A journal entry from my trip to Belgium a little over a year ago today:

Saturday, March 17, 2018

“Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I woke up in Brussels today and it was freaking SNOWING. What an asshole of a city, lol. Just kidding, but I did not come prepared for the weather, so it was, at first, a big problem…. I had to go to the store and buy a hat, gloves, a scarf, and an extra pair of socks…. And then I went on a walking tour for two hours because I’m a psycho.

I always like to start my trips with walking tours because I feel like it helps me understand the layout of the city I’m in. Aside from the debilitating cold, this was probably the best walking tour I’ve been on. I saw the (asymmetrical) Grand Palace where someone didn’t really kill himself because of shoddy craftsmanship, even if all the Belgians believe he did. I also saw the peeing boy, which like… I’m not really sure why that little dude is famous. But I do know he has upwards of 1,000 outfits, which is pretty nifty!

I also saw a church and all of the government buildings, and honestly Brussels is really pretty! I, unfortunately, felt like I couldn’t give it the attention it deserved because of how cold I was… but I do remember its beauty!

After the walking tour I went to the Magritte Museum and saw the “this is not a pipe” pipe! I actually didn’t even remember that this was a Magritte piece, so it was a cool surprise.

Afterwards I went and bought my first Belgian waffle (covered in nutella, speculoos, and strawberries) and it was soooo yummy. But I think I’ll get a plain one next time so I can really taste it. And then I went into every single chocolate shop on the strip and tried the free samples because… duh, free Belgian chocolate. My heart was happy, but after all that chocolate, my tummy was sad 🙁 But I still classify it as a great decision.

Belgian waffle with nutella, speculoos, and strawberries
Belgian waffle with nutella, speculoos, and strawberries

Once I got bored, I decided it was time to head to Brugge, so I went to the train station, hopped on a train and arrived there by 8:30. That night I got into Brugge, I pretty much just got some dinner and went to bed.”

Alexandria with large statue of Frites

On the Menu

  • Liege Waffles
  • Frites
  • Belgian Mussels (Moules)
  • Stoemp (Mashed Potatoes filled with Vegetables and Cream)
Brussels

Fun Facts

  • The inventor of the World Wide Web is from Belgium
  • Schools used to serve beer to children during school in Belgium as a healthy alternative to soft drinks
  • Belgians LOVE comic books. Smurfs were invented in Belgium!
  • Antwerp is the world’s diamond capital
  • Belgium invented the word “Spa”!
Brugge Street
The streets of Brugge

Layout of Belgium

Technically Belgium is a Kingdom. Belgium is divided into two regions: Flanders is in the north and they speak Flemish, and Wallonia is in the south and they speak French. The Brussels-Capital Region is multilingual region. The country is small; at its widest point, it is only 180 miles across.

Belgium is the founding member of the European Union and EU headquarters (and NATO headquarters) are in Brussels. Belgium is “The Gateway to Europe” because it is easily accessible geographically, culturally, and linguistically.

History of Belgium

Modern day Belgium was founded in 1830. The earliest evidence of human inhabitants in  Belgium were with the Celts in 2000 BC. In 52 BC, Julius Caesar and his army captured Belgium and turned it into a rich trading center. In 496 AD, the Franks defeated the Romans. The country then moved through rules under King Charlemagne (768 AD), the dukes of Burgundy (early 1400s), the Spanish Empire, and, after a period of significant fighting, finally found independence in 1831. Belgium is now one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

Mannekin Pis
Mannekin Pis

People and Culture of Belgium

Most Belgians act very reserved. They do not strike up conversation on the streets, and it takes commitment to make a true friend.

Manneken Pis is a statue that has lived in Brussels since 1619. It shows a little boy peeing. Nobody knows why this statue exists. Some say it represents a boy who made the mistake of peeing outside of a witch’s house. Some say it commemorates a boy that wandered off during a carnival. Others say that this boy discovered a fire on his way to use the outhouse in the middle of the night and saved the city. The statue was often the butt of pranks and was stolen often. He now has over 1,000 outfits that he wears to commemorate different events happening within the city

Cycling and soccer are common pastimes as well as art museums and pigeon racing (Belgium is where this originated!)

Liege Waffle in Brugge

Flavors and Common Foods

Belgian food is a combination of French, Dutch, and German cuisines. Popular meats are pork, rabbit, chicken, and horsemeat. Kidney and goose liver are delicacies. Mussels are a hugely famous food, as are snails, shrimp, and herring.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, the most famous vegetable to come out of the Belgium is, you guessed it, Brussels Sprouts! Belgium is also known for its white asparagus and Belgian endives.

The chocolate in Belgium is… to die for. The most common chocolates are pralines, which are filled with cream, nougat, or fruit in the center. Belgium produces 220,000 TONS of chocolate per year!

Beer, also, is a large source of pride for Belgians. There are 1100 variant of beer, but Belgium is known for inventing lambik, a self fermenting beer! It is made by leaving the wheat and barley in open wooden barrels so that natural yeasts can ferment it.