Would Anyone Care for Brussel Sprouts?

Trip Start Jan 21, 2005
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Trip End Aug 20, 2005


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Monday, March 21, 2005

How many days would you spend visiting Brussels? Two days, maybe three? The total time I spent in Brussels was six hours.

Yup, six hours.

I know it seems odd, but our guide books only dedicate one page to sites in Brussels and about five pages to its great food. We decided that only a day in Brussels would be the perfect transition between Paris and Amsterdam.

Europe's Most Important City
Many people say that Brussels is the most important city to Europe. Brussels houses the head quarters of the European Union and N.A.T.O. Nearby, the Belgian city of Antwerp regulates and distributes over half of the world's diamond supply. Brussels is the home to many great businesses and many great economists. Simply put, Brussels is a very important city to Europe.

But did you know that the waffle originated in Brussels and other Belgian cities? How about fries, did you know that they originated there too? Brussels is also the center of Belgian chocolate production, did you know that too? Erin, Amy and I were fascinated by these amazing achievements and decided to explore the food and sites of Brussels.

Democracy Thrives in the Heart of the E.U.
We first went to Grand Place, the heart of historical Brussels, to see sites and plan our eating journey. Grand Place is this great plaza with ornate buildings surrounding a public forum. The square is the historical center of Belgian political and social life. Many famous Belgian protests started in Grand Place. Let's take a moment to reflect on Belgium's famous riots... yeah.

While in Grand Place, we witnessed a class of kindergarteners (maybe 30) rioting about world peace... I think they are for it. The children were holding signs, chanting, and banging drums for world peace as everyone was taking pictures of this historical moment. Suddenly, one of the children noticed I was an American and started throwing rocks at me. Other children joined in chanting things like "Iraq is a senseless war!" and that America is a "rogue superpower." The stones got larger and more painful. One hit the side of my head and I started gushing blood. Frightened by the sight of my own blood, I dropped to my knees and started shielding my head... one of the kindergarteners muttered something anti-Semitic to me. I was crawling to get away fast from this small mob until I noticed that right in front of me was a crisp ten dollar bill.

Actually, the kids walked past us banging on coffee cants while shouting nonsensical words and holding signs. They left after about two minutes and probably went to get cookies. Violent kindergarten rioting is too interesting for Brussels.

Everyone Pees
"You must see Manken Pis" was the traveler's advice of my friend Brooke. "What is it?" I asked. "Oh, it's a statue of a little boy who pees in a fountain. It is amazing." Brooke has never steered me wrong before and I took her advice and followed the crowds to Manken Pis with Amy and Erin. The crowd was huge and I couldn't get close enough to the fountain to see the boy with no decency to go behind a bush. I was pushing through the crowded street corner until I saw this Belgian art piece. Most disappointing site ever... EVER. I am not sure how I managed to have expectations for a pissing child, but here I am. The statue may have been a foot tall and pissed a very thin stream of water into a gigantic water basin. Manken Pis wins best tourist trap in history placing the "World's Largest Ball of Twine" in a distant second. With our hopes crushed and stomachs empty, we saw many beautiful plazas and markets until we took a break to eat.

Waffles, Fries, Chocolates... Falafel?
After the sightseeing and about 5 hours and 15 minutes till our train to Amsterdam, it was time for the three of us to enjoy what we came for... food.

Our first stop was a waffle stand where everyone got waffles covered in strawberries, nuts, chocolates, and whipped cream. We all took pictures of our food to mark this momentous occasion and then devoured our waffles. After that we stopped and got chocolate bars to sample Belgian chocolate. We had no intention of having a real lunch until all of us were in desperate need of a bathroom. With no fountains in sight, we were wandering a road lined with Greek restaurants. We finally found one with a bathroom and decided to sample authentic, Belgian falafels... they invented that too, right?

After the bathroom and falafels, we wandered Brussels for second helpings of waffles, chocolates, and fries. We may have consumed roughly 4000 calories in two hours; we later laid on the ground of Grand Place and wondering how we let this happen.

What Goes Around Comes Around
My greatest lesson in childhood has always been my Mom's message of "what goes around comes around." Her clear message of Karma has always struck fear that anything bad I did to someone will result in bad things to me; therefore I try to be a good person. Her message rings strongly even today and my trip to Brussels was a shining example of the instant Karma she preached to me as a child.

While wandering the streets and plazas of Brussels, I stepped in dog shit. Yes, It's true, I stepped in a VERY SMALL amount of dog shit. It was quick and easy to remove the shit simply by scraping the shoe against the curb, however Erin still laughed at me and my minor misfortune.

Then she stepped in dog shit too.

Her pile of shit was much larger, fresh, and smelled awful. Instant Karma. Erin spent the next hour scraping her foot against everything until she finally took a business card and used a corner to remove it all. Shop keepers were concerned, Belgians gave her questionable looks, and Amy and I debated who just shat their pants. "What goes around comes around" rang loudly in my head... followed by "always wear a turtle neck."

They Lived Happily Ever After... And Five Pounds Heavier
Historical Brussels is a beautiful city with architecture unlike anything I have seen in Europe. The ornately decorated building lined winding roads and prominent plazas. The people were questionably friendly and the food... simply delicious. The time I spent in Brussels was perfect for the memory I will always have of the city. Not as a political or economic center, but as a city of great food and sweet smelling chocolate shops.

I then boarded my newly fat ass onto the train for Amsterdam.

Amsterdam will be up shortly... I promise.

Brian
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