Thursday, 12 April 2012

Brussels over Easter.

This Easter saw us kept to a newly developed tradition of not spending it at home. Last year, we ventured to the south of Germany for a trip down the Romantic Road. The year before, we visited the Black Forest, also down south.

This year, we ventured out of the country and visited Brussels in Belgium. 

Before embarking on our trip, I am not really sure what to expect from this visit. I always had this impression that Brussels as a very clean, very international city and highly politicized city. I mean, it has many offices that deals with European financial and European Union items. For the touristy stuff, most people would head towards Brugges or Genk.

My wife was quite excited as she has visited Brussels before, but was before a family was attached to her. She told me she remembered the chocolate, waffles and the beers. I think that was quite a trip, back then.

We traveled to Brussels on the Thalys train. The train was actually on route to Paris, and Brussels was just a stop for it. The trip was about 1hr 45mins. That was just long enough for the kids, as they were getting restless. We went with Comfort-1 Class, this translates to first class. It promised free Wifi connection, and free meal. The Wifi were pretty slow, it was good for checking email, and browsing the Facebook but streaming youtube is out of the question. The free meal was just some cut sandwiches and a drink. On the up side, the seats were like our arm chairs at home, super comfortable and spacious!

While in Brussels, we were caught up in the public transport strike. At first, we were quite annoyed and were cursing at the transport workers for disrupting our holiday. As it was Easter, we thought that the strike was part of their cunning plan to get more pay from the government. I really felt like an ass when I read the news later that day. The strike was triggered when one of their colleagues were killed on the job. He died as a result of an road rage incident. Check out this news item from the BBC.

The strike did allows to visit some of the sites that we were not even considering. As we were walking back to the city centre, we walk across the Belgium Military Museum. We had a look, and surprise to find its entry fee is zero! We entered to see a huge display of military equipment, plenty of airplanes and tanks. The kids had a great time exploring the planes and the tanks.

The most striking place out of our visit to Brussels are the residential areas. I was quite amaze to see the residents living in such poor quarters. Living in Germany where the social system is pretty good, it is difficult for me to comprehend how a neighbouring country like Belgium have such a large population that seems to be living poorly.

For the touristy attractions, the Grote Markt is quite impressive for its size and stature. To think that the square was over 500 years old is quite astounding. The biggest disappointment is the Maneken Pis. Not much to say about it.

The waffles were great! We really enjoyed it, certainly more than the chocolates.


Frau Dietz said...

I visited my brother in Brussels a few Christmasses ago and was taken by complete surprise by how much I loved it. Some beautiful architecture - the Grote Markt as you say is incredible - and there are some really lovely corners to explore. Plus I had THE BEST moules-frites :)

cliff1976 said...

I've always heard mixed reactions to Brussels: it's surprisingly "grotty" — visitors felt unsafe or misled about it.

I'm interested in that free museum, however!

Bruges (Br├╝gge) is the spot for the picturesque part of Belgium, and we had a nice afternoon in Antwerp as well — also a big industrial city, but not as grimy as Brussels sounds.

tehnyit said...

@Frau Deitz, I did smell those mussels, but didn't have the opportunity to try them out! Definitely next time when the kids are a bit older.

Those alley ways were awesome, wished we had more time to explore further.

@cliff1976. The museum were definitely a hit with everyone, especially with the kids. Surprise to find its entrance to be free when we entered as I was expecting to hand over 50€ for the tickets.

The other museum worth looking into is the toy museum, definitely a good spot for younger kids.