If you like doing science and you love travelling, then you would be happy to know that one of the perks of being a researcher means being able to visit different places and countries while attending various conferences and organized meetings. Indeed, in my case, most of my travelling have been conference-related (except when I go home to the Philippines, which is strictly for personal vacation). It’s not all work, you know, because usually there is always an extra day or two (if you’re lucky) that we normally have “free” to roam about so we can check out the place and see what it has to offer. Of course, my most favorite of all is when I tag along with Baggy during his conferences – that means that I don’t have to work and can spend the whole time for sightseeing.
|Maison du Roi (King’s House) at the Grand Place|
As the title suggests, my latest trip was in Brussels. When I first heard about the conference venue, I couldn’t help but ask, what is there to see in Brussels anyway? Nestled between Amsterdam and Paris, it happens to be one of those places you would probably see on a day-trip while touring the more touristy and trendy European cities (like Amsterdam and Paris, for example). It almost felt like the time when I visited Italy for the first time, and I headed to Sorrento (southern area of Italy) instead of going to the more popular Rome or Florence. Not that I had a choice, anyway, mind you. Anyway, having never visited Rome, I wondered if I was “wasting” my trip to Italy by not being able to go outside of Sorrento. I consoled myself with the thought that a visit to Rome merits an extended trip, not just one or two short days.
What I have learned from my travelling so far, is to try and appreciate the place for itself and what it has to offer. Each place will always have something unique to offer that cannot be found elsewhere. Each experience should be relished for its own sake.
I’m not here to try and convince you that Brussels should be on your list of must-see places, but if you do find yourself somewhere near Belgium, you might want to consider visiting it, if some of the things I will list down below would be enough to tickle your fancy.
Having said that, let me list down below, in no particular order, the top six things I loved about Brussels:
1. Chocolates, chocolates, chocolates!
|Chocolate truffles on display at a store.|
If you like chocolates, then a trip to Brussels would be like reliving Mr. Willy Wonka’s fantastic Chocolate Factory. There are chocolate shops all over the city: the window displays are guaranteed to make you drool in delight. We had as much fun window-shopping as buying chocolates for souvenirs to bring home. Most of the shops we entered were also giving free samples to customers: free chocolates, ladies and gents! Yes, there is a chocolate museum, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to check it out. We also noticed that coffee is always served with a sliver of good ol’ delicious chocolate (Cote d’Or is sooo yummy!). Oh, did you know that Belgium is the home of the famous Godiva chocolate?
|Chocolate-oozing fountain on window display. Nerdy question: do they keep the chocolate at a certain temperature to maintain its viscosity?|
2. Waffles, glorious waffles
When I first stumbled on Manneken, the name of a store selling Belgian waffles in Osaka, I immediately fell in love with its product. Simply put, I just love Belgian waffles. And so if there was one thing I vowed not to miss in Brussels, well, you know the answer.
I like it plain. Unlike its Japanese counterpart, though, which usually only includes very thin toppings of ingredients like chocolates or coconut, in Brussels the waffles are usually topped with sinfully hefty servings of creams and fresh fruits, even ice cream! The more sinful, the better.
|Yep, I’m just here for the waffles!|
According to a travel guide I read somewhere, there are about 800 varieties of Belgian beer. I’m not a beer lover, and certainly not a beer connoiseur, but knowing that there are hundreds of beers I can sample in Belgium did make up for an interesting gastronomic adventure. Belgian draught beer is quite nice, perfectly suited for grilled meat and seafood. I had the opportunity to taste cherry beer as well.
|This brand of this cherry beer is called Kriek. It was the sweetest beer I have ever tasted! Who knew that beer could be that sweet?|
This was originally a market square, dating back to the 15th century. A designated UNESCO World Heritage site, being at this place is like being transported to another date in time, another century. It’s one of the must-see places in Brussels.
|At the facade of the buildings at one side of the Grand’Place.|
|Hotel del Ville Bruxelles (Town Hall) at night.|
5. Manneken Pis
Ok, it is just a statuette of a boy pissing. I just thought that it perfectly embodies the humor of the Belgian people, poking fun at themselves. How many nude statues can you see pissing like that, anyway? 😉
It wasn’t exactly nude when we visited it, because it was wearing a costume (which country? Can you guess?). See the photo below:
|Piss away, and care not what the world says.|
This bronze statue was created in the 17th century, and was one of the many fountains in the city. Aside from being a public fountain, this little fellow has become a legendary figure. The Manneken Pis statuette has about 760 costumes on display (on replicas, drawers and electronic files) at the museum of Maison du Roi at the Grand Place. There are several national costumes as well, but to my regret I did not find any Philippine costumes. It would have been cool to see the Manneken Pis dressed in traditional barong tagalog, eh?
6. The Atomium
Built in 1958 for the Brussels Expo, this has become an icon and a curious delight for visitors to Brussels.
Built for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair (Expo ’58), the 103-metre (335-foot) tall Atomium monument represents a unit cell of an iron crystal (body-centred cubic), magnified 165 billion times, with vertical body diagonal, with tubes along the 12 edges of the cube and from all 8 vertices to the centre. Source: Wikipedia
|Here is my souvenir photo at the Atomium.|
When we visited it, some of the spheres were not accessible, and so we were only required to pay 7 euros for the entrance fee instead of the usual 9 euros. For 7 euros, you can ride the elevator to the top sphere for a bird’s eyeview of the city of Brussels. The view alone is worth the entrance fee, in my opinion. From the top sphere, you descend to the middle sphere by elevator, then take the stairs to traverse diagonally to the next sphere, then finally by escalator to the lowest sphere. I guess it would have been more fun if one can move from one sphere to the other freely. There are also restaurants at both the top and middle spheres, and a kids’ playroom at one of the spheres.
So what do you think? Do these things merit a visit to Brussels or not? 😀