The German public holiday on October 3rd 2007 gave us the opportunity to take a couple days off, making it a 5 day long weekend for a journey to Aachen in north western Germany, then to Brussels, Gent and Antwerp in Belgium and to Trier in Germany before finally returning to Munich. Being the German Oktoberfest weekend in Munich, most of the traffic should be heading in the opposite direction to our travels, leaving our route relatively free of traffic.

Belgium, represented by the 3 cities above was fun! We didn’t get much time to see Antwerp and would therefore be back for more. Belgium gave the world some specialties, most of which we have now experienced. Firstly, there was the Belgian shepherd (a dog that looks like a slimmer version of the German shepherd, or Alsatian), Belgian Waffles (yum… ), Belgian Chocolate, Belgian Beer and the mussels from Brussels. Restaurants were in abundance all over Brussels - the capital of Belgium, offering mussels steamed with their special sauce (celery, onions, garlic), white wine sauce, natural, raw etc. The ones steamed in special sauce and ones in white wine sauce is devine… I also tried the mussels provinciale (baked in garlic, some white wine and cheese).

It appeared to us that Brussels inherited some of its architecture from The Netherlands (the traditional Flemish) by the view of the houses although the architecture of its buildings in the Grand Place appears to be from the Romanesque (11th to 14th century), Gothic (13th to 16th Century) and Renaissance (16th and 17th century, particularly in Brussels) era with some Art Nuoveau thrown in! Belgium also gave the world the Tin Tin series of cartoons and no wonder – comic shops were in many places around Brussels, along with murals in some of the walls spread around town and even a comic strip museum.

Talking about being comic, the larakin in Belgians was on display through the famous statue of little boy peeing. Well, it was the famous little boy peeing behind the roadwork at the time we visited which nevertheless, attract crowds of tourists. This was called Manneken Pis. We also found his sister Jeanneka pis and their dog, Zinneka Pis… although there were two varieties of the latter: - it didn't take long for us to work out that the one that didn't move so much was the statue. Belgium appears to be in a valley with a the Royal Palace, Museums and two Churches perched on higher ground looking down. Without knowing this fact or the intricate understanding of Belgian public transport (they have the subway, a light rail (tram) system as well as a large network of busses), we walked between the valley and these higher points several times during our stay – as the light rail system from these higher points brought us to explore the suburbs around Brussels, parks and gardens, the many lakes, squares and beyond. Much of the city highlights looked genuinely old.

English was widely understood although the general language used was French with a bit of Flemish thrown in every now and then. There was no trouble communicating in this city.

The negative side were hoards of beggers on the streets, so beware when eating on cafes near the sidewalks that gypsy women bearing children will approach you for money and whilst in traffic, gypsy men shaking loose change in small cups will come begging for money and finally aggressive youths who needed to collect money and signatures for petitions of some kind. The aggression in some of the Belgian drivers was something I had not been accustomed to in Europe; high speed tail gating and 60kmh driving in small built up streets were two common traits that I have found. Probably because the German plates on my car was the only one in sight in this smoggy Belgian city or I am getting too old for this.

Finally, we were held at gunpoint twice by Belgian police – twice in front of the Bank National de Belgie on two different cities as they were transferring huge amounts of cash behind armoured vehicles. We wouldn’t call the latter negatives though…

 

October 10th, 2007

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Images
Images of Brussels

 


Statue of Everard 't Serclaes, a14th century hero who defended the city
Rub his gleaming torso for good luck... so we did! ... standing by!

People
People were generally polite
and friendly in nature. We were left us pretty much alone but we didn't like the agression in the Belgian driving habbit..  People were generally friendly towards us and we didn''t attract that many stares - perhaps because they are used to being around Asians. We would rate this 3 out of 5.

Service
Service oriented, smiles, good manners, speaks English wherever possible.
We would rate this 3½ out of 5 for Service.

Culture
We enjoyed learning the culture of the Belgians and being part of it, although only for a short moment. We didn't get time to understand about the history of Belgium and how things developed but the styles of he buildings in different sections of towns and cities tell us of a lot of history and therefore culture in these walls. Speaking French but being friendlier than the French people confused us but we are happy with this. We rate this 4 out of 5 for Culture.

Attractiveness
We had great fun here in Brussels and would come back for sure, although would not prioritise Brussels on the top of our list to return to.
We rate this 3 out of 5.

Food
There was a large variety of food available in Brussels, catering for all sorts of tastes, but in particular the Belgian mussels, waffles etc.. We even had Chinese food here wish isn"t half bad.
We rate this 4 out of 5.

Cost
Perhaps a touch too expensive, most probably due to the 21% VAT slapped on just about everthing here. Food costs seems to be at par with Germany but fuel and accomodation was a touch too expensive, even by German standards. 2½ out of 5.

Overall
Again, in the absence of a perfect science to perform an overall rating, our “emotional” rating methodology should suffice.  
Purely by emotional traits, we would rate Brussels a 3½ out of 5.

Brussels, BE

People

Service

Culture

Attractiveness

Food

Cost

Overall Score