Belgium is a relatively small country, it’s ranked number 34 in a top of all the 49 European countries ordered by size, big to small. Despite being packed in landmarks of historical and cultural importance, the size makes it easy to visit all in a short 4 day trip. I took this trip back in 2009 and it was an important one for me, as it was the first trip that I took almost by myself. My friend, Alexandra, was nice enough to invite me for a visit while her semester abroad in Gent. She hosted me and, kind as she is, she shared everything with me, even her own bed. However, I did most of the visiting by myself, as she was over her head with school work.
What did I get to see and how I went around in Belgium
First thing I did was buy a train ticket with 10 trips on it, which at that time (back in 2009) cost me 50 euros. It was well worth it, as I got to see Brussels and 4 small charming towns: Gent, Brugge, Ostende and Antwerpe. The trains between them were frequent and fast, connections are excellent. I spent one and a half day in Brussels, half a day in Antwerpe, one day exploring Gent and the last day was split between Brugge and Ostende. The beautiful town Brugge (or Bruges in the French version), listed as a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage site was probably my favorite one to see, along with Ostende. I took this trip towards the end of November, so it was off season and the general atmosphere was quite relaxed and quiet.
My favorite things about Belgium
First, a video that I think summarizes my Belgian experience: colorful and corky. I shot in a flea market in Brussels: a Belgian interpretation of Michael Jackson’s famous Billy Jean:
1. The chocolateries: Belgian chocolate is famous worldwide and it is my personal favorite, simple and to the point, even elegant I would describe it. They have big producers and exporters, but the best you can get is the one from local manufacturers that you can probably only buy here, from the small chic and colorful boutiques.
2. The people: I thought the people there were the most relaxed and nice I had ever seen. This is probably related to the high level of living, to the fact that it’s a small and not too crowded country, a great place to live.
3. The architecture: Beautiful gothic architecture all around, excellently combined with new pieces in a tasteful manner, exploring the small cobblestone streets and the many canals was a delight.
4. The bicycles: People all ages seemed to ride bicycles everywhere. I personally had never seen before a place where bikes were such a popular mean of transportation, and this despite the
cobblestone narrow streets with tram lines in the very middle and despite the rainy November weather.
5. The waffles: You could get these magic huge and warm fresh waffles, covered with whipped cream or chocolate and fruits of all kind at any of the numerous waffle places, each with an even more tempting window than the last one.
6. The beer: Surely everybody has heard at least if not tasted some of the wonderful Belgian beers. My favorite ones were the white ones and the rose ones. The experience is even more pleasurable inside one of the chic bars and pub
s that the Belgians enjoy so much (and for good reason!).
7. The cosmopolitan feel: It would be hard not to have an international atmosphere here, where the very European Union has its headquarters. It’s a country o great tradition, where new elements were adopted in an elegant a
nd classy manner.