, several battles were fought in present day Belgium, like the one at Sluis, where the French King lost his fleet. 

Late in the Middle Ages, the area was unified with Holland and Luxemburg under the rule of the Dukes of Burgundy, a family related to the Kings of France, then the Habsburg Emperors, and finally the Kings of Spain. It's ironic that during this period of external rule, the sponsorship of royalty led to the world renown of the Flemish painting school with Van Eyck, Breughel, Memling and others. Later Antwerp became a center of arts, where Rubens, Jordanians and Van Dyck worked.

In 1792, following the French Revolution, France invaded the Netherlands, which were annexed and became part of Napoleon’s Empire. This rule culminated at the end of the Napoleonic Wars where Napoleon met his Waterloo, where else but the battlefield of Europe, Belgium.

Then in 1830 the Belgians revolted against Dutch rule and became independent and adopted its first Constitution with a limited monarchy.

The second half of the 19th Century was a period of dynamic industrial and economic development ranking among the leading economies of the world, its GDP roughly equal to that of the United States.

Then here we go again. In 1914, the German Empire invaded neutral Belgium in order to outflank the defenses of the French army. Unexpectedly, the Belgian army resisted and fought on, holding a small part of unoccupied Belgian territory north of Ypres, alongside the British and French armies, until the Armistice of 1918. Because of their heroic defense Belgium and its King, Albert I, enjoyed enormous international prestige after the war.

The battle of the Bulge was fought under very tough weather conditionsIn 1940, Germany again invaded neutral Belgium, which became one the few European countries to have been occupied twice in a century. This time the Belgian army had to surrender after about two weeks, like the French army a few weeks later. In the years after World War II Belgium became one of the pioneers of European unification and Brussels is the seat of the EU and NATO.

Belgium’s internal politics are largely dominated by the disagreements between the Flemish in the North and the Walloons in the South. However creative constitutional arrangements have been developed over the years, giving the two communities a large degree of autonomy and bloodshed has always been avoided. The main constitutional reform which transformed Belgium into a federal state was introduced in 1980, 25 years ago.

Happy ending to this story

Today the economy ranks amongst the 15 largest GDP's in the world and is largely based on manufacturing, the mechanical and chemical industries and trade, the port of Antwerp being one of the ten largest in the world and the second in Europe.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How careful should you be going to Belgium

Crime in Belgium

The most common crimes that occur in Belgium are petty thefts - purse snatching and pick pocketing is common in the bigger cities and is usually directed at foreign tourists. Prime pick pocketing areas include busy tourist attractions in all of the major towns as well as train and bus stations. In Brussels particularly notable areas where pick pocketing and snatch crimes occur frequently:
  1. North Station (Noordstation or Gare du Nord),
  2. Central Station (Central Station or Gare Central);
  3. South Station (Zuidstation or Gare du Midi)

Protect yourself against crime

Be especially careful during the tourist season and in high traffic areas such as festivals and other places that attract large crowds. Late night trains where tired passengers often fall asleep are a favorite of pick pockets.The rules are the same in Belgium as elsewhere.

The Don't to avoid

  1. Don't become alone at night in dark places
  2. Don't carry your wallet in the open
  3. Don't carry more cash that you need that day
  4. Don't flaunt your high tech toys such as iPads, iPhones and other snazzy tech tools
  5. Don't tempt the thief with unlocked doors and and expensive items in plain sight
  6. Don't use ATMs in poorly lit areas 

When travelling on public transport be mindful that thieves often loiter in transportation hubs, such as the Metro and train stations, to prey on travellers in unfamiliar surroundings.

Thieves often work together and a common scam is for one thief to ask for directions while their accomplice steals your luggage. They also look out for people who store their luggage in overhead racks, so it is best to avoid these, keeping your luggage with you.

Be alert to fraud

Everyone is at risk of fraud, but travelers especially have to be on guard at all times. As a traveler, you will be pulling out your wallet or credit cards more than the locals and you will be in places where crooks are watching for a victim.

The Do's to avoid fraud

  1. Do be alert when you are getting change for a purchase. Some unscrupulous vendors will try to short change you or even give you worthless currency. Pay attention.
  2. Do make sure the item you are buying is the "Real McCoy" not a cheap knock off that will break within a week.
  3. Do keep your credit /Debit cards in your possession. If you give it to a waiter, do so where you can observe them running the card so that a copy doesn't inadvertently go into their pocket.
  4. Do prefer credit over debit for purchases. If you must give your card to someone like a waiter, use a credit card not a debit card and keep your receipts to compare to actual charges. It is a lot easier to deal with a maxed out credit line than a drained checking account.

