Saturday, March 14, 2009

Brussels

On Tuesday, I left to go over to Europe for a few days. I had gotten enough money for my birthday to pay for this part of the trip, and quite frankly, I knew that all the time I was in England Iranga would insist on paying for everything! I actually got the idea from reading Jorge Garcia's blog. (Jorge plays “Hurley” on LOST.) He had blogged about a trip to Europe he took with his girlfriend last summer, and one of his entries described a day trip they took to Paris from London. I knew there was a train that ran between the two cities, but hadn't realized it was such a short trip. When I looked into it, I found out that there was another train that went to Brussels and was actually a little shorter than the one to Paris. I had never been to either France or Belgium, and to be honest France has always held more interest for me, but Belgium is a lot smaller and since I only had a few days, I thought I would be able to see more of that country in the time that I had. Then it occurred to me that I could go down to Luxembourg from Brussels, thereby not only adding one more country to my list but also getting to see a lot of Belgium on the way down.

I arrived in Brussels around noon. Unfortunately, the hostel I was staying at didn't check in guests until 4:00, so I had to lug my bag around with me. The mass transit system in the Belgian capital seems to run efficiently, but it's very confusing for visitors. I don't think I've ever been in a city where the platforms of the subway system were so poorly marked; everywhere I went, I had to ask someone if this was the right train to get where I wanted to go. Northern Belgium speaks Dutch and southern Belgium speaks French; Brussels, being both in the middle of the country and its capital, has both as its official languages, but French is the lingua franca of the city—good for me, since I don't speak any Dutch.

Once I figured out where to catch the train that I needed, I decided to head up to the Atomium, since I knew how to get there. The structure was built for Brussels' World Fair in 1958 and is a model of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. It's basically just a big tourist trap, but it does look kind of cool and you can go inside and get a nice view of Brussels.


Unfortunately, it was overcast and drizzly the entire time I was in Europe! In any case, the Atomium was really the only sight-seeing I was able to do in Brussels, since I was there for such a short time. The country of Belgium is relatively new, and when Brussels became its capital in the 19th century most of the older structures in the city were demolished to make way for newer buildings housing the various offices of state. As a result, a lot of tourists don't care to spend much time there, using it only as an entrance point to explore the rest of the country, and I can kind of see why. Still, I would have liked to spend a bit more time exploring the city if I had had time to do so. I didn't even get to see the statue of the kid peeing! ;-P Oh well, maybe next time...

2 comments:

Jennifer said...

I agree, the Brussels transit system is horrible for tourists! Aimee and I got in our one and only "battle royale" in Brussels, mostly in part to the horrible signage!

Rachel Snyder said...

The funny thing was, when I first arrived in Brussels and hadn't seen the subways yet I bought my ticket to Luxembourg, and the ticket agent kept going on and on about how bad the NYC transit system was because (he said) the stations smelled bad. Hell, I'll take smelly stations over unmarked stations any day!