Thursday, April 15, 2010

Europe Trip Part 2 - Brussels

Might I actually write two blog entries in one week? Make sure you don't miss the Amsterdam update below this one, since I'm sure you guys are all accustomed to checking the blog every month or so to see if there's anything new . . .
Well I caught my train to Brussels at 8:30 and by the time I arrived, navigated the metro, and asked for directions at a nice hotel to my hostel (came with a free newspaper!) it was around 11:30. I checked in and left my bags, then grabbed an awesome free map written by Brussels residents and targeted at young people with all the major sights but also insider tips on cool places to check out. Judging by it's location relative to the hostel, I headed first to a parking garage. I'll tell you why later, let's check out a bunch of pictures from the morning.

Wall outside the train station, Belgians are really into cartoons. There's a comic strip museum, and if I'm not mistaken they actually invented the Smurfs (or pitufos, as they are called in Spain)

Waffle bus!

Today's first Belgian waffle, but not the last . . .

Parking 58, but why would any tourist go to a parking garage?

Because if you go to the top you can see all of Brussels, of course. Off in the distance is the Atomium, built for the 1958 World's Fair and kind of a symbol of the city.

More free panoramic view of Brussels

After coming down from the Parking 58 I walked a little ways down a major boulevard and arrived at the Brussels Stock Exchange. According to my map, this is the place where all the protests and public gatherings are held in Brussels. There are two official languages in Belgium, French and Dutch, and all of the signs are in both. Therefore according to said signs this is the Bourse/Beurs, and in my head I kept calling it the Bors Bors and sounding like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets (Bork Bork Bork!). Enough silliness. I got lunch at a sandwich shop next to the Bourse/Beurs where much to my dismay they didn't put my fries on top of my sandwich like they did for all of the Belgian customers. I don't know what clued them in that I was an American, other than all the pointing and broken French I used to order. Then I walked into the tourist center of Belgium.


The Grand Place (Grote Markt), main square of Belgium even though you'd be hard-pressed to find an actual Belgian in it.

One of the nicest squares I have seen, though. It's completely surrounded by guildhalls (previous picture) and public buildings, and the architecture harmonizes together nicely.

Brussels Town Hall, begun in 1401. It wouldn't fit in a normal picture, so I opted for this view looking up the tower.

Maison du Roi, though I don't think the king ever actually lived in it, since it's also referred to as the Breadhouse. Now it's a museum about the history of Brussels, in which I learned that Parking 58 is built on the site of the former port. And then they buried the river Senne, and built the Bourse/Beurs on top of part of it.

I asked some policemen to take my picture in front of the Breadhouse, and this is what I got. Then I asked them to do it again and get the building in it too, and they told me they weren't photographers, and that I was lucky I got one picture. So sorry to interrupt you in the middle of your double homicide/kidnapping investigation (slow stroll around the perimeter of the square chatting, the whole time I was there), officers.

Another symbol of Brussels, the Manneken Pis. Everyone tells you it's really tiny, but I wasn't expecting it to be this small.

Statue close-up. Sometimes they dress him up in donated outfits (like national costumes of many countries), and in the museum in the Breadhouse they have a room with all the outfits on display.

Waffle number two for the day, this time with chocolate. I won't dare to say one was better than the other, 'cause I love me a Belgian waffle in any form, but one of them was definitely messier.

I walked up the hill and tried to visit the Magritte Museum, showcasing the works of surrealist painter René Magritte, but unfortunately you need reservations. He's the guy who painted the portrait of the man in the bowler hat with an apple in front of his face, and lots of other weird pictures of men in bowler hats, along with other things. I made the most of this disappointment and saw the other sights in this area, including the Royal Palace and the Cathedral, before taking the metro a few stops to go to a car museum I happened to notice on my map (best map ever! I gave it to some Argentinians I met in my hostel in Barcelona when they told me they were going to Brussels). So there's your brief narrative for now.

Awesome name for a hotel, but you pretty much have to paint your sign like this too

At first I thought this was the palace, but it's actually a church.

View of the town hall in the distance from the steps of the church

The actual Royal Palace

Cathedral of Brussels

Some saint - I couldn't decide if he had a golden palm frond or a golden sickle.

Very realistic stained glass windows

Found out what R.I.P. stands for. Probably wouldn't want a skull and crossbones on my tomb, though.

Hahaha in the name of VADER! Oh Dutch, I'm out of the Netherlands but you still find ways to entertain me.

Autoworld - I paid two euros more for the priviledge of taking pictures, so you can bet I got my money's worth.

Enormous old camping vehicle. It even has a back porch, like old trains that presidents used to ride around the country on.

The Urkelmobile, actually a BMW Isetta

This car is also a boat.


Brussels also has a triumphal arch, albeit less famous than the one in Paris.

As you can see from my previous photo of the arch, it was getting dark by the time I left Autoworld. That's nature's way of telling me that it's the end of sightseeing time and the beginning of eat and get drunk time, so I took the metro back to the area of my hostel to try to find a traditional Belgian restaurant. And I succeeded. Enjoy these last three pictures, and I'll try to write about Luxembourg as soon as possible, which will be even sooner if this volcano succeeds in messing up my London travel plans on Tuesday.

Hmm, I think this place might serve lobster . . .

Traditional Belgian dish whose name I had no hope of remembering from the minute it was told to me. Pretty similar to other traditional dishes in Northern Europe - mashed potatoes, some meat, and other assorted vegetables that I don't eat.

Sweet hostel beds, each with their own reading light and electrical outlet


  1. I peaked. Nutella waffle looks awesome.

  2. It was just really gooey chocolate, but oh man was it ever!

  3. I peeked too. But I didn't tell until just now. Which is good, because before you had duplicate pictures, but now you don't.

  4. Beautiful architecture!

  5. Don't think I want to go to Amsterdam, but Brussels looks like a place I'd like to visit. I, too, cannot resist a waffle!

  6. Keep the waffle pics coming!! Aunt Connie

  7. I'm going to start a waffle bus business here. The heck with pharmacy! Americans are nuts over waffles.How else do you explain Waffle House being popular? Brussels looks nice. Tim