2-5, 1998 Brussels, Belgium
Laura shakes me
awake from a deep sleep to tell me Im about to snooze through my chance at chow.
Rather disoriented, I her ask what time it is. 8:15. Would that be a.m. or p.m.? Where are
we again? What day is it? Im sure Ill get used to the changes in time zones,
climates, people and otherwise once we put enough miles under our belts. But until then, I
guess Ill just remain in a slight fog for the next few days.
On our way off the plane, we comment to one another how heavy our packs
seem. "Must be tired and cramped muscles from 8 hours in the air".
"Yeah, must be". WRONG!! The packs are just plain heavy. We really tried to pack
light (Lauras pack at 34 lbs., mine at 51 lbs.), but our trek from luggage claim, to
tram, to train, to the wrong track, to the right track and another train, then to the
closest hotel to from the station to use the phone, proved that we shouldve tried a
little harder. A quick call to Simmone (the nice lady who will be providing us shelter in
her home) for directions turns into an insistence on a offer for a ride back to her house.
We gladly accept. Out for an afternoon walk (it begins to rain), back for a nice hot
shower, out for a quick Greek dinner (it begins to rain), and then back in time for bed.
Thats what they say about Brussels, "when its not raining, its raining
The next morning, following some sight-seeing
advice from Simmone, we board a bus into the city. Our first major stop was the Grand
Place, a large sort of town square. While the exact origin of the Grand Place
isnt known, it seems that in the 11th and 12th centuries,
farmers brought their produce to market here. As the number of customers grew, so did the
number of merchants. As the number of merchants grew, so did the amount of livestock and
produce. As that grew, so did the size and number of buildings to store and trade the
goods. The result is truly Grand. Both prominent merchants and artisans, as
well as important trade guilds, built the structures around the square, and while so
doing, competed to outdo the others with painstaking attention to decorative detail and
lavish displays of gold facades, statues, and sometimes even gargoyles. It is easy to see
why Grand Place has been the heart and sole of both Brussels economic, as well
as social life since the 12th century or so.
Down one of the side streets leading out from
the Grand Place, we plop down at an outside table of a coffee shop for a little
cappuccino pick me up. I decide to take a snapshot of the atrium type structure that
shields us from the drizzle as we sip our coffee. We overhear a tour guide telling his
group that this, the Galerie de Reine, was in fact the worlds oldest covered
shopping mall. Dating 1847. I wonder if moms used this as a place to drop-off their
teenagers back then too?
We then check out
the cathedrals of St. Nicholas and St. Michael before getting somewhat lost
in the new, or upper town. We lucked across the huge Palais de Justice,
an outdoor café for a glass of Leffe - an excellent Belgium beer, the Palais Du Roi,
and lastly, the ornate gardens of the Parc de Bruxalles. As if all that
werent enough to call an afternoon culturally stimulating, we search for, and find
Yes, there is a crowd gathered
around this little tyke all watching and taking pictures of his eternal
tinkle. I am also guilty of snapping a shot, but only so you could examine it
closely to see, well, the long and the short of it. On this particular day, the statue of
the boy is dressed in on of his 240+ costumes. This one an English guard uniform.
It seems that this small bronze statue of a child, well you know, answering the
call, has come to be know as the symbol of the city of Brussels.