Checking things off my bucket list has become a pretty regular activity over these last five months. Seeing so many amazing things in such a short amount of time can be a little problematic though. Everything happens so fast over here, and at times it can be hard to truly appreciate what’s going on around me. However I’ve been lucky enough to capture all of my great experiences and even share about some of them in this blog. Fortunately I’ve been on another great trip, so I thought I’d write about it while it’s still fresh in my mind. I can’t believe it’s already mid-semester, but I’m not complaining because that meant it was time for reading week again at Westminster. Unlike like last semester, my classes split their week off between two different weeks. Unfortunately this meant that I wouldn’t be able to coordinate another huge euro trip with my friends like last fall. However I still had a week where I had three full days off, and I really wanted to get out of London…only temporarily. So I decided to go off the beaten path a bit and I packed my rucksack for a short adventure to Belgium.
I thought I’d save some money, so I took a coach to Belgium. Probably not one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. For starters I barely made it onto the bus itself. I failed to read the whole ‘show up an hour early’ fine print on my ticket. Luckily the guy at the continental check-in desk was in a good mood and let me squeeze through with a few minutes to spare. Next, there was an accident on the M2 that delayed us for an hour. This led to a detour that took our massive coach through windy, narrow country roads full of horseback riders and sheep. Once we got back to animal-free roads we arrived at the Chunnel in no time. I thought it might be cool, but it’s actually incredibly unexciting. Basically you drive your vehicle into a train car and the train car takes you across the Channel. That’s about the time I started getting really bored and tired. It’s physically impossible to find a comfortable position on an eight-hour bus trip. I contorted my body in almost every possible way, but I never found anything good. Several sleep deprived hours later, we finally reached our destination in Bruges, Belgium.
If you’ve never heard of Bruges before you’re definitely not alone. Not many people are familiar with this tiny Belgian city, or at least those who haven’t seen the movie “In Bruges”. If you haven’t seen it yet then I would strongly suggest checking it out next time you’re free. Bruges is one of those places that perfectly encapsulate everything that’s great about small-town Europe. It’s completely full with cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and a laidback atmosphere. Another awesome feature is the various canals that run through the heart of the city. In this sense it reminded me of a much quieter and relaxed version of Venice. I was able to walk around a good part of the city on the first night. Back at the hostel I met a fellow American traveller named Carlo. He was a really cool guy and had a bunch of great stories, which were told over a few of Belgium’s finest exports. After I woke up the next morning I headed towards one of the local churches because it was Ash Wednesday. I wasn’t really able to understand most of Mass because of the language barrier but it was stilly pretty cool. Afterwards I took a couple more hours to walk around the rest of Bruges. I checked out some windmills and I even ran into a pack of wild chickens in a park. Sadly my time in Bruges had run out and I headed back to the station. Luckily my adventure was only at halftime and I boarded a train to the capital city of Brussels.
I got quite the shock when I walked out of the station in Brussels. I really wasn’t ready for the change from the small, quaint city of Bruges to the loud hustle and bustle of Brussels. My initial impressions of Brussels weren’t the greatest, but that might have just been because Bruges was so incredible. The first night I decided I wanted to go see the Atomium. It’s one of most iconic images of Brussels and has been since it was built for the 1958 World’s Fair. The only problem is that it’s over three miles outside the city center, and I regrettably chose to walk instead of talking the metro. However when I finally got there it was definitely worth the hike. Apparently it’s supposed to be an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. All I know is that it looked amazing and should be on anyone’s itinerary in Brussels.
When I woke up this morning I still wasn’t sure if I was sold on whether or not Brussels was a great city. By the time I boarded the train to London my view had completely changed, and it all started with some amazing waffles. Words cannot describe the euphoria that resulted from consuming those waffles. The powdered sugar, melted chocolate, and ice cream all combined to form the perfect breakfast. It’s just depressing to realize that my waffle-eating aspect of life is all downhill after today. Now that my stomach was full I went around and explored everything Brussels had to offer. It really is an amazing city that has endless amounts of history and modern happenings. Brussels is essentially the home of the European Union with the European Parliament building right in the city. Brussels is also home to the Belgian royalty and their corresponding palace. I thoroughly enjoyed walking all around Brussels today and I’m glad I got to see some of its great attractions.
As I sit here writing this on my way back to London I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to experience a sample of Belgium. I don’t think my entire body has ever been more exhausted though, so it might be a miracle if I can walk off this train without assistance. Until the next adventure…