Monday, January 11, 2016

[BRUSSELS] Death by Chocolate


Aside from sleeping more and reviewing for my exam, the only other agenda I have for Brussels is to do the laundry. Having been able to do it on my second day, I can now say that I’m done here. The trend nowadays is for me to rest and review for the first few days, then go sightseeing on the last day. It was the same case for Brussels. If I were younger and with less obligations, then a day would suffice here to go sightseeing the entire time, but things just don’t work like that anymore, at least for me.


The city is not at all compact, but easily walkable. I feel as if I’m still in Amsterdam, but sans the canals and the bicycles. The tram and the metro works the same way, with tickets valid for an hour regardless which way you go. The main enemy you’ll have here is the weather. Belgium receives a lot of rain, and an entire day of sightseeing could be sabotaged by frequent drizzles. I’d say that an umbrella will be a useful investment, unless you prefer to travel wet and wild in this kind of climate.


It has been a habit of mine to visit the city center on my first day to have a sneak peek and also have dinner somewhere. On my first day, I took a stroll at Anneessens but saw nothing else aside from La Bourse. The Manneken Pis is also within the vicinity, but I got lost and I was a bit tired so I decided to call it a day. I went back home after enduring a rather bland spaghetti bolognaise at Pizza Hut, which was the second tasteless pasta I’ve had for this Eurotrip. What gives?


The second day was as eventless as the last. I did the laundry before having lunch and meeting my new Airbnb host, who revealed to me that his internet has not been installed yet. I had to bail on him because a secure and stable WiFi forms part of my livelihood. We parted ways amicably and I was able to find another host just in time for my next shift. I guess the downside is that I lost an entire day trying to figure out how to make things work. Shit happens when you travel, you know.


And so the actual sightseeing began on my third and final day. Wow, this is so Amsterdam. Déjà vu much? Where else should I start? I had lunch at a Japanese resto with a Chinese staff playing Korean music videos. This is probably what I appreciate about Brussels. This city is just so multicultural. Hop on the metro or the tram and you are bound to hear half a dozen languages being spoken not by tourists but by locals who have immigrated here. As for official languages, French and Dutch exist side by side everywhere you look.


Language is a rather sensitive issue in Belgium. Being sandwiched by Dutch speaking Netherlands to the north and the French to the south, perhaps it’s just inevitable for this country to end up bilingual. I don’t think English speakers would be having problems either, what with Brussels’ status as the de facto capital of the European Union. This is as international as you can get. This actually got me thinking how relocating here would be like hitting two birds with one stone: learning French and Dutch at the same time.


Oh wow, I just had some language geek verbal diarrhea right there. I apologize. Shall we go back to sightseeing, then? Brussels takes pissing really seriously thanks or no thanks to its beloved national symbol, the Manneken Pis. Many legends have been brought forward regarding the origin of this urinating child, but Google is your friend and I don’t feel like sharing like now. What am I to you, a freaking encyclopedia? And so I ventured out to meet the pissing kid after lunch, and was rather disappointed a bit.


He’s so small, I mean, he himself. Located at an intersection of two narrow streets that could qualify as mere alleys, that child is pinned on a wall secluded by some well-designed steel barricade. The statue is not that visible from afar given its petite size, and given his many tourist fans, you might struggle a bit to get a selfie during peak hours. You should get your turn, though, especially when the heaven is also pissing hard on you while everyone else is trying to seek refuge at the nearest chocolate shop.


Oh yes, chocolates! As I looked intently at the pissing kid, I silently wondered: in which universe is a urinating child more likely to cause a tourist rampage when there are half a dozen stores selling chocolate around him. And then I surveyed the scene and found my answer: this universe I’m in. Seriously, though, those chocolatiers should be where everyone is at. As you might already know, Belgium is synonymous to chocolates, and well, they also claim beer but I’d give that to neighboring Deutschland.


Whatever brand of chocolate you are looking for you will find it within the vicinity: Godiva, Leonidas, Elisabeth. Name it and they have it. They sell it by the kilo, in bars, in gift boxes. It would've been awesome to do some holiday shopping here, and everyone would have been happy on Christmas day! But I have to follow a strict budget, so I settled for a little box that does not cost a fortune. At least I have some munchies when I get hungry later!

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