Back to Brussels (Day Fourteen)
Trip Start Aug 16, 2012
32Trip End Oct 01, 2012
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For my hostel in Brussels, I needed to check in at a separate location, which is supposed to be within walking distance from the train station. Of course I get lost, but I eventually stumble across it somehow. When I got there, the reception was closed and the girl said I had to wait until 4pm before I could check in. I stored my stuff in the "luggage room" and set off to explore for a couple of hours.
One cool thing about Brussels is that it's a bilingual city and everything is in French and Dutch. The first place I went to was the Grand Place/Grote Markt where the hostel I'd be staying at was located. It's a beautiful square: smaller than I expected, but the buildings around it were really impressive. The first thing I noticed were the beer tents setting up in the middle. Later on, I found out that the Belgian Beer Festival was happening that weekend!
Next, I walked down further to find the Mannekin Pis, the statue of a boy peeing, which has arguably has become Brussels' top tourist attraction. If it weren't for the crowd around it, I would have had a harder time finding it as it's quite small and somewhat tucked away in a corner. It was pretty neat to see the unofficial symbol of the city, but I didn't really understand the reasoning for it.
After that, I went to the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral and admired the beautiful art and stained glass windows inside. By now, it was time to check in, so I went back to the hostel, got my stuff, and headed back down to the Grand Place with a British girl who was staying at the same hostel. Her name was Katie and she was visiting from Amsterdam where she was working as an au pair.
We followed the directions given to us by the guy at the reception and found our hostel fairly easily. It was literally steps away from the Grand Place! I was a little worried about security though, especially because of the upcoming beer festival. The rooms were nice and big and the ensuite bathroom was decent. I went back to the common room to use the WiFi as it wasn't accessible in the rooms upstairs.
The common room is sparsely decorated, but has about a half dozen comfy beach chairs. I plop myself into one and soon enough, a guy with a bag of beers sits across from me. I strike up a conversation and we start chatting. Chris from New York City worked in real estate and had just turned 30 (which was apparently quite traumatic). He was travelling alone but visiting with people in Paris and Amsterdam. Like me, he made a last minute decision to stay in Brussels.
Earlier, he had gone to a nearby store and noticed that one beer in particular was flying off the shelf. He asked the worker why and she told him that it has been ranked the "best beer in the world." So he bought one bottle for 12€ and chose a couple others beers to try. He offered to let me sample some, so we started drinking in our beach chairs. The first one, which I forget the name of, was sour and tasted like cider. The second was called Delirium and it's logo is a pink elephant. It's so famous in Brussels that a popular bar is named after it. It tasted really bad, although it got better the more of it you drank.
Katie, the girl from before, comes down and we chat for a bit. We eventually needed something to do and decided that we wanted to try to find the statue of the peeing dog. In addition to the famous peeing boy, there are two other peeing statues: a girl and a dog. It looked like it was going to rain outside, but we headed out anyway, and brought along a Swiss guy who wanted to come with us.
I don't know how to spell his name, but he was an electrical engineer from Zurich who loves to travel. He told me about his solo backpacking trip to Central and South America where most of his stuff got stolen, including his DSLR camera, all his money, and his passport. He was kind of upset that Chris bought a 12€ bottle of beer, and talked about how tourists get gouged all the time in Switzerland.
We finally find the dog statue on a street corner just as it starts to drizzle. It did have it's leg up, but it was not peeing! While it's true that some of the "attractions" in Brussels may not be as grand as other cities, it's fun to be in a place that doesn't take itself too seriously.