The Heart of Brussels

As I try to stretch my feet from an extremely long but thrilling and very eventful day..I will talk about my Beligian experience..From all the aspects from the delicious to the mentally enticing! Now I know some people think , well if you’ve seen one country , you’ve seen them all.. If you look take a look from the outside , this might be true.. But if you look at the heart of each country.. I believe you would find a lot to grab one’s attention and make each country unique and distinct from the other.. I’ve been here in Beligum for the past 3 days and I am bound to leave tomorrow!

So where’s Brussels ? Brussels is in the heart of the 30,582 Km2 Beligum, pretty small to even say at it’s heart if you would compare it to any of the large nations or even Egypt where it is even less than 1/10th of Egypt. But it’s not really about the size of the nation but what the nation is all about!

Beligum is perhaps the European version of America and  more likely like Switzerland with it’s own difference since the people of the nation have not affected the general appearance of the country. You would find people mainly speaking French , Dutch or Deutsche, or Flemish (A mix of both I suppose plus something I probably don’t know!) , and English ,  on a rare occasion you’d hear some Arabic here and there Immigrants of course.

Since before I came I set my eyes on visiting three Museums (The Partisan/Resistance Museum) , (The Auto-world Museum ) & (The Royal Army Museum)…I can’t help myself I have always been fond of history and it just itches me if I go to a country and don’t get a glimpse!

Yesterday was my first chance to actually experience the country since I went out with some colleagues from work and my boss for lunch…We are originally staying at Diegem and we’re five stations away from Central Brussels (Brussels Centraal  – In Flemish I believe!)..We had lunch and the smell of chocolate was just in the air as soon as we began to go down the Alley ways.. If you are a chocolate lover you are just in to so much trouble! the smell will just keep you wanting to eat everything and I mean literally everything around you!

So I said to myself yesterday that I would make today a blast!

I woke up at 7 had my breakfast and left the hotel with my backpack armed with my camera, passport in my pocket and the few Euros I have!

I walked to the train station, and let me tell you folks that the “Yellow Line” on the ground we’re supposed to stay behind, in this country “DO STAY BEHIND” it’s no joke! that train will just pass and you’ll feel you’ll be blown away like a paper in the wind!

So before leaving the hotel I took the paper which had the arrival and departure timings of the trains from and to Central Brussels from and to Diegem.. And trust me the train arrives on the exact time on the paper even if it indicates a time you will probably not believe such as 15:22 (3:22 pm).. It will be there on that time EXACTLY..Maybe 1 minute earlier even!

So I took the train out of Diegem and headed to Brussels Central, Why? Because I had prepared a list of five museums to visit today which I have no clue how to get to! And I decided I will go the the farthest and move back to the closest as I go.

So first target was Anderlecht to get to the Partisan/Resistance Museum..So I got off at the Central Station in Brussles as I mentioned earlier and took me like a couple of minutes to get to the information desk and ask, how to get to Anderlecht. So I was guided to take the underground Metro.. Which was just outside the Brussels Central Station , and I took me about another five stations to land at Saint Guidon in Anderlecht..From there I took the 81 Tram, which landed me some 10 minutes later  near the Museum.. When I arrived and entered the Museum it wasn’t really that big but had a lot of original collections of partisan and prisoner possessions from different locations across Belgium and Europe, the place didn’t strike me much as wow, but the contents were as magnificent, and the effort done in such a tiny place was tremendous, I was also first greeted by a Moroccan lady who generally walks people around and talks to them about the different areas of the museum since they have a dedicated area to each resistance by country like Beligum , France , Russia , even they have a dedicated area for spain , despite the fact was not taking part in World War 2 since it had it’s own problems with Franco. The tour took me an hour and the curator himself came to meet me and welcomed me and even insited he’d take a picture for me and that I leave them a note in their guest log! The Morocan Museum Manager told me about the time she and several Morocan and European women apparently came on a “Lady Only” trip to Egypt and how much she enjoyed it, she was actually thrilled to the fact that I was Egyptian!

So after an hour and my interesting tour of seeing resistance possessions such as double identity cards , machine guns and stashed items came to an end , it was time to move on to my second targeted area..The good thing was that my subway ticket took me all the way across the day. So it was back again on tram 81 and to the subway station of Saint Guidon and from there back to Brussels Centraal!

After arriving I was beginning to get more energetic , now that my day kicked off so well.. So after arriving I went back to the same kind man from the ticketing section, and asked for directions to Parc Cinquentenaire..So he pointed out that I should head to the subway station to the opposite direction this time to Merode. And so I went on my way .. Took the train to Merode..I got off and found my way out only to find the Parc dead ahead.. It was mainly formed of a large Entrance with statues on top and at the bottom of it and a large fountain in front of it where some people were just lying by the grass and enjoying the sun..

After reaching and passing through the gate there was a huge parking area right in front of me and to my left there was the Auto-world Museum and The Arts & History Museum, and to my right was the Royal Army Museum..

