July 31, 2012

Eurotrip - Brussels, July 31

The thought had actually crossed my mind while we were leaving Munich that I may never sleep well again for the rest of my life. That's how sleep deprived I was. Our room here though was way better than Munich and I slept really well. This hostel is interesting. It's much more catered toward young adults rather than lonely travelers and school groups like the last place. The "we're a cool place for young people" vibe kind of wears on me but the facilities are nice, the bed was nice, the view from our room was great and I slept really well, so basically it's all good in the hood.

Brussels is a nice town in the daylight. It's very compact, so you can walk basically anywhere but if you want there is a metro system. There are museums absolutely everywhere as well as lots of little shops and cafes. Actually, this town caters really well to hipsters. There are lots of knick-knack stores with antiques and neat old crap piled across many rooms. There are also tons of record stores for the hipster vinyl collector interested in buying the star trek soundtrack in Belgium.

We started the day with a stop in the Brussels museum of fine art (beaux-arts for those keeping score at home) which keeps paintings from the 15th century through modern times. It wasn't the best museum we've been to but it also wasn't the worst. Most of their best collection was in religious artwork from the 17th and 18th century.

We saw a lot of paintings of Jesus, lots of freaky surreal religious imagery and of course a couple representations of my buddy, the arrow-filled Saint Sebastian!

The modern art collections were dreary and didn't inspire a lot. They also were attempting a collection of art around the theme of "Art and Finances", which was pretty bad.

A nice surprise was the Margritte museum which contained artwork by the famous creator of "this is not a pipe" and all those paintings with the guy and the apple in front of his face. You know, that guy. Art historian I am not. This museum also contained a biography of the artist alongside a lot of his artwork.

We spent a lot of time just walking around Brussels so I didn't take very many pictures. The city is a fun place to just absorb what's around you without needing to necessarily stop at museums or stores. We saw the statue if the kid peeing, which had a lot of people taking pictures, and eventually sat down for some insane French fry lunch. We were just going to get a basket of fries, but they make these insane state-fair type foods of burger sandwiches with salad, onions and fries on top. This is all drenched in some sort of lightly spicy sauce that was sort of like the frisco melt sauce from steak and shake. Don't judge. It tasted amazing, and sat in my gut for the rest of our afternoon.

Brussels is one of the seats of the European Union so they have a cool visitor center that we stopped in. I was expecting a small shop with pamphlets (Justin expected a tri-fold history day project) but we got an hour long walkthrough of the history of the EU complete with little handheld touch screen guides and games. It was pretty impressive. But just like history classes in high-school I will probably forget everything I learned.

The hostel gave us some great maps (hipster maps no joke) that have waking tours just outside the inner city. We took the "East Tour" through some nice parks, and also through one of the poorer neighborhoods. The latter area has a large outdoor market area that's blocked off from traffic, that was nice to wander up. At the top of the hill were some cool cars colored like taxis that had been filled in with dirt and left to grow plants.

The little car planter installation is kind of indicative of what make Brussels a neat and comfortable town. The city is not as esthetically pleasing as Zurich or Paris, but there are things like these cars, or a large orange overhead snake-thing that we saw this morning that give the town some vitality and personality.

Language here has been interesting. They officially speak both French and Dutch here, but everyone also speaks English. This means that signs can often be in all of these languages, or depending on which neighborhood you're in, only one of them. The Dutch is a nice way to get used to Amsterdam though, where we go tomorrow!

We didn't end up doing too much tonight. I mean we walked probably 3 or 4 miles, but I didn't take any pictures and we didn't go in anywhere. We took a trip to a wealthier part of town that our map suggested we check out (it was a tip from a local guy whose occupation is actually listed as "hipster") and look at the nice buildings, expensive stores and fancy restaurants. There was an antique store that also looked cool but by the time we got there it was closed. Actually pretty much everything was closed by the time we got up there. That's okay though, the walk was nice and it was interesting to see things outside of the inner Brussels area. Brussels used to be surrounded by a giant wall (like a really really long time ago) and the "inner city" part is what used to exist inside the walls. So even though I said earlier that the city is easily walkable, that's really only this inner area. Outside of the city there are tons of neighborhoods, sort of like Paris. We arrived in a poor red-light neighborhood last night and tonight visited an old-money neighborhood. The problem with this plan though was that we arrived too late to go into shops, and the dining was all out of our price range. After wandering until our feet hurt we settled on an "irish pub" which served American pub food. No matter! It was food, and we didn't have to eat it standing up. Speaking of food, I haven't eaten waffles or chocolate yet. Only French-fry uber-sandwiches.

We decided to turn in earlier tonight, and leave a bit earlier for Amsterdam. Adieu Belgium!

P.s. I didn't see anyone I'm related to.

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