Saturday 5th September
Today we would be eating waffles… I mean… seeing Brussels.
From the start I had a good feeling about Brussels. It was mainly because famous Belgian foods include waffles, chocolate and chips (French fries were actually invented by the Belgians, who are, I am told, a bit annoyed that France took the credit). Brussels and I were going to get along just fine.
We took the bus in, got off where everybody else got off and began wandering our way to the centre. On the way we saw an impressive tomb of the unknown soldier.
Brussels has an incredibly imperial feel, which Eric told me is due to it being a city of significance during the Prussian and French empires (though now I have told him I’m writing this down he has started mumbling and suggesting that I look this up). There are amazing buildings everywhere.
And they sell waffles from vans.
A preserved cocoa bean.
I learnt lots of interesting things about chocolate, such as: it was given to Mayan sacrificial victims as a drink just before they had their hearts cut out. Also (on a lighter note) the reason that Belgian chocolate tastes so good is that in other countries they substitute cocoa butter with cheaper vegetable oils, whereas in Belgium they never do this (I think they were slipping in some advertising there).
Here are some statistics on chocolate consumption by country. As you can see, Germany wins, though we are not doing too bad.
They also had a chocolate replica of the famous Manneken Pis.
Time to walk it off. We went to see the palace, but got distracted on the way there by Stripfest. No, it’s not a festival about wallpaper removal. It was actually a comic book convention (hence why the Manneken Pis was dressed up like Obelix).
We wandered in, and many great photo opportunities presented themselves…
(I don’t know what the speech bubble was all about, I was just going with the flow.)
We enjoyed looking at the artwork and seeing the artists drawing or signing copies of their books. It made me wish that I was into comic books. I didn’t know anything about most of it, but it was fun anyway.
Sunday 6th September
We had decided to spend a second day in Brussels, as we were in no rush and there were still things we wanted to see.
We took the tube into the centre. Our first stop was the palace, which we had been intending to see yesterday before we got distracted.
The palace was full of mirrors, which I guess increase the impression of space and light. They also serve to remind you of how scruffy you are compared to your surroundings. I caught sight of myself in a mirror and thought: I have been wearing these clothes for quite some time.
The palace also included a display about… insects. Why not?
This museum had a very nifty system in place. They give you an audio-guide that plays music by each instrument as you stand near it. What a clever idea! It’s basically like an educational silent disco (and we did some dancing when no one was looking).
We had fun wandering around here, and we saw a lot of odd instruments, including a flute made from a human thigh bone (don’t remember what this sounded like, I imagine it would sound similar to when you blow over the rim of a glass bottle)!
Then we took the tube to see the Antomnium. Again, I don’t know why we went to see this. We were un-recommended this by our friend Steve. When we told him we would be visiting Brussels, he said ‘I’ve been there. I remember seeing this thing called the Antomnium. It was kind of rubbish.’
We joked a bit about seeing the Antomnium, and then somehow the idea gathered momentum, and now we were going on the tube to see it because Eric insisted that it would ‘be funny’, and I was protesting but not actually doing anything to stop this from happening.
So, this is the Antomnium.
You can go in and see a planetarium, but neither of us wanted to do this. We had a waffle instead.
Opposite the Antomnium is (from what I could gather) a sort of poor man’s theme park, full of vaguely interesting activities, overpriced restaurants and tired-looking parents. One of these activities was an attraction called Mini Europe, which has lots of models of famous European landmarks. We went to take a look at this, but were rooted to the spot with horror at the ticket price: 14.50 euros each! Poking our noses over the fence, we had the strong suspicion that it looked rubbish, so we decided not to go.
We took the tube back to the centre discussing options (I was suggesting things, Eric was saying that he didn’t like my suggestions). Eventually, we agreed on eating a waffle.
On the way through the centre we saw a solemn procession of men with beer, followed by a man playing the bagpipes. It was all very dignified.
We went and asked a tired looking man at the tourist office where we could find the best waffles. He named a place nearby called Dindoys in a tone of voice that suggested “I’m fobbing off the idiot tourists”, but… we went there and the waffles tasted amazing. They are so big that we took another photo, because every time you eat one it feels like an event (I think Brussels needs a waffle/bagpipe parade).
So long Brussels, and thanks for all the waffles.