This past weekend a few of us had the opportunity to visit Brussels. It still amazes me that, within a few hours on a train or bus, you can be in a different country! For me, it takes 5 hours just to get from my hometown to some places in Colorado; the fact that I can hop on a bus and be in Belgium in that amount of time is mind-boggling.
Here in Europe, usually the best way to travel I would say is by train: it is fast, has free Wi-Fi (always a plus), and is rather comfortable. However, as we are students trying to travel Europe on a budget, we naturally decided to take the bus that left at midnight as it was cheaper than a train and saved us a night in a hotel. Therefore, we got double savings and a happier bank account!! The only flaw in our plan was failing to recognize that nothing is open at 5:00 a.m. — just the unheated train station — and there we sat until we saw the first sign of life with the opening of a little café.
The main attraction in Brussels, as many may already know, is a little statue called Manneken Pis. When I say little, I am not exaggerating. This statue is only 24 inches tall...yes, you read correctly, all of 2 feet tall! However, the people of Brussels take great pride in this little boy and even dress him up for different occasions. Later, during our trip, we found out he even has his own museum. The only benefit of arriving in Brussels well before the sun rose was seeing good ole Manneken Pis without a million tourists standing in front of him trying to get that perfect picture. It was simply us and the little boy on Friday at 8:00 in the morning.
Of course, we did not spend all our time at this statue. We ventured on and experienced a great deal of things within just a mere two days. Of most importance were the amazing waffles and chocolate. There were a lot of vendors who sold sweet waffles, but we also had the opportunity to try a savory waffle as well. Definitely euros well spent! During our two days, we saw and toured the Grand Palace, the Town Hall, Brussels Park, a flea market, the Royal Palace (not to be confused with the Grand Palace), and Cantillon Brewery.
A final activity worth mentioning is a beer tasting that we attended! This was an awesome activity as it really delved into the history of Belgium beer and how different types of beer were and are made. The guy giving the tour was so upbeat and very knowledgeable about Belgium beer history. However, this tasting turned out to be even more of a cultural experience as we met and talked to people from London, France, Ireland, and — wait for it — Des Moines, Iowa. Yes, we met a girl studying abroad in France that attends Drake University and with whom Maddie has a mutual friend. I guess you could say that it is a small world after all!
More blogs to come this next week as we leave tomorrow to Hamburg on our first group trip!!! Everyone is excited to see another part of Germany. Unfortunately, the weather does not seem to want to cooperate with us. I guess that is just another excuse to have more hot chocolate! :)