Brussels: More Seedy than Chocolatey

On a partly sunny late June morning, our redeye landed in Brussels. With dreams of chocolate and architecture, we waited in the immigration line, eager to hit the cobblestone, rather Belgian stone. Our plan, per Rick Steves, was to peruse the town for a few hours and later ride the rails to Bruges. We hopped the train to city centre, stowed our carry-on suitcases in a locker and approached our first outdoor look at Belgium with a warm welcome from…drunk bums. Upon exiting the main train station in Brussels, we found trash, drunk confrontational homeless people and open outdoor toilets. Yay, we made it!

Don’t get me wrong, we like to make our own adventures but since we were foreigners, I suggested we just keep walking toward the Grand Place or Grote Markt like Rick said and get the heck away from the train station. He did mention Brussels was a little seedy, but Brussels sounds so fancy and French, so the only seediness I envisioned was that of chocolate dipped strawberries. Still, each city has its less desirable areas, so we ventured on and found what our little hearts desired…cappuccinos and chocolate filled pastries amid tall and ornate structures.

It became more and more overcast and eventually started to downpour, but the flowers that lined the windowsills of La Grand Place were still beautiful. The architecture consumed hundreds of pictures on our memory card, with each angle or sculpted archway appearing more intricate and astonishing than the last. This was the Belgium I wanted to see, shortly followed by a little peeing baby. “Let’s go see Mannequin Pis”, I tell my husband. “A pissing mannequin? What? Why?” I expected a response like this, since the only portion of the Belgium book he read was on the beer. But we did find the tiny statue of the baby boy peeing into a fountain, which seems to capture quite the crowd of tourists. It is a national symbol afterall…and there are many different variations that poke fun at the original. I found these much more amusing and not quite G-rated enough to post for your viewing pleasure.

We continued to wander and saw a parade of Belgian police ride through the narrow streets on gorgeous horses. It was a procession that included drumming and what seemed like a ceremonious trot through the main square. And though it was raining and the sight was one that we’d remember, I remember most getting my jeans smattered by….”stuff” from a horse splattering on the Belgian stone. I think that is the most delicate way to put that. Wonderful, a post full of bodily functions. But luckily we had our handy laundry detergent and my husband stopped laughing long enough that I could get cleaned up and we could head over to Bruges, which would hopefully welcome our tired and cranky selves with open arms, clear skies and beer.

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7 thoughts on “Brussels: More Seedy than Chocolatey

  1. Soooo, even though Belgium is not a third-world country like Mexico, they still manage to show their worst aspects to travelers. Sorry to hear that, I’d always thought the Belgians would be somewhat like the Swiss, a little fastidious in the face they show the world. But your photos still make it look fascinating, all those ornate and gilded buildings jammed in together and propping each other up! Looks like they were doing some spiffing up, too, from the looks of the scaffolding.

    • To be perfectly honest, most cities we went to gave us a bad impression based on the central train station alone, except for Berlin. They were doing a lot of construction in each city as well, including Brussels. I also wonder if the dreary weather doesn’t help give the city poor lighting and an indifferent feeling. I think the architecture was beautiful and I’d love to back on a sunny day, give ourselves a little more time and stay clear of unfortunate horse incidents.

      That being said, any tourist approaching any major city should always be aware of their surroundings. If you go, you must try the chocolate and pastries, it is worth it.

  2. Traveling to famous destinations is not quite what you expect when you get there is it? We went to Jamaica on our honeymoon and we pictured this tropical paradise with palm trees, white beaches, lush jungles and a thriving Rastafarian culture. All that was true, until you stepped outside the resort or other high traffic tourist destinations, the rest was quite sad.

    • I know what you mean, but throughtout my travels I think I’ve always had either my realistic or unrealistic expectations met in some way, if that makes sense