Belgians say Brussels is “beautiful in its ugliness.” We can’t really say so ourselves as we barely got to explore Belgium’s capital. We arrived one evening and head to head home the following day.
But we wandered around anyways and enjoyed the sites, happy we sampled food and saw sights outside of Brussels, which in comparison seemed to feel overcome with souvenir and trinket shops.
The main square is really quite stunning with its grand golden buildings. I can only imagine how beautiful it would be to see the area when they fill it with a carpet of flowers this August (and every 2 years).
I found the tastiest and loveliest chocolate shop here: Pierre Marcolini. As in my favorite chocolate shop ever. It’s that good. The chocolates (and macarons) are delicious!
And don’t worry, Shane has had his waffle fix many-a-time in Belgium, with their various sugary sweet waffle concoctions. Belgian waffles are light and crispy, made to be topped with strawberries/whipped cream/etc (the rectangular one), while Liege waffles are the smaller, rounder ones that taste much heavier and sweeter. I, in the meantime, ate much too much gelato.
We also discovered that Brussels has an obsession with peeing statues: the famous boy peeing (manneken-pis), a girl (made in response to the boy), and even a dog.
The crazier part was how many people were going wild over manneken-pis. I never knew a little boy urinating would be so exciting!
But we discovered he’s a source of pride: he is decorated at various events, having over 300 different costumes (in this case the girl is dressed up in Belgium colors for the World Cup). He dresses as Santa Claus, an astronaut, a cyclist for Tour de France, the mayor, etc. And apparently he is occasionally hooked up to a keg of beer, so you can fill your cup as you pass by!
By the way, how cool is this see-through church we found in the Belgian countryside on our way to Brussels?
Either way its time to say goodbye to Belgium as we fly back home. We’ll put up one last summary post in the upcoming days in case you were interested in seeing our map or hearing about our highlights.
Random Facts & Observations
But in the meantime, now that we’re leaving Belgium, here are some of the random little things we’ve noticed:
- It may sound insignificant, but it became quickly noticeable that the majority of buildings in Belgium are made of brick and the style quite characteristic. Belgium apparently makes the most varieties of brick of anywhere in the world.
- Speaking of brick, this is what buildings here look like when they’re being renovated. They tear down the whole building and leave only the front facade to preserve the look. How interesting! We definitely watched this for half an hour.
- The national language is Flemish (which is to Dutch as British English is to American English; ie. a more formal dialect of Dutch), French and German. From Brussels southward it seems French is mostly spoken.
- Belgians see themselves much like the “underdogs” of Europe and thus we found they seem to relate much to Canadians and our mentality. We seem to have a lot in common.
- Classic Belgian meal: steak with frites. Which makes sense because cows are ripped here; they have a special breed of cow called the Belgian Blue, and it seriously looks like they work out (see the Google image I found below). And speaking of frites, Belgians claim to have invented the “French Fry” and typically eat it with mayo.
- Did you know Belgium is the biggest producer of comics (even more than Japan!)? Wandering Brussels you will see comic works of art everywhere… particularly of Tintin since “The Adventures of Tintin” was created here! They also created the Smurfs.
- There are over 800 beers produced in Belgium. And apparently the best beer in the world – Westvletern XII – is made here (see Shane’s comments here). On average, people consume 150 L of beer and 22 kg of chocolate per person per year.