Monday, August 25, 2014

Morning in Brussels

After our big Continental trip to Germany and Prague, we spend more than a full month home in Dublin before we made it back across the North Sea- this time for another beer-themed trip.

Americans are all familiar, whether they know it or not, with the beer traditions of Bavaria and Central Europe. The popular American beers are all descendents of these styles, mostly because early immigrants from Germany and Bohemia set up the first big breweries in Middle America and made the Pilsner-style lagers of their homelands. That's why Americans don't drink English ales, Irish stouts, or the rich, spicy beers of Belgium...

Which was where we headed for our next beer-tour. We booked a quick weekend trip to Brussels and Bruges, arriving late on Friday night. We flew into the less-expensive Brussels airport, about an hour by bus outside of the city. When we finally pulled into the bus station, it was close to midnight in the seedy part of this rather seedy city.

After a quick walk through the dark streets past the passed-out junkies and open public urinals, we were safely in our hostel. The next morning, we set off.

Our hostel was a bit of a walk away from the touristy old town of Brussels in an ethnic neighborhood. On our way to the Grand Place, we stopped in a corner bakery for breakfast. We got a tasty pastry and coffee for only a few Euros. Right away we knew that prices here would be much lower than those in Dublin.

Tasty Pastries and Coffee Brussels, Belgium
Tasty Pastries and Coffee

After breakfast, we continued to Grand Place, the old central square of Brussels. Today, all the political and economic power is in the new European Union Headquarters on the outskirts of town, but this used to be where the action was. 

The highlight of this square is the Town Hall, now home to a quasi-helpful tourist info center.

Brussels Town Hall
Brussels Town Hall

Brussels Grand Place Buildings
Brussels Grand Place Buildings

Cory and Sara in Grand Place Brussels, Belgium
Cory and Sara in Grand Place

We pushed through the growing crowds to the (touristy but fun) shops in the streets around the square. We picked up some chocolates at a chocolate shop- complete with pictures and descriptions in different languages.

Prestige Chocolate Brussels Belgium
Prestige Chocolate

Soon-to-be-Packed Restaurant Row Brussels Belgium
Soon-to-be-Packed Restaurant Row

We continued through the old city and the crowds grew as morning approached lunchtime. Brussels has lots of little charms that don't translate well in photos; sometimes because they are not safe for work or for a family-friendly blog like this, but sometimes because they are too small or subtle.

One Brussels classic that we (and everyone else) had to see was the famous Manneken-Pis fountain. This little kid has become the logo of Brussels- and maybe Belgium. This fountain gives the tourists exactly what is advertised on the label, a little boy tapping a bottomless kidney into this fountain on the corner.

The statue itself is very small- smaller even than the toddler it is supposed to be. We had to fight through the crowds and zoom in with the camera to get a decent look at this little guy.

Manneken-Pis Fountain Brussels, Belgium
Manneken-Pis Fountain

He has become such a symbol of the city that foreign dignitaries traditionally bring costumes and outfits for the little guy when they come on state visits. A display near the fountain lists and describes the costumes of the week. It was a bit disappointing not to see the statue as it was carved 400 years ago, but if he is best known for his costumes, then so be it.

Nearby, we stopped at one of the many, many waffle stands in town for a super-space-age-out-of-this-world-moon waffle with sugar glaze, strawberries, cream, chocolate, and a little Manneken-Pis gummi candy on top. The little plastic fork was no match for this three-Euro beauty, but we managned... somehow.

Out-of-this-World-Moon-Waffle Brussels, Belgium

After all that walking, we were ready to get down to the real business of the trip... Stay tuned!

The Real Reason
The Real Reason

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