Brussels (Bruxelles), Belgium
OK, we finally figured out this night train business. Our train from Berlin to Brussels was pleasant and uneventful. Brussels, the capitol of Belgium and of the European Union, was our next stop. We didn't know (and still don't) very much about Brussels, except that it is in Belgium, and it has two official languages: French and Dutch. I guess that's reason enough to check out the city, just so we can say we've been to Belgium.
It turns out there are quite a few things to see there. Their pride-n-joy is a tiny two-foot tall statue called Manneken Pis of a little boy taking a leak. I guess it's supposed to show the irreverent spirit of the Belgians. The other thing I wanted to try out in Belgium was their food and beer. Belgian waffles would have been great to cap off our morning after an all night train ride, but the place we went was all out of Begian waffles! Can you believe that? Out of Belgian waffles in Belgium! Belgians also like to eat lots of seafood (lobster, crab, and mussels), but we missed the annual musselfest, too. We didn't even get any Belgian chocolate, but thankfully, we also missed Brussels Sprouts (not that they have any here).
Belgian beer rivals some of the best in Germany. While the Germans like to stick to the strict Rheinheitsgebot (Bavarian Beer Purity Law of 1516) on brewing ingredients, the Belgians are much more creative. They brew some of the most interesting and outlandish beers around, using a variety of ingredients and techniques. One particular beer struck me as very memorable. It's called geusse (GUz), and it's fermented by exposing it to the Brussels air and allowing the natural yeasts floating around to do its thing.
This is a photo of the gothic Saint Michael and Saint Gudula Cathedral near the train station. Kinda reminds me of Notre Dame in Paris with the twin towers. With good reason, the church was built in 1226, with the façade finished in 1490 in the French gothic style of the time.
The main town square called Market Square (Grand Place / Grote Markt) is one of the most stunning town squares in Europe. This is the gothic town hall (Hôtel de Ville / Stadhuis), built in 1402-1449, which still houses the mayor's office.
The building directly across from the town hall is the King's House (Maison du Roi / Broodhuis), and houses the City Museum today. The Dutch name Broodhuis means "bread house," after the original buildings that stood here. This flamboyant gothic building was erected in 1515 for the administration of the Duke of Brabant.
And here we have the famed Manneken Pis. I don't see what the big deal is. It's just a tiny statue of a kid peeing. No one knows why he's there, but he's been there since the 13th century. A little known fact is that the manneken has over 600 costumes, including an Elvis and a Mickey Mouse. Even more interesting is that he is connected to a beer barrel behind the statue. (If you thought American beer tasted like piss, here's a chance to check out the Belgian variety!) We didn't get to sample his "homebrew," but we did manage to get some Belgian-style beer at the Manneken Pis Tavern right across the street.
Curiously, the manneken has a squirting sister called Jeaneke Pis somewhere near the Grand Place. Pity we didn't get a chance to see her do her thing!
Scott and I in front of a nice fountain in the Royal Park (Parc de Bruxelles / Park Van Brussel).
This is the Royal Palace in Brussels, built in 1825, and home to the Belgian Kings (Leopold I-III) until 1935. Now it's the home of the crown prince.
Too much running around has worn out poor Katie. She's taking a nap on a park bench to try to get over her fatigue.