In case of emergency

Police emergency in Belgium is 101- ask for Police Fédérale or Federale politie support. In the event of other emergencies, call 112 - the pan-European emergency number. Calls to this number are free from both mobile and fixed-line telephones.

If your passport has been stolen report to the local police immediately and fill in a police report, explaining how and where it happened. You will then need to visit your embassy to arrange for a new passport or temporary identification.

Please watch this video on YouTube about crime in Belgium:
and be careful if you decide to go.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wishing you all of you a beautiful Holiday

                 Wonderful  Christmas and 2013 full of great                                                    "surprises"

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Religion and Weather in Belgium


The people of Belgium predominant identify with Catholicism; however, actual church attendance was less than 5% in 2009 and there is no reason to suspect that it has increased. Belgium is predominately Roman Catholic (60 %) with over 30% non-believers. The rest profess to be Muslim (4%), Protestant (2%), Jewish, (1%) and another 2 percent as belonging to other religious groups. Belgium has a separation between the Church and State, and freedom of religion. Consequently, the State cannot force someone to adhere to a certain religion nor can it ask someone to which he or she adheres. Religious groups can practice freely in Belgium.

Roman Catholicism gained its predominance during the Spanish Inquisition and continued to play an important role in Belgian politics through to the late 20th Century.
In 2002, the then officially recognized Protestant denomination, the United Protestant Church of Belgium, formed the Administrative Council of the Protestant and Evangelical Religion (ARPEE in Dutch, CACPE in French), which is now the accepted mouthpiece of Protestantism in all three linguistic communities. Based on a 2001 survey conducted by evangelical sources, charismatic and evangelical associations claim a membership of 4% of the Belgian population while independent sources report 2% membership.


Belgium's climate is temperate. Mild winters and cool summers are typically rainy, humid, and cloudy. This consistency in climate means you can visit Belgium anytime and expect similar weather. However, the best time to visit is April to September when you will find it slightly warmer and perhaps even a little sunshine.

With NATO and EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium has  international flavor so the best time to visit is during one of the many festivals. Be warned the hotel rates are up during those times as well.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Language & Currency in Belgium


Belgium has three official languages: French, Dutch and German. German is only spoken by a small minority of the population, who live along the German border. The form of Dutch spoken in Belgium is known as Flemish, and is the official language in Flanders, to the north of the country.

French is the official language in Wallonia in the south. Brussels has both Dutch and French as its official languages, but in practice more than three quarters of its inhabitants speak French as their main or only language. It is sometimes said that English is the 4th unofficial language, as it is widely spoken in Belgium, and many Belgians learn English from an early age. If living in Belgium, however, it will be helpful to be able to understand and speak at least one of the official languages.


The Euro is now the official currency of 12 EU member states including Belgium. The first Euro coins and notes were introduced in January 2002.

Until 2002 the Belgian Franc was still in circulation; but, not any more. Make sure you don't have Belgian Franc's given to you for change.  They are now worthless..

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Let's go to Belgium

Introduction to Belgium

Belgium is a nation located in Northwestern Europe, between the Netherlands to the north, Germany and Luxembourg to the east, France to the south, and the North Sea to the west. Belgium is about the size of Maryland with an area of 11,780 square miles. It also has 108 square miles of inland waterways that are used for tourists and travel. It has 41 miles of coastline and its borders total 861 miles.  It's language is Flemish, though the majority of its residents are multilingual, speaking Flemish, French, German and English. It is also the headquarters home for the European Union and NATO. The total population in Belgium was last recorded at 11.0 million people in 2011 from 9.1 million in 1960, changing 21 percent during the last 50 years.

Brussels is the capitol of Belgium

Brussels, the capital of Belgium is compact with:
  • A small European feel, 
  • An extensive military history spanning from the Napoleonic Wars to today's NATO, 
  • A leader in international commerce as exhibited by the World Fairs in 1897, 1910, 1935 and 1959
  • World renown for its 800+ flavors of beer, more than any country in the world
  • Provincial dishes such as Mussels from Brussels
  • The inventive home of the Saxophone, "President Clinton, eat your heart out."
  • And perhaps the most famous little boy in all of statuedom - Mannekan Pis
Brussels has some grandeur. There’s the hexagonal system of boulevards that surround the centre which were laid out in the late 19th century. There’s the EU quarter around Place Schuman, and the grand boulevard Avenue de Tervuren/Tervurenlaan that leads out of the city eastwards for miles from the Cinquantenaire Arch. This is what remains of the influence of Belgium’s Imperial past.


