Big Things, Small Things
Trip Start Oct 18, 2012
225Trip End Ongoing
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We woke up in Brussels on our second day, after a good night's sleep, ready to do some more exploring. We bought a day trip for the Metro so that we wouldn’t have to do so much walking, but we ended up doing a fair amount anyway! One of the ways that I evaluate a city is by seeing how well the public transportation works and in Brussels it is pretty good. Around the corner was a tram that we caught directly to Brussels Midi and connected with a train out to the Expo Grounds: only 45 minutes so that was pretty good.
The Atomium is something I had never heard about and is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. It was built in 1958 for the World’s Fair and is supposed to represent a carbon molecule on a gigantic scale
We had a choice of buying a combo ticket to go up to the Atomium lookout and Mini Europe, but after reading the reviews on Trip Advisor, we decided to just go to the later (which was still €14 each). I didn’t have big expectations for a miniature village based on famous buildings in Europe, but it actually turned out to be pretty good. Apparently all of the models were built by expert modelers from the mid 1980s for a hefty price and sadly not maintained very well. Some of them had pieces broken or missing and that is probably the reason why they are closing after this year. Walking around the park, for each country there was a sign and a music button that played the national anthem and the booklet described a few of the facts and figures.
I didn’t realize just how many countries were in Europe and there were quite a few models (on a 1:25 scale) that were pretty impressive. Of course they had the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Brandenburger Tor and the Arc de Triumph, but they also had quite a few buildings from smaller countries that looked cool
We caught two trains back into the city centre and got out at the Bourse to eat pommes for lunch. We walked through the Grand Place again which had taken down the stages giving a much better view of the square. Steffie was keen to check out the Museum of the City of Brussels which had a history about the city, some tapestries, art and some cool costumes which the Manneken Pis has worn over the last 85 years. They were divided into national costumes and some of the best ones were the 1978 Elvis costume and the Spanish balls costume which was just the statue covered in coloured balls. I think that the statue isn’t such a big attraction without the costumes.
On the other side of the city is the impressive Parc du Cinquantenaire. We caught the Metro to the Schuman station, which also happened to be the point where the European Union HQ is. The park holds a Brandenburger Tor style gate which looked cool. Unfortunately in the middle of the park the underground highway pops up for fresh air and kind of ruins the tranquility. The park also houses a military and an auto museum which Steffie strangely wasn’t interested in going to. Women…
Back in downtown we checked out the Tintin shop and ate waffles at the Waffle Factory which had both savory and sweet styles and was very busy. Across the road the Manneken Pis was once again naked, but I was more interested in the Comic Strip train which is a series of cool wall murals with comic depictions. We found a couple before we caught the bus back to the hotel. A Metro day ticket for €6.50 is definitely worth buying!