Brussels.what can you suprise me with?

Trip Start Nov 20, 2012
Trip End Dec 25, 2012

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Flag of Belgium  ,
Saturday, December 1, 2012

Waking at 8am with the outside world still in darkness, one wonders what the daylight will show us  in this city of nearly 2 millon people mainly of French & Dutch ancestory  therefore all the signs in this city are in both languages.. rather confusing to an english speaking tourist..especially the tourism maps... Her history dates back to the 13th century and the modern day city is now the un-official capital of the E.U.( European Union ).
Even though the temperature doesn't rise much today( a chilly 3 dgrees) the people do and the streets are soon busy with Saturday crowds. Some off to the Xmas markets we enjoyed last evening , some off to the various sporting events etc and us.. well, best we see the local  tourist attractions.. The Grand Place by day shows the true enormity of it's buildings.. the architecture from 3 different eras (Baroque, Gothic and Louis XIV) make their marks on the square giving it an unique style.. the Grand Place was listed as one of the Sites of World Heritage by UNESCO in 1998.  The "Kings Place" and the "Town Hall" are two of the more prominent buildings.. By day we see tourists enjoying the views,The art sellers.. by night we saw the Xmas fair, restaurants buzzing and young folk gathered  having their allowed "public place" drinks.. alcohol is soo inexpensive here.. sold in coffee shops, lunch bars.. corner stores etc.. Public drinking is seen many places.
Next on our walk was the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral ,a Roman Catholic  Gothic style church built 1226-1490. As the national church for Belgium it is here that royal weddings and funerals take place. The interior is not as oppulent as some european churches but still very impressive!
Over to the Royal Palace (circa 1783-1934) , the official residence of the royal family.. who actually don't live here..more of the "office" for them. It sits directly in line & opposite the  Belgian Fedral Parliment building.. Brussels Park sits between the two.From the middle of the park both front doors are perfectly aligned.. Symbolising their system of government & constitutional monarchy.

While on the history of Brussels, next stop is the Triumphal Arch (Finally built in a 1905 ) long after the enormous buildings either side ,built  for the National Exhibition of 1880 ,to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the independent state of Belgium. The Royal Miltary Museum, Art Museum, Auto world Museum and the Great Mosque of Brussels  are housed in some of the enormous wings.The surrounding area is a 30 hectare park for the people of Brussels.

Now for some fun.. up to the Mini- Europe.. a miniature park located in Bruparck . Mini-Europe has the reproductions of the most attractive monuments in the European Union on show, at a scale of 1:25. Roughly 80 cities and 350 buildings are represented. The park is renowned for the quality of its models, some of which cost as much as €350,000 to make (the Brussels Grand-Place).
With 300,000 visitors per year and a turnover of 3 million euro, Mini-Europe is one of Brussels’ leading attractions
The detail is amazing. the simulations achieved..the  trains, mills, boats sailing, sounds, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the fall of the Berlin wall.. all so realistic.
As night falls the illiminations add to the magic of the complex
 Alongside is the magestic and intriguing Atomium structure.. built for the 1958 Expo,  the structure  is a symbol of the atom concept, representing an iron crystal, magnified 165 billion times. It is comprised of nine large spheres joined by connecting steel and aluminum tubes, and reaches a height of 102 metres. Time did not permit us to enter & enjoy the view from the top sphere or the interactive exhibits  etc.. Next time ..
Last but not least a meal in the famous inner city "Drug Opera" tavern/ restaurant.
Seated next to an upstairs window , appreciating the view outside and  the inteior decor..Xmas is well catered for here.. our meal & drinks finished off the Brussels discovery...
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