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Grand' PlaceSept. 2-5, 1998  Brussels, Belgium

Laura shakes me awake from a deep sleep to tell me I’m 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? I’m sure I’ll 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 I’ll 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 (Laura’s 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 should’ve 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. That’s what they say about Brussels, "when its not raining, its raining hard".

Grand' PlaceThe 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 isn’t 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.

Galerie de ReineDown 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 world’s oldest covered shopping mall. Dating 1847. I wonder if mom’s used this as a place to drop-off their teenagers back then too?

Cathedral of St. MichealWe 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 weren’t enough to call an afternoon culturally stimulating, we search for, and find the Manneken-Pis.

 Manneken-PisYes, 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.

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Last modified: August 19, 1999    Photographs and text © 1998 Scott and Laura Kruglewicz. All Rights Reserved.


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