Here is a bit of me rambling on about what I’ve observed in Brussels, for all of you who have never been and want to learn more! DISCLAIMER: I am not an accurate source of reference, as I am simply a tourist with two eyes and a heart for adventure! Please enjoy my logos as I figure out how to blog.
It is Saturday, June 25th, 2016 and I am currently in the car on the way to Karlsruhe, Germany for my friend’s family reunion! We have been jamming to 80’s tunes as we drive through the green, lush fields heading south for Deutschland. This is day 8 of my trip, and I soon will be flying to Dublin, Ireland to read and write some poetry. The weather has been beautiful in Brussels, with a few days of rain and plenty of sunshine. Driving down the highway reminds me of Washington, as the lanes are surrounded by tall, green trees…
For breakfast we had Belgian waffles, which are nothing like the ones you can buy anywhere else that isn’t Belgium. They are so sugary and soft, and the dough is so delicious! They are very rich, however, so I’ve only had two this entire week, and that has been enough!
Most of my time here in Brussels has been spent downtown, which is about a 35 minute metro ride away. The metro here is so easy to figure out that I was able to go out by myself without any confusion – while most signs and instructions are in French and Dutch, and all prices are listed in euros, it takes about five minutes to make sense of it. Here in Belgium, you can buy alcohol as young as 16, but they usually don’t ask for an ID, so truthfully as long as you don’t look like a preteen you can buy most kinds of beverages. Myself, Leela, and a good friend went to a large, happening (albeit very sweaty and smelly) bar called “Big” Delirium (as opposed to Little Delirium), and we each got a Delirium red, which is a cherry flavored beer. I am not a beer drinker, or a drinker for that matter, but it wasn’t half bad! I have also been shown around to other popular drinking/hangout spots around the town, and most of them are quite chill and a fun place to meet up with friends from all over town.
We also spent a bit of time in Grand Place, which, while a favorite tourist spot, is also a popular spot for locals. I never learned exactly what the buildings in the place are, but the architecture is gorgeous and especially at night, the lights have a European Romantic aura that is quite exciting to be around the first few times you see it.
I also frequented the parks in the city. The royal park, also known as simply “park” by the locals, used to be the palace garden but is now a public park. Though surrounded by industrial sights, once in the center of the park, the only access you have to the hustle and bustle of downtown is the metro rumbling beneath your feet. The Parc du Cinquantenaire is also a gorgeous space that is centered by an enormous arch and a plaza with a few museums. The parks in Brussels are the most beautiful I have ever encountered – even thinking about all that you can find in Southern California and Seattle, nothing really compares. And even though I enjoy going around the town and seeing the city and culture come to life, my favorite moments of this leg of my trip have been when I’m spending time in the gardens.
Because I stayed with my friends the whole week, I did not have to spend much time or money eating out, so I cannot really comment on the cuisine here. However, the dining and drinking atmospheres are very fun to be a part of. In most restaurants (So I’ve been told) evening meals usually last around two hours, depending on the kind of occasion.
This past week there were two football (Soccer) victories that Belgians were celebrating! Even though we were in a commune pretty far from downtown, you could hear folks screaming, honking horns, and celebrating outside the window for upwards of thirty minutes after the game had ended. The national pride here is quite a sight, as I am sure it is in most countries of this size! Leela and I went onto the metro on my second night here to go meet some friends downtown, and there was a group of lads who were very drunk with face paints, horns and flags, and it was only 6 or so in the evening. One of them went up and down the metro cars blowing the horn and trying to get passengers to say OLÉ!! But most of us just wished he would sit with his friends and save the horn for the streets – it was quite noisy 🙂
In spending so much time with my friend’s family who has lived in Brussels for three years (and done their fair share of research to learn about the community), I have learned much about the culture and ways of this community and also Belgium as a socialist country. On Sunday’s, most places are closed and it is customary for families to have that day as a true day of rest, visiting their loved ones and taking time to relax and enjoy life. The public transport is very good (except when there are strikes- then there is none :)) and there are many many specialty shops – for example, boulangeries, patisseries, charcuteries, etc. that specialize in, say breads, pastries, or meats. This way you have to travel to many stores usually to get all the groceries you need, but it makes for a much more intentional experience that feels special and authentic, at least to me! It is quite different from the Safeways, Targets, and Costcos of the U.S., though I am sure that Belgium has those too.
To wrap up this particular post about my experience in Brussels, I will say that with all of the chaos and violence and hardship that this city has seen recently, it appears that most people believe in going about their days and trying to live without fear. Often, you can see soldiers and policeman posted around the city in frequented areas, looking calm and collected. From what I can see, Brussels is an incredibly strong city and it has been a blessing to be able to visit and see some of the resilience that the community has. There is so much more to say, but I will have to save it for later!!
See you soon!! Brinkley 🙂