Why did the EU Capital locate in Brussels? 

When it came top selecting the capital for Europe, the founders realized they had to avoid the rivalries between France, Germany, Italy and Spain; so, none of the big capitals of the largest founding countries of the EU could be Europe’s new capital. This immediately ruled out Paris, Berlin and Rome. Instead, to ensure the location would be acceptable to all, the relatively innocuous Brussels in tiny Belgium was chosen. Brussels was selected precisely because it was small, modest and didn’t brag about itself.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Where should you stay in Switzerland

Where to stay?


Hotel Bellevue Palace Bern (5 stars)
An Art Nouveau jewel, the Bellevue Palace is situated in the heart of Berne next to the Federal Parliament.

Bellevue Palace has 130 rooms with free wired internet access an fresh decorations. Some rooms offer views of Berne’s historic quarter, or the distant Alpine peaks, while others face the quiet inner courtyard or the Houses of Parliament.

The Bellevue Palace offers Old-World charm with modern comforts.

Address: Kochergasse 3 - 5, 3001 Bern
Phone: +44 (0)843 2894805
Price: starts at $544 dollars.

Novotel Bern Expo, Berne ( 3 stars)

The Novotel Bern Expo offers 112 non smoking rooms located opposite the BEA Bern Expo exhibition center, the ice hockey stadium, the national horse riding center and 200 m from the Stade de Suisse and the Zentrum Paul Klee. The tram makes the trip from in front of the hotel to the old city in 7 minutes.

Address: Am Guisanplatz 2, Berne 3014
Phone: (+41) 31/3390909 
Price: starts at $142/night



Since Chur is the oldest city in Switzerland- first settled 5000 years ago, it doesn't have a well developed tourist infrastructure. I search the web for a long time and could not find a 5 stars hotel there so this Hotel was the best I could find for you.

City West Hotel & Restaurant

City West has a designer ambiance throughout. It offers complimentary wireless Internet access and a  pet-friendly policy. The restaurant offers a lovely rooftop terrace. 

Skiing is a big draw in Chur, so it is no surprise that Obertor Chur, Arosa Ski Resort with its Gondola Lift, Ski-Club Arosa and Lenzerheide Ski Resort are widely featured in the area. .


Address: Comercialstrasse 32, Chur 7000, Switzerland
Phone: (+41) 81 256 55 00
Price: starts at $123 dollars 


Hotel Baur au Lac (5 stars)

I have spent so much time looking for 5 starts Hotels in Zurich for you and how difficult it is. Most of the Hotels are very contemporary and I  think that if I would pay to stay in a 5 star hotel, I would like to stay in a place full of charm, beautiful views, traditional, excellent services.

Fortunately I was able to find one that I really like and it is Hotel Baur au Lac.
Baur au Lac is Zurich's prestigious landmark of un-equaled hospitality, elegance, and impeccable service. The hotel has been owned by the same family for over 160 years. Only recently, every room was thoroughly renovated, each one lovingly and uniquely crafted to combine superlative creature comforts with classical elegance and every conceivable technical convenience. The unusually large and light bathrooms, an attractive blend of marble and mirrors, combine practicality with sheer luxury.

The enchanting atmosphere of the elegant winter restaurant Francais awaits the connoisseur with a superb selection of haute cuisine whose themes vary through the year. The delightful summer restaurant Le Pavillon is one of the most popular places in town with a unique atmosphere and a menu that enhances the Mediterranean ambiance. From the terrace and the adjoining park there is an enchanting view of Lake Zurich and the Alps. The Rive Gauche, a sparkling blend of chic restaurant and bar, offers Mediterranean grill room specialities for "fine casual dining." The Baur au Lac features an exclusive fitness center on the top of the hotel with magnificent views over Lake Zurich and the Alps. A personal trainer or physiotherapy may be arranged. The beauty salon and hair-dresser Vanity offers a wide range of luxury cosmetic treatments.

Address: Talstrasse 1, Zurich 8022, Switzerland
Phone: (+ 41) 44 220 50 20
Price: starts at $711 dollars

Sorell Hotel Seidenhof ( 3 stars)

The Sorell Hotel Seidenhof is found in a upscale part of Zurich that is very popular with both business and leisure travelers. This simple, down-to-earth hotel offers comfortable accommodations, a very helpful staff and a home like feeling.

It is located just in front of the Bahnhofstrasse, a very popular shopping destination because of its wide variety of shops and stores. Another popular place to walk is on the latkeside boardwalk that has a wide arrange of shops, bars, restaurants, bars and cinemas, all very close to the hotel.

Mishio Restaurant, the new, popular hang out is a chic place to have a great Asian meal in a cool surroundings. This quiet garden is the ideal place for a romantic dinner or just a peaceful getaway.

The Massage Studio at the Sorell Hotel Seidenhoff offers a wide variety of massages and wellness treatments, sure to please all tastes. Guests are sure to leave rejuvenated, relaxed and happy. Here you can choose from the classic style deep tissue or the cupping therapy; whatever your fancy…enjoy!

Address: Sihlstrasse 9, Zurich, Switzerland
Phone: +41 44 228 75 00
Price stars at $156 dollars


Hotel Beau Rivage Geneva ( 5 stars)

The Beau Rivage has been in business since 1865 and regularly plays host to some of the world's best-known celebrities. Over the past 145 years, history has played out here. Empress Elisabeth was assisinated here in 1898.

With its lake front location, guests benefit from excellent views and can marvel at the world-famous Jet d'eau. The hotel benefits from recent renovation with modern facilities, while it retains the original features of the building. The Beau Rivage hotel has fitness and business centers and high-speed Internet access. The hotel also features laundry service, spa facilities and concierge service. 

Address: 13, Quai du Mont-Blanc, 1201 Geneva
Phone: (+41 22 716 66 66
Price: starts at $560 dollars

Edelweiss Manotel Hotel (3 stars)

Finally found a very traditional Swiss hotel, it looks very cute for the price. Discover the Alps in the heart of Geneva. Come to the Hotel Edelweiss and delight in the warmth of an authentic Swiss chalet with just steps away from the lake and City center.
Edelweiss has 42 air-conditioned rooms, deluxe bedding, Minibar, interactive TV, Restaurant  with live  folk music, authentic Swiss cuisine, 24 h room service, laundry facilities, free public transport card and WiFi and Internet connection, free of charge.

Address: Place De La Navigation 2, Geneva Ch-1201, Swizerland
Phone: (+41) 22 544 51 51
Price stars at $162 dollars


Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois (5 stars)

Les Trois Rois is one of Europe’s oldest city hotels and exudes the charm and elegance of a historic grand hotel. This luxury establishment offers everything that a discerning guest is entitled to expect from a hotel in the five-star category. All in the heart of Basel, in the center of the Old Town and on the banks of the Rhine.

Les Trois Rois is one of Europe’s oldest city hotels, where Napoleon, Elizabeth II, Pablo Picasso, Thomas Mann and many other famous people have stayed.

Situated in the heart of Basel, in the center of the historic quarter and on the banks of the Rhine, it is an ideal base for tourists and business travelers.

Address: Blumenrain 8, 4001 Basel
Phone: (+41) 61 260 50 50
Price: starts at $784 dollars



Hotel Alexander ( 3 stars)

The Hotel Alexander is located at the Messe Basel fairgrounds and the Congress Center, a 10-minute ride from the center of Basel. The tram stop is right outside. Free Wi-Fi is available.

The Rösti-Stube Restaurant serves Swiss specialities, and live music is sometimes played at the bar.

All rooms at the Alexander Hotel have an en-suite bathroom and are equipped with cable TV and a desk.

The SBB Train Station is 7 minutes by tram from the hotel, and the Badischer Bahnhof Train Station is 3 minutes away. Basel-Mulhouse Airport can be reached in a 15-minute drive.

Address: Riehenring 83/85, 4058 Basel
Phone: (+41) 61 685 70 00
Price starts at $84 dollars

You can also try this book about Inn's in Switzerland.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bank of the Universe

Every day, or at the very least once or twice a week, take a few minutes and focus on seeing yourself in joy. Feel yourself in joy. Imagine only joy ahead in your life and see yourself basking in it. As you do this the Universe will move all people, circumstances, and events to bring you that joy. You can't be in joy if you have money worries, or health worries, or relationship problems with friends or family. So deposit some joy in the bank of the Universe as often as you can. There isn't an investment that is more worthwhile.
May the joy be with you,

Rhonda Byrne

The Secret...