So I started off with the Auto-world Museum because I was very much interested to see as to what would Beligum have! And boy was I surprised, of course they had other car models but I didn’t know that there were early Belgian Car Manufacturers back in the 1920s and that was very exciting for me . They basically had a split of cars per era so there are the 1920s , 1930s , and you move on.. They had an excellent collection of Bugattis , Rolls Royce , Peugeot , some Belgian brands that I can’t remember! and many many others that just won’t pop into my drained body that is hardly allowing me to write these words! The experience was just that everything I could see, I could hear it’s engine , the funny sounds and you can imagine their days and the streets and everything! it took me inside around three quarters of an hour!

After that I decided to go to the Arts & History Museum but I discovered that it wasn’t were the sign I saw from far away was, but in fact that sign said that I needed to walk some 250 meters to get there , and while the Royal Army Museum was dead ahead in front of me ,so I made up my mind and went on to the Royal Army Museum.. And that was one experience I will never forget.. I went on and they told me that at the moment only the Aviation & Navy sections are open and there’s a bar if I’d like a drink… However the rest would be open at 1 pm , by that time I thought to myself  “why not?” ,so I went on to check the aviation section and I found it housed a very interesting collection of planes , engines , sea equipment and miniature models and weapons for each , it was just so breathtaking , I just enjoyed it but since I knew I didn’t have all day I couldn’t just stand and read the signs and take notes as I would do if I had a week off here or so!

And then I went to the bar and grabbed a coke..By the time I was finished I went back to check and it was already 1:05 pm , so I went and decided to check if they’re open as they said.. And they were, so I went in , it was the mainly the segment concerning the Napoleonic Era , since also Waterloo is in Beligum , so you could see the different army costumes of each country that engaged in battle during that time, and so far the display was a very traditional museum, very exciting none-the less, the swords, pistols , costumes and everything else all in excellent condition!

Now I found a door and decided to check what’s behind it and it turned out to be taking me into their 2nd world war 2 section of the Museum , and of course the History Freak inside me was doing the happy dance! I went on to each and everything !! And Guess what?  There were even very interesting simulation rooms that were just awesome , one room I went into , you find a metal wheel if you steer it it lands on about 4-5 different points each point plays a sound in the room , so one plays a torpedo launch! Another plays whale sounds underwater, a third dolphins , a fourth ships moving over a submarine! Basically imitating the sounds that a submarine hears! How Awesome is that ? Childish ? Maybe! But fun as hell.. And so I enjoyed that area very much and here I realized the style of the building completely changed from the typical museum old structure styles to a very modern and elegant style. There are buttons to be pressed that do some demos , Tvs all around , sounds .. I stayed there for almost an hour and then on my way I found another room turned out to be the first world war! And for the very very first time I was in front the first Battle Tanks in History the Mark 1 also typed MK1 ,and what an amazing scene that was and of course I got to see all the crazy amount of artillery guns that were made during this period.. And the army weapons and uniforms…It was just amazing.. Now I knew if I leave myself , I would just stay all day long here and would not go anywhere.. Simply because I have a strong passion for history and specially militaria..And No I am not a crazy weapons guy.. But there’s so much that I could talk about that would hardly fit in here!

So I decided I have to get out of that place before I don’t at all! (Oh By the way so far I only paid a ticket at the Auto-world Museum and the Arts and History one was for free too….Even to foreigners!)

I went to that same sign again and followed it all the way around which was actually just as they said 250 m, to the entrance of the Arts & History Museum! And I went in , no one asked me to give my bag for safekeeping until I finish  like in the Royal Army Museum, so I just walked in. Now this was a total new perspective, it was a museum that had collections of art and monuments from Around the world.. And it was split by region , Asia , Africa , North America , etc.. You could see American Indian artifacts , drawings and statues , as well as from Indonesia , China , The Philipines , Rome , Greece , You name it.. I walked around twenty five minutes before a security guy came up to me and told me that I had to go back and hand in my bag, by that time, I was not really in the mood to go back because am already there and I decided to go back but I also decided to leave , I had got a chance to look at a lot of things, I was just curious to see their ‘Islamic’ section , which I didn’t get to see, on my way out I found the European one which had European items and beautiful tapestries and I just went in and started to take more photos and two minutes later another security guy came to me with the same message,  and since I was already so close to the exit I decided it was also enough , it was already 2:45 and I my stomach was grumbling and to be honest my feet started to hurt.. So I found my way out of the museum and back to the metro station and headed back to Brussels Central, but before giving myself the chance to think of food I had a mission in mind , two more museum needed to be visited since most museums close between 5-6 and risking eating at that point would probably make me feel like an elephant and just do nothing. So I went on to look for the Comic-Strip Museum! Which took me about twenty minutes going up and down to find but I finally got there and despite it not also being so big but it contained a huge collection and info about comics in Beligum , and famous character statues like (The smurfs, Tin-tin , Captain Hadock , Asterix and Lucky Luke!) if you were born before 1999 in Egypt and you went to a French school , there’s a good chance you know them!

