Belgium

When my host family asked me on a Wednesday if I wanted a free ride to Belgium for the weekend, of course I said yes.  After some quick planning and the help of the dirt cheap Belgian railway system, I was able to come up with an itinerary that started from Liege (where I was being dropped off) and allowed me to visit both Brussels and Bruges.  I started at the Liege train station around 8:00 pm, and took an hour long train to Brussels where I stayed with some awesome people I met via couchsurfing.  I walked into the apartment to the US National Anthem playing, and, after a few drinks, we headed out for a night filled with karaoke and dancing.  The next morning, I met up with some other friends who were also Au Pairs, and we made our way to Bruges for the day.  Compared to Brussels (the capital of the European Union), Bruges was a small, quiet city with beautiful canals making their way in between the most picturesque houses you’ve ever seen.  While residents of both Brussels and Bruges speak French (the southern half), Belgium has three official languages, the others being German (in the east) and Dutch (north).  In addition, many different dialects are spoken, one being Flemish which is a sort of “Belgian Dutch” spoken in the northern half of Belgium.  Here are some pictures that display my first impressions of this beautiful country.

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As I said – most picturesque houses ever built.  Bruges was full of these beautiful, quaint houses built along the canals.  The mix of timber and stone construction, along with the hatching pattern on the window panes, make these dwellings unique.

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This is my postcard shot of Bruges.  If you google Bruges, about half the pictures seem to be taken at this spot.  However, with the canal and beautiful tower in the background, I can see why.  It also seemed to be a popular meeting place to catch a canal boat tour around the city.

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Another canal shot with a boat for tours.

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Awesome waffle van!  While in Belgium, you must get a waffle and pommes (french fries).  Most places have an large selection of syrups and sauces for both.

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And of course, the other thing Belgium is known for is its beer.  Drinking on the streets is legal, so a stroll around Bruges with a delicious Duvel in hand is always a great choice.

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As I said, the beer.  I consider the Belgian beer to be the fanciest beer I know, with each beer coming with their own style of glass.  Be careful though, some of the beers can be as much as 12%!Brussels-9

The Grand Place in Brussels is one of the most impressive plazas I’ve seen in Europe, simply because of the immense architectural detail of the buildings surrounding it.

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While the buildings may seem similar from afar, a closer look will reveal the incredible amount of detail on each facade.  Brussels-5

I love the use of gold on the building facades.

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And again.

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The buildings reminded me of Paris, especially the church tower (and everyone speaking French!)

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Here is the newly constructed Liege Train Station – officially opened in Sept. 2009.  It is definitely one of the most impressive train stations I have ever been in.  Although there is still construction happening around the station, it is still an amazing sight.  Apologies for the quality of the night photos, I still have not invested in a tripod yet…

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The inside of the station – I purposefully skipped an earlier train to hangout in the station for an extra hour.

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