Trip Start Oct 18, 2012
203Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
I was sitting here thinking about what to call the day that we have just had and sometimes you can't neatly sum things up! It was a long day, a hectic day and a lot of walking, but we managed to see a lot of the downtown sights in Brussels. Not a bad start for my first proper European railway journey.
The story starts 24 hours earlier as I finished work at 9pm yesterday. After coming home and grabbing a bite to eat, Steffie and I got around 5 hours sleep before getting up around 4am to get ready. We walked to the tram station in Edingen to catch the 5am tram to Mannheim and once there caught the 6:05am ICE train to Frankfurt. We switched at the airport to another ICE train which travelled through Köln, Aachen, Liege and finally to Brussels (Bruxelles). We arrived around 9:40am and had travelled roughly 450kms in 5 hours
I found the Deutsche Bahn trains to be smooth, quiet and clean although once we had to shift seats as someone had booked a reserved seat. With the announcements coming over the loudspeakers in the same manner as in an airplane, it wasn't hard to tell where you were. I felt sorry for the guy once we arrived in Belgium as he announced them in French, German and English!
We had read a lot about safety in Brussels because the Brussels Midi Station is supposed to be bad for crime and the area that our hotel is in is a bit further from downtown and in a 'bad neighbourhood.' There were a few guys hanging around looking suspicious, but I think as long as you aren't an idiot normally you are fine i.e. flashing money around or leaving your bad unattended. We had no problems walking 20 mins to our hotel to drop off our bags.
It was still pretty early in the day so we decided to see the sights and caught a bus into downtown. It didn't take long for us to wind the streets into the heart of Brussels and we got off immediately at the Manneken Pis statue which is a little boy weeing
From there it was a direct walk to the other most populated spot - Grand Place. Unfortunately for us, there were a bunch of stages obscuring our view, but we managed to get 100 photos nonetheless. With all the buildings having quite a history, it is no wonder that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There were so many people walking around including tourist groups that you could easily lose yourself in the throngs.
From there we walked around checking out the Bourse, tiny Rue des Bouchers, Jeanneke Pis (the girl version) and Galerie Saint Hubert. We stopped for lunch at one of the many restaurants along Rue des Bouchers to have mussels and stuffed crab and I had a nice Belgian beer. Brussels has plenty of typical things to do and mussels, chips and beer are definitely up there along with Belgian chocolate like Guylian and of course waffles. I didn't know that hot chips originated in Belgium although they are more commonly eaten with mayo rather than ketchup (tomato sauce). In Germany they are just called pommes.
After lunch we took a walk up the hill to the Cathedrale St Michel one of the many churches in Brussels. Adelaide is supposed to be the City of Churches, but Brussels definitely tops the list with the number of big churches around. We saw at least 5 today including this one, one near the palace and a couple others scattered around town. The walk up to the palace took a few stairs as it is on the highest hill of the city and the gardens weren't anything to shout about
By 4pm we were pretty tired although the random events didn't stop happening. Having already seen some sort of video shoot with a red carpet, we came across a horse jousting event at a Medieval Fair at the Notre Dame au Sablon. We came across a glass elevator which took us up to have a look at the Palais de Justice although that was looking horrible and under renovation. The building was absolutely huge though.
After a coffee, we pirked up a bit to walk past the Porte de Hal (city gate) and all the way back to the hotel. By my calculations we walked over 10kms today which isn't bad considering the lack of sleep. I didn't know much about Belgium other than they speak two languages - French and Dutch although apparently German is also a national language (still behind Switzerland - it has 4). I also didn't know they had a royal family although they are relatively new by European standards.
Hopefully we will get to check out some more things tomorrow after a good nights sleep!