5 hours in Belgium

So. First week of my Europe Backpacking Experience and I board the bus that will take me from Paris to Brussels to Berlin. Stomach comfortably padded with macaroons, bag stuffed with PB&J sandwiches, journal in hand, I nestle into my window seat on the bus.

First rule of travel: Transportation never goes as smoothly as planned. (Take my friend Elea, for example, who got stuck in the Chunnel, the train tracks beneath the English Channel, for several hours.)

I found myself locked inside a bus filled with angry French people, who started shouting in French and banging on the windows and doors while I sat there with my PB&J croissant and English-speaker face of puzzlement.

Eventually, the bus was unlocked, the driver climbed in, and at some point rather later than originally planned, we set off for Belgium. Keep in mind, I didn’t receive a passport stamp when I arrived in France (from England), or when I arrived in Belgium. This meant that when I arrived at 2am at my second border check point on my bus ride from Brussels to Berlin, I had no stamp allowing me to be in continental Europe. You can imagine that 15 minutes of fun, I’m sure. The end result was a note in my passport, handwritten in German, and the begrudging nod of approval from the border police.

I had about 5 hours in Brussels, Belgium before I hopped on another bus to Berlin, Germany. My goals for Brussels were simple: See the architecture in the famously beautiful central square and eat Belgian chocolate.

25-IMG_2027 24-IMG_2025






Not only did I totally complete these goals, I also went on a statue hunt, got slightly lost (of course), watched candy being made, and ate a Belgian waffle. In Belgium. With real Belgian people. All in all, a much cooler 5 hours than even binge-watching Netflix on a Saturday afternoon.

1. Stunning architecture.

04-IMG_1973 08-IMG_1984 09-IMG_1986 12-IMG_1994 37-IMG_2061 44-IMG_2082 39-IMG_2063 57-IMG_2164 17-IMG_2009






















This awesome lady stopped and took my picture in the square, because, she said, she used to travel with an enormous backpack as well, and didn’t have any pictures of herself. Once again, I’m blessed by the kindness of strangers.

19-IMG_2011 13-IMG_200035-IMG_205738-IMG_206234-IMG_2055 2. CHOCOLATE.

43-IMG_2074 42-IMG_207231-IMG_2042 30-IMG_2038

Seriously, that Belgian chocolate is so good. I went around to all the chocolate shops within reach of the square, scouting out the price, flavors, and beauty of the chocolate before making the rounds once more and buying tiny quantities of chocolate from a half dozen chocolate shops.

22-IMG_2020 21-IMG_2016 28-IMG_2035









3. The statues.

Oh boy. Where to begin? Every city has its mascot, as I soon discovered. Some make more sense than others, but all are held with pride by their inhabitants. The Eiffel Tower, La Sagrada Familia, the Leaning Tower of Pisa… and Mannekin Pis. That’s “Little Boy Peeing,” for the folks at home.


This statue was everywhere: in every shop window and on every street corner, made of chocolate or dressed in World Cup gear. You can’t imagine how many corkscrews I saw in tourist shops.

62-IMG_2191 63-IMG_2192 56-IMG_2158












I was determined to visit the lesser known Jeanneke Pis, the little girl version or sister-statue, as it were. I learned, eventually, that it’s relative obscurity was probably not due to sexism; no, while Mannekin Pis is so easy to find I literally stumbled upon it, Jeanneke Pis is hidden halfway up a wall at the end of a busy alleyway. Be glad that you never have to know just how many times I circled that stupid alley before finding it. I was not giving up.

53-IMG_2138 54-IMG_2140









4. Belgian waffle!

Oh Americans, forget about strawberries and whipped cream! This was an authentic Belgian waffle, and that means heavenly goodness in one plain, sweet square.

60-IMG_2179 59-IMG_2178









I did a few other things during my 5 hours in Belgium: took the metro, made the obligatory cathedral visit, spoke with an Irish man on a street corner, tried to convince a Belgian man I was Canadian (it didn’t work; pro tip, French speakers want to speak French to Canadians, and they don’t believe in Vancouver), ogled the murals and street art, and almost missed my bus to Berlin because I tried to board the one around the corner.

58-IMG_2176 50-IMG_2123 51-IMG_2125 49-IMG_2111 48-IMG_2104 47-IMG_2093 27-IMG_2031 64-IMG_2196 02-IMG_1958 01-IMG_1957





































I walked away from that day with a pocket full of Belgian chocolate, and that, my friends, is a very good thing.

45-IMG_2084 46-IMG_2086


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: