Well. Train issues today meant two substantial delays and a much later arrival time than originally expected. But we’re here now, so let’s start taking a look around!
Since we were so much later than expected, the very first thing we got was lunch! We were both starving and just went to the first tasty looking place we saw. The sandwich was pretty good, but dessert was what really took the cake (no pun intended). We figured we’d celebrate our arrival in Belgium by eating Belgian waffles! You can actually see both styles in this picture – mine is a Liège style waffle which is smaller but slightly sweeter, and my husband’s waffle in the back of the picture is a Brussels style waffle, which is bigger but less sweet. You can get them with all kinds of toppings, from fresh fruit, whipped cream, different sauce flavors, even ice cream!
Then it was off to our first stop: the Grande Place! Also called the Grote Markt (Brussels, and Belgium as a whole, speaks both French and a language called Flemish, so everything has two different names here), this is the most important – and most beautiful! – square in all of Belgium.
Back in the day, this square was home to all the guild houses – basically the headquarters of a bunch of organizations that helped only certain kinds of merchants and people – and there was a lot of competition between the guilds. They all wanted to be the richest and most powerful! So they started showing off their wealth and power by decorating their headquarters.
They used all kinds of decorations, including carvings, statues, and covering things in gold. It became a crazy race to have the most decorated building! At least, until the city eventually stepped in, bought everything from the guilds, and put a stop to it. At least they saved it all for us to continue to enjoy now!
A detail shot of just one off the buildings on this square.
From there, we wandered around a bit. We were going to visit a church called Saint Catherine, but since it’s Sunday we decided it would be more respectful to stop by tomorrow. But we did find this cool fountain/statue just around the corner from the church!
We also stopped by the Bourse (Beurs), which is Brussels’ stock exchange! It was actually founded by Napoleon and has been in business here for over 200 years, since 1802! This is considered the second most important square in Belgium and it is a very common hangout spot. You can just see a fraction of the people who were there sitting on the steps at the bottom of the picture! The street immediately in front of the Bourse is pedestrian-only, no cars allowed at all, so people sit with their friends all the way down the steps, across the street, and on the far sidewalk!
I never think it photographs incredibly well but it really is a beautiful building. When my husband first saw it, he didn’t know what the building was but he said he knew it “was a really important thing” just by its intricate decoration and strong presence.
After all that, it was finally time for dinner, where this amazing group played for us. Belgium is still the only European country I’ve ever seen that has classical string quartets hanging out as random buskers. It’s so ridiculously beautiful and classy!
The sunset view from our hotel room! Yes, that awesome looking church is Saint Catherine. We’ll visit that one tomorrow!
Our comments winner for today is…Erin M! Congratulations Erin! We have a few days in Brussels and now we’re all settled in, so get ready for even more really cool, uniquely Belgian things tomorrow!