Bonjour, Hallo, and Guten Tag from Belgium,
We have appreciated our stay here in Belgium and enjoyed calling two different cities home. We started in Brussels exploring not just Belgian history but also European history as well. Then we moved on to Antwerp to see more of the countryside and visit another key city. The anticipation we felt leading up to this nation was high because we were so prepped for the key highlights of Belgian cuisine (mussels, fries, chocolate, and waffles!!) - it is all right up our alley. We made sure to try them all (multiple times) and several more dishes during our time here.
In Brussels, we were surprised to find that the transportation around the city was not as strong as some of its European neighbors. Especially coming off of our stint in Luxembourg (with its free transportation for everyone) we were taken aback by how much of the city metro/tram system was not user-friendly in Brussels. We found ourselves stuck outside several closed stations and had a hard time accessing tickets where we needed them. Our usually trusty maps were not up to date with the rail changes and this made it more difficult than usual to navigate around the outskirts of the city.
Brussels is an active hub of European activity, even more so since it is home to European Parliament. We made sure to visit to check this out and enjoyed touring through The Parliamentarium. That is a free museum (abutting the European Parliament building), with exhibits explaining all about the European Union (its growth, and policies) along with clear explanations of pan-European causes. Some exhibits showcased how the parliament is elected, how the members vote, and the intricacies of the parties that make it up. For anyone even remotely interested in how the politics of the land are run, this was a thoroughly valuable visit and we recommend checking it out if you are in the area.
While in Brussels we also made sure to take in some of the art, as there are a handful of quality art museums in the city. The one that most caught our eye though was the tiny exhibit at the Wiertz Museum. It was just a stop-in. There was hardly any pomp and circumstance around it, but the paintings inside were massive. Canvases hung on the walls that covered floor to ceiling (2-3 stories high). We went in the middle of the afternoon and were the only visitors there. It was a joy to stumble into such a tiny exhibit and be so close to some truly well-crafted art.
And after all of this sightseeing, we made sure to eat some good food. As I mentioned, the Belgian fan favorites are absolutely delicious. We know that it is a main draw for tourists. We stopped by a delicious fry shop, that fried their potatoes in three different oils to create the “depth of flavor” and “proper level of crispiness” desired. There are chocolate shops on every corner, and some even gave you samples to try, just for walking in the door (and bonus chocolate after we purchased some desserts). Our favorite though were the waffles. There are two primary types of waffles in Belgium: Brussels & Liege. The Brussels are typically rectangular, they are airy & fluffy in a way that has never been properly recreated for us back at home. The Liege, are usually more oval-shaped. They have irregular edges and are thicker. These waffles are made to be rich and dense and we found them to be much sweeter and stickier. We tried several of both styles, eating them with a variety of toppings (whipped cream, powdered sugar, chocolate, caramel, and fruit), and you really cannot go wrong. We loved every one of our snacks here and will be dreaming of these bites for a while.
After Brussels, we moved on to Antwerp. Here we made sure to try more waffles, mussels, and fries, and to walk along the water. There are several sights we wanted to see and we were granted beautiful sunshine in which to catch them. The best part of our time here was that we were visiting over Easter weekend. We happened to stumble across a candlelit Easter Vigil service while walking home on a Saturday evening. Being away from our friends and family for the holiday, we were glad to be welcomed into the church. And even though we did not speak the language, they had headsets designed to translate, so we could follow along. The mass celebration started with a procession into the church and then the entire congregation sang in the dark hall with only the lights of our candles. We could not have asked for a more beautiful celebration.
And with that, our time in the Belgian cities has come to an end. Our bags are packed and we are headed off to a nation with two fun facts. The first is that their citizens have the tallest average height of any nation. And the second is that this country is the world’s largest flower exporter. Any guesses on where we are off to next?