Waffles, chocolate, and the capital of Europe.
This last week was a tremendous change of pace. We had our mid-semester break (which I spent in Ireland and the UK,) two weeks of class, then this FU-BEST program trip to Brussels, Belgium.
I’m not a fan of group travel in the slightest, and it took some real determination to stay with the fifty-odd students schlepping baggage from train to train from Berlin to Amsterdam and away to Brussels. Things just take longer, and tour groups have this frustrating tendency to block the sidewalks and right-of-way.
Nonetheless, Brussels is a beautiful town, and the culture is wholly unique. The northern half of the country speaks Dutch and the southern French. Brussels, nearly in the middle, speaks both. English is very common, as Brussels is home to both the EU and NATO.
Brussels surprised me with one of the largest churches in the world, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. it’s one of the ten largest in the world, and the largest building in art-deco style. It can hold up to 3,500 visitors and there’s a great view from the top, where you can see across the city to Atomium, a large inhabitable sculpture built for the world’s fair in 1958.
Eclecticism is the style of choice in Brussels, and one of my favorite buildings is the Old England building (below.) It’s classic art-nouveau, with fantastic iron work in organic patterns. Inside is the Museum of Musical Instruments, where you listen to the various instruments through headphones as you walk through the galleries. Definitely one of my favorite museum experiences.
Speaking of, we also visited the René Magritte museum, which is straight-up the best art exhibition ever, and the comic book museum, which is pretty cool (Brussels is home to Tintin and many other comics, wahoo!)
Brussels also found us on a tour of the Cantillon Brewery, unique because it’s one of the last lambic-style breweries in the world. They begin the fermentation process in the open air to utilize naturally existing yeast instead of yeast injection like most breweries. The result is a brew that’s incredibly unique, and held in high-regard by beer-enthusiasts the world over. For some though, it’s a bit too sour.
The chocolate, waffles, and fish in Brussels were awesome, ’nuff said.
We also found a unique Brussels experience in an underground music festival on the edge of the city. Held in a gigantic underground brick cellar, we heard some interesting music from Italy and Denmark.
Besides Brussels I also traveled to Bruges and Ypres, but I’ll save those for the next post (they were beautiful!)