EXPLORING BELGIUM

Belgium is about the same size as Maryland, but it has three official languages: Flemmish/Dutch, French, and German. When I was in the Flanders (Flemish speaking region), the ticketing agent at the train station gave me a slight glare when I spoke to her in French – oops. I thought French would be more polite than English, but that’s not the case. If you’re in a Flemish speaking region, you speak Flemish and if you’re in a French-speaking region, you speak French… even if all of the languages are official in all of the regions.  The only place both Dutch and French fly is in Brussels – where everything is bilingual, including the road signs.

My first stop in Belgium was Bruges to visit Brigit, one of my college roommates. Bruges was beautiful and seeing a familiar face was nice, too! The city center is a UNESCO world heritage site; Gothic architecture from the medieval times made me feel like I was walking through a different time.

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Brigit was off to Geneva, and I was going to explore Brussels.  In such a small country, I was lucky enough to have two hosts! Pieter, who stayed with my family in Minnesota for a few days while touring with Up With People, greeted me at the train station in Brussels.  Guidebooks can give you a good idea of how to get around a city, but nothing compares to exploring with a local.

DSC07609 DSC07487 The Smurfs are from Belgium! DSC07470 Manneken Pis ("Little man pee") was much smaller than I expected. Here he was also dressed up for a holiday of some sort!

DSC07529 Grand Place - Grote Markt

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DSC07597 DSC07572DSC07617DSC07640 DSC07643 DSC07624Parc de Bruxelles (left) is surrounded by a number of important places in Brussels, including the Belgian Parliament, Palace of Justice, and the Royal Palace.

DSC07630 Approaching the European Parliament

DSC07669 Belgian Mailbox

DSC07695 A wooden escalator.

IMG_3348 Bonne Nuit Brussels.

We went up to Antwerp for a day and were greeted by the pouring rain.  We wandered when it picked up a bit and ducked in and out of cafes to avoid the worst of it.

DSC07700Arriving at the Antwerp train station - one of the most beautiful in Europe!

DSC07705 A peak inside the station.

1974678_10202869684485297_1182036695_n The rain got to be a bit much at this point, so we stopped for waffles...

1947535_10202869681245216_1817374143_nIMG_3342 Waffles, beer, and beer cheese.

IMG_3346 Dries Van Noten: A Belgian fashion designer. We did a little admiring.

DSC07744Thank you Brigit and Pieter for a wonderful time!