In Belgium, There is no (Near) Beer

by Aric S. Queen


With as much time on the road as I spend, it’s not unusual to come back home to Tulsa and be asked for vacation advice … But figuring out where to send my Okies can be surprisingly hard.

Other states are easy:

Only the arrogance of Texas [secede already] could be matched with Paris. Oregon’s quirk would find humor in Sweden’s appreciation of it. And only the wasteland of West Virginia could fully appreciate Chernobyl.

But then I found an Okie equivalent two days ago:

Enter Ghent. In Belgium. You know—chocolate, Smurfs, Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Placed nicely between the overrun canals of Bruges and overcrowded squares of Brussels, there’s no place in the world I’ve absorbed that speaks to our unique psyche like this picturesque town does.

But why does Ghent so perfectly fit an Okie?

First of all, like us, it’s known but not well-known. Which means space. And we like space. The Belgians are good with space and even better with per- sonal space. Two very large squares make up the city center and even during its 10 days of summer he- donism, there’s still room to breathe. And anyone who’s done Europe—namely London—can tell you that space is important.

Next: beer. Our nectar. Are we making massive strides in terms of wine education? Yes we are. But Oklahoma will forever be a beer-run state. And Belgium is a beer-lover’s dream. Monk-made Trappist ales are poured into their custom glasses and more often than not, will come in three different varieties—8, 10, and 12%. But beware—they don’t call it ‘Delirium Tremens’ for nothing … One of those = four of your precious 3.2 Coors Light.

Third: food. In Belgium, think artisan comfort food and you’re on the right track. It’s nothing Michelin-award winning, but they love their meat and know how to cook it.

But beware – they don’t call it ‘delirium tremens’ for nothing… one of those = four 3.2 Coors Light.

Not to mention a stellar selection of cheese and, of course, the best chocolate in the world. None of this Swiss Miss, either—we’re talking dark, bitter, spicy bites of goodness.

Another reason? Proximity. Okies aren’t big into public transit and the less time on buses and trains the better. Obviously, you’re going to want to channel Colin Farrell in Bruges, and take a photo of the Manneken Pis—the famed statue of little boy peeing in Brussels (rumour has it a child peed on an enemy’s dynamite fuse and saved the city) and, as mentioned, they’re both under an hour away on the train. Actually, everything in Belgium is an hour on the train because Belgium means “an hour on the train” in Flemish.

And lastly—people. They’re nice and we’re nice. They like to talk almost as much as we do and their English is almost as good as the Dutch. And speaking of their neighbors, you’ll find they themselves are a hybrid of Netherlands nicety, German efficiency, French pride, and Luxembourg humility.

And there you go—a fine place to spend a few weeks. Unknown enough so that people will take interest in your photos, but not so far away that you’ll need more than 2 or 3 flights to get there…

Which is easy, seeing how our airport is Tulsa [cough] International.