Brussels, Bruges and Belgium! 3B's = A+!
Trip Start Aug 02, 2010
26Trip End Dec 22, 2010
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Where I stayed
Brussels Hello Hostel
Ok, enough of making you guys wanna go to Belgium (which you should), I actually didn't love this place so much when I first arrived...=O yes shock horror! When we first got off the plane at Charleroi Brussels the weather was terrible, cold, cloudy and foggy, I expected the rain to come any minute
See, Brussels is a place with A LOT of contrasts, the Mannekin Pis was surronded by chocolate shops, waffle shops, souvenir shops, fries shop...you knew you were in the tourist area =P And the whole place was beautiful, you'd think you were in another city to the street just 2 blocks away. Then of course we stumbled into the Grand Place (Grote Markt) and that was just WOW.... I'm not kidding when I say it's the most magnificent square I've seen to date. This was the place for the rich and the grand, the town hall, the guild halls...you know you've made it if you could claim one of these buildings. The detail on every building was amazing, gold guilding, statues...seriously just look at the pictures and double whatever detail you see, that was what it was like in real life. Then barely two blocks away was this commercial district filled with shops, restaurants and again the crazy drivers. Another 20 mins down the street and there are high rises with their glass and concrete super offices, these are right next door to this giant monolith of a station from the cold war (ok I have no idea when it was made but it reminds me of it). Then of course there was a the red light district, the street full of middle eastern and african goods, gleeming white cathedrals, not so gleaming white cathedrals, massive palace, beautiful museums, even more beautiful churches, one massive giant mother of a courthouse (the size of this thing is RIDICULOUS, why anyone would have/need it is beyond me but I swear it is one of the biggest most outrageous buildings I've ever seen...it may even rival the Forbidden Palace but that's a different story)
Hmmm....ok, now for what I did there...XD
Haha, let's see...I'll make it less lengthy =P. First, the Grand Place (Grote Markt), impressive as hell and for the exact same weekend Yee-Ling and I were there (3-5/9) there was a Belgian beer festival right in the square!!!! Can you believe it!? Unfortunately we didn't go in due to massive lines, expensive beers and loud drunken Germans and Belgians BUT we did have our fair share of beers...mmm. OK, beers...in Belgium, they are AMAZING, I can see why people say VB tastes like pee water now XD. First one, a Trappistes Rochefort 10 (Trappist beers are brewed by monks and are quite famous in Belgium) was horrible haha, ok it didn't help that it was from a supermarket, so slightly warm and was 11.3%...so that was hard to down >.< Second one (had this like 4/5 hours apart so don't worry) was a Gauloise? Mmm it's my favourite beer to date and it was very good =P We had it in the Grand Place as well, admiring the square as the night went on so that was really cool. Third one I had the the next day at Archiduc while watching a very cool jazz trio was a Duvel, another famous Belgian beer, kinda strong but the taste grew on me =P. My last two beers I had at Delirium, this crazy touristy bar with over 2000+ kinds of beer, that's right 2000+, it made it into the Guiness Book of Records and we tried EVERY SINGLE ONE!!!! psssh XD do you believe me? haha.
OK, so drinking aside, food in Brussels was amazing =D...Chocolates is so much more the Guylian with brands like Neuhaus, Galler, Leonidas, Marcolini and Godiva...and they are oh so good but oh so expensive...oh so worth it! =D I bought some back to share! But I don't like the odds....people in Sweden may have a chance....but people in Melbourne might only end up getting wrappers....if that XD. I tried a horse steak in Brussels...interesting texture, very dense but not stringy at all...something to try =P. The Waterzooi that Yee-Ling had was really good too, creamy and very tasty. Had Stoemp (pretty much mash) but with carrot and potatoes! That was nice =) with a very dense sausage, I dunno if that's because they fill it with real meat or more offal =P but I liked it! The waffles here were so sweet...and smelt so very good. Of course we had to get the extreme tourist waffle with cream and strawberries and banna and chocolate but what a horribly delicious meal. We barely had the stomach to finish it all and yet, later that day we were having more waffles XD. And of course the fries here are amazing!...Ok, they're not mind blowing, I mean, fries are fries but they were fresh, fried in clean oil and very crunchy ^_^ Coupled with a massive dollop of mayonaisse and a refreshing coke and you get the perfect 4 euro dinner! Btw, Frech fries are actually Belgian! The American/British troops saw the Belgians making their fries during world war 1 but because they spoke French, they just remembered "French Fries"
And as for things to do...(as if food and beer aren't enough) we checked out some of Brussels many many churches, monuments and giant palace/civic buildings and parks. But the highlight for me would've been the art museum and the open air market. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium was quite cool and made me realise that art museums really are quite cool. Here there were the paintings by Rene Magritte (a famous Belgian surrealist) which while at times were quite bizarre/intimmidating I really quite liked, especially his later works. Just the way he paints light and uses it to bring out the texture and feel of things. No photoshop lighting effects here! Also he's known for some very clever and though provoking paintings, they were a little too deep for me to understand but you can check out his "Empire of Lights" and "This is not a pipe" or just wiki him. The pictures on the internet are no where near as impressive but they give an idea. I also quite liked the modern are section....not the "here is a blank canvas with a brown border...lets put it in an art museum!" modern art...but just check out some of the pics =) (btw, these were all perfectly legal =P)
The marketplace was my second highlight, both for the atmosphere and amount of cool things that you could buy there. I of course succumbed to impulse buying BUT in my defence, they were cheap and (I think) very cool. An old photo of a family saying goodbye/hello in Anvers (Antwerp), and old beer label, 2 pins (MGM and Les Mis!) and 6 old coins - a penny, a half penny, a three pence, a shilling, 10 francs (France) and 50 ptas (Spain) dating from 1938 to 1977 and with the heads of King George, a pretty Queen Elizabeth and Francisco Franco
To top it off, I spent a crazy saturday morning training to Bruges and riding around the beautiful town while Yee-Ling checked out the Atomium (A BCC structure of iron!!!) and the EU buildings. Crazy confusing ticket counters and a missed train later...I was on a bike riding like mad through Bruges. The place really is amazing, even if it's half manufactured...the medieval buildings were mainly built in the 19th century to make the city prettier cos someone published a book saying that Bruges was ugly. Must see sights include the Markt and the Burg, two very beautiful squares in the centre of town and the wind mills to the east of the canal city. The canals running through this place is beautiful and you really need to take the time to wander its picturesque streets...something I couldn't affort to do in the 2 hours I had there =(. Ah well, I don't regret it given the amount of things were were trying to see in two and a half days in Belgium but given the time, I would (In Bruges): Take a canal tour, walk the streets and taken many many more pictures, checked out the interiros of it's churches, town halls and belfries, went to the Fries museum!, picnic-ed on the river/canalside and checked out the holy blood in the Holy blood chapel =P. Just a little taste of what you can do in Bruges =)
And that's it! My longest post yet I think but it was justified! I think Belgium has been one of my favourite places so far. Not crippled by extreme sight seeing like in Rome =P but still have an amazing day discovering the city. I dunno how much fun it'd still be after you've seen all the museums and lost all your money/health after buying all that chocolate/beer/fries/waffles XD but it's definitely worth the 3/4 days =) And if you DO get sick of Brussels, just an hours ride away is Bruges, or Antwerp and Ghent! And if you SOMEHOW get sick of Belgium...Paris is like 2 hours away! XD