From London we were headed to Berlin. We’d have to change trains in Brussels anyway, so we figured we’d make an overnight stop there. We briefly contemplated a side trip to Bruges, but decided that city would be a better experience in a different season.
The main draws in Brussels were culinary: waffles, chocolate, French fries, and beer. We’d promised (bribed…) the kids some waffles in exchange for good behavior, and we were happily surprised to come across a waffle stand in a flea market just outside the train station. They were delicious! We saw plenty more waffles during our time in the city.
During our afternoon in the city we made the requisite visits to the Grand Place (main square) and the Mannekin Pis statue. The Grand Place combines amazing architecture and at least one very persistent beggar. And, sadly, a Hard Rock Cafe. I am very much in favor of the fair and open exchange of ideas, speech, and commerce, but I can’t help but feel something is wrong every time I see an American chain brazenly plopped down in the middle of a cultural treasure.
The Grand Place is the central square of Brussels, and is surrounded by large, ornate buildings. These were the guild halls and town hall. The town hall dates back to 1401! “Old” has a whole different meaning in Europe than it does in the US. In turn, I suspect the Greeks or Egyptians would scoff at western Europe’s definition of “old.”
The huge town hall is somehow both solid and airy, impressive but not overbearing. The arches that span the ground floor seem to make the building float above the ground, and the central spire evokes lacework. Compare that to the Brutalist disaster that is Boston’s City Hall.
A short walk from the Grand Place is the Mannekin Pis, a statue/fountain of a little boy peeing. Nate thought this was one of the funniest things he’s ever seen. I appreciate the town’s sense of humor. Can you imagine the uproar if someone tried to install something like this in a city in the US?
The last site we saw in Brussels was the EU parliament museum. This museum chronicles the evolution of the EU, and how it is governed. It was reasonably interesting. It has not been updated for Brexit. I wonder what they’ll have to say about that.
We had an early start to the day, and by late afternoon we were exhausted. Dinner was at a burger place near our hotel where they give you gloves to eat the food. That was a new one for us! (It wasn’t *that* greasy). We turned in early to prepare for another early train the next day, to Berlin.