Monday, November 04, 2013

Belgium in 4 days

Belgium is not a country where people talked about visiting. At least not in my circle of friends. When people say let's go to Europe, they will be thinking about the UK, Barcelona, Paris, Italy, Switzerland but not a mention of Belgium. And yet it is the de facto capital of Europe. So I was thrilled to have a chance to visit this tiny country this August. I loved it. Beautiful and clean. Nice, helpful people too.
The first city I visited was Ghent and I loved the buildings. The architectural designs were those that I cannot find in other European cities. Small and quaint, I can still remember the smell and yummylicious all-you-can-eat ribs in the restaurant near the square.
Brussels was interesting. There I was, finally in front of the world famous Manneken Pis - the emblem of the rebellious spirit of the city of Brussels. I had only seen it in pictures and didn't realise that it was so small. Less than 20 inches I believe. But hidden at the end of one of the narrow streets was a lesser known figure. Jeanneke Pis, the female counterpart of the centuries old symbol, was created in 1985 to better amuse strollers. Located on Fidelity Alley near the Manneken Pis.
On the third day we went sailing and it was wonderful. Was years ago when I got on a boat. We didn't sail too far though. Had no time. Bruges was another beautiful city I went next. It was beautiful. Did I say beautiful? Small, cobblestones streets laid on the ground and famous Belgian chocolate shops abound. It looked like a town in a fairy tale.
The last day we spent in Antwerp. Another big city filled with historic buildings, cafes, nice people. I cannot decide which I liked better - Antwerp or Brussels but I suspect I will pick Antwerp if I had a chance to spend more time in both cities.
One place I didn't get to go was the Atomium. By the time we arrived it was closed. Oh well, next time for sure.
Generally, a large part of Belgium was just like the rest of Western Europe but I could feel its old world charm and this mixed with all things modern set Belgium apart from the rest of the continent.