What do Charles V, Adolph Saxe (inventor of the saxophone), Tintin, the Smurfs, Jacques Brel, George Simenon (Maigret author) and the song Eviva España have in common?
Well, for one thing, they all come from Belgium!
Charles V was born in Ghent in 1500 and was brought up in Mechelen. He went on to become Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and ruled as Carlos I as the King of Spain.
No, Tintin (Kuifje in Dutch) was not a French invention, nor were the Smurfs a Dutch invention; these comic characters originated in Belgium.
And if you thought that Jacques Brel was French, then think again: he was Belgian and, despite being known as a singer of French chansons, was, in fact, of Flemish origin.
All together now… Eviva España!
No, you are not singing a Spanish song, even if the number is popular in Spain, at least amongst the tourists. The original version of Eviva España was composed by Flemish band leader Leo Caerts, with Dutch words provided by Leo Roozenstraten. Flemish singer Samantha (real name Christina Bervoets) made the first recording and went on to record it again in numerous languages, including French, German and, of course, Spanish. Since then, the song has been recorded by countless artists in many languages and has sold more than 40 million copies. Now the title is usually amended to read the more correct "Y Viva España."
Elise and I were in the El Corte Inglés store in Elche a few days ago. We were walking around the in-store Hipercor supermarket, when we noticed some bottles of Hoegaarden beer, a Belgian make. Then we saw some Leffe, then some Chimay, followed by Duvel and several other quality Belgian beers (none of your Stella Artois stuff). Pity they don't sell fresh Leonidas Belgian pralines!
You are reading this on the World Wide Web. Even that has strong Belgian origins, for the WWW was developed at the CERN laboratories in Geneva by the Flemish Belgian Robert Cailliau, together with Tim Berners-Lee.
And then, of course, there's Eddy Wally, the self-styled Voice of Europe, who is world famous in several parts of Flanders…