I just loved the whole set of comic strips they had and below was a shop that sold a lot of memorabilia plus comics of course what else!!! But was darn expensive and every time I think of the conversion into Egyptian pounds I just want to cry!

But anyway the comic strip museum just was fantastic and by the way across Brussels you will find a lot of building sides painted with characters like Tin Tin and the Smurfs , also there’s a lot of Graffiti all across the city and specially when you ride the trains you will see them under the bridges on the trains and some of it is really impressive!

So.. Now I felt proud , rather than going to three museums only I hit four but there was one I added to my list from the day before I refrained form mentioning it because I know when I type it and you read it you will be druling just as I did yesterday when I saw it and it was closed! “The Cocoa & Chocolate museum” … YES YES YES and ANOTHER BIG YES!

Haha.. That was my exact expression , it was the perfect museum tour end for my day, and I went to it straight away I pushed away from my mind all feelings of pain that were starting to be very clear that my feet if they would grow a tongue I am more than sure that there’s a lot of nasty things they would say..

And a few minutes later I was there.. *light from the sky that shines right where I stand* .. Here I am , standing in front of the *Cocoa Chocolate Museum* I can just even lick the name! So I went in , there were stairs leading up , I just went up literally without asking anyone or anything !! I only realized my silliness when girl at the counter called me “Monsieur!” in a very calm voice.. And I apologized , I explained that I just followed the smell!! and she smiled saying “It happens to everyone who comes here!” And so I paid for my ticket and that was just the 2nd time I pay for any ticket across the day.. And went up stairs, it all talked about the different types of cocoa and where are the best and all the different phases of making chocolate! And on the 2nd floor, I discovered that during the early times of cocoa discovery.. Among the owned culinary items were porcelain cups specifically for Chocolate! Even special pots during the Victorian ages! I was like *WOW, Coco had respect!!!* it had it’s own SET..I mean back in these days you couldn’t drink anything in just about anything as we do now, everything fits in a mug! They even had a stirring stick specially for the pot to stirr the coco! Now there was even a list of facts about coco such as does it make you fat ? etc.. And it turns out Yes coco does have calories but dark coco itself doesn’t have as much as you think, it’s in fact the sugar and other additives that causes it. Also Coco doesn’t cause cavities but the sugar in the chocolate does. I was supposed to go and attend a live demonstration for chocolate making in the first level of the place but unfortunately when I went there was a school group that just came in a few minutes after me so I just looked at the lovely chocolate machine that they had running flowing with chocolate in it where I can literally stay there attached to it for hours! But I decided to leave it was too crowded and I seriously felt there was no where to stand and they’re all high-school kids so I didn’t feel I was in the right place..

And so I left.. I headed to a nice place called Hellas Snack which offered some Greek food and I took actually a shawerma meal with some mah-shy and Salad, yep sounds too familiar! but it was very tasty none the less.. And then I decided to do some shopping for my family..

That took me another 2 hours and by that time it was already six in the afternoon and my feet I could barely stand on them.. As in barely.. And then I decided I should call it a day..

I took my winnings and went to the train station in Brussels Central, got back to Diegem and got up to my room in the hotel… And boy was I glad and in pain at the same time the moment I took off my shoe! (Thank God for sneakers!)

Now I know I haven’t mentioned chocolates or waffles! So for waffles first , I learned a new thing that Waffles if they are not soft, then they are not good, if they are Crunchy that’s BAD.. My colleagues took us yesterday and we bought Waffles from a place called the Waffle Factory, and that was Delicious! You have seen the photo of my Waffle on Facebook , Waffles are one of the Trademarks of Belgium , if you don’t eat Waffles then you haven’t visited Belgium! And when I had mine yesterday I was just flying!

Now to the chocolates.. I still have tomorrow to get those so it’s not off my list! I can’t come to Belgium and go home with no chocolates!! that wouldn’t be fair AT ALL!!

Also not to miss on the people, the people of Brussels are generally very friendly and helpful, I haven’t come across a single time where I was brushed off by someone or seeing anyone walking around frowning..It’s a very calm place, even in places were people are in large numbers, you don’t hear such a loud or annoying noises.. It’s interesting how they love cuisine and along every street there’s at least 3-5 restaurants and bars, and how you can see the clear mix of people , you’d see veiled women , others in mini-skirts and others and regular clothing , nothing fancy…And everyone is jut on their way.. No one bothers, annoys or even mumbles at the other.. Every time I reached a car crossing , sometimes I would stop even before reaching the lines and because I felt the car was almost inches away to get through the lines and proceed, but they would stop and motion me to cross.. I would love very much to come here again.. I still have a lot I’d like to see..

Now After finishing this I will go and post the pictures on Facebook and let you enjoy the sights of Beligum

All the photos of my trip to Belgium can be found HERE

I hope I haven’t got you all bored with this very long post! And I do hope you enjoy it.. As much as I enjoyed sharing it ..

P.S: By the way the Attached picture is the Atomium which was built in 1958 and it is considered the symbol of Brussles..

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