11 August, Belgium – ‘All Over The Place – Europe’

Did you know that French Fries weren’t actually invented in France but Belgium? Well I do now, all thanks to the Frietmuseum in Bruges. (In case you were wondering, the reason we call them French Fries is because American soldiers in WW2 thought they were in France when they encountered these long thin chips for the first time. So it’s all to do with Americans having a bad grasp of geography.)

A museum dedicated to chips is just the sort of stupid thing we love on ‘All Over The Place’, and it seems to be doing well, with lots of British tourists popping in for an ironic visit once they’ve got saturated with all the history and culture that Bruges has to offer. The director of the museum was very keen to show us how to make perfect fries in his specially constructed kitchen below the museum (you double fry the chips and use beef fat) and although they tasted great they were a little bit hard to stomach at 10.30am.

Couldn’t handle chips for lunch after all that, so after a quick salad we made our way back to Brussels to get involved with ‘Mini Europe’. When we arrived I was excited to see that it’s right next door to the Atomium, the famous metal Belgium structure built in the shape of a giant atom. But there was no time to stand marvelling at that, we had smaller fish to fry.

Mini Europe is the most impressive miniature village I’ve seen (and doing my silly job I’ve actually seen quite a few). All 28 states of the European Union are represented by their own area, with famous buildings recreated in 1:25 scale. Roughly 80 cities and 350 buildings are represented, and it’s been a successful attraction for over 25 years. It had a funny effect on me walking round. Being British you pick up this attitude that the institution Europe is a bit boring, but seeing it all laid out before me in miniature made me feel proud to be a part of all this. This continent is so culturally rich and exciting, with such a variety of stuff to see and do. Seems a shame that some people in Britain want to stop us being a part of it all – especially when it means that the beautifully recreated House of Commons in Mini Europe, worth £75,000, would have to be demolished and our plot used to expand one of the Eastern European countries!

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