To describe Brussels is a bit of a funny thing, because this capital is on a piece of land which has belonged to pretty much every country it currently borders upon and thus has influences from the Dutch, German, French, and in recent years the entire European Community as Brussels is not only the capital of Belgium but also of the European Union.
Despite it’s importance in the EU, Brussels doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, after the diplomatic work is done the Belgians still do what they do best: Food, Beer, and Joviality.
My perfect day in Brussels looked something like this:
Waking up a bit late, having a latte and speculoos on toast. Then heading to the Atomium—a building in the form of an iron crystal atom blown up 162 Billion times and made into an exhibition center for the Universal Exhibition of 1958. A time where post war Europe needed unification and vision and Belgium delivered a message of peace and of social and scientific advancement. The building is there now with both a permanent exhibit regarding the exhibition and temporary exhibits changing quite regularly. It is also one of the best views of Brussels.
Next we went just outside of the Grand Place (Brussels main plaza) for Moules e Frites. A giant pot of Mussels done in a unique broth depending on the establishment paired with thick fresh fries sizzled in horse fat and served with house-made mayonnaise and beer. Divine.
After working over a pot of forty something black shells we went to see the statue of Jeanneke Pis (little woman piss) the less famous accompaniment to Manneken Pis a little boy pissing and a famous symbol of Brussels. The statue has been stolen many times but the current reproduction has been peeing since 1619. Many legends surround Menneken Pis, none of which are confirmed, but my favorite is that one day a little boy was passing by the city’s dam in a time of flood. The little boy noticed the hole and put his ‘peepee’ inside it to save the city.
Next stop was the cinema. You may think, how is the cinema Belgian? Well when you can see Tintin in 3D it becomes Belgian. It’s a fantastic film adaptation of one of the Tintin comics written by the Belgian artist Georges Rémi. The comics first appeared in a child’s section of the Brussels newspaper called Le Petit Vingtième. Some of the older works show the outdated ideas of colonialism that were held by citizens at that time, but the comic evolved into an all audience adventure series that has now been translated from the original French into 80 other languages.
Lastly, how to finish a great day in Belgium? Two words: Belgian + Waffle. At first I was timid but luckily my waffle chef swayed me into having the Waffle Royale. This decadent monster had Belgian chocolate, whipped cream, an array of fresh fruits, sprinkles, and caramel sauce all towering like an carefully crafted sculpture on top of a fresh cooked waffle.
And with that I went home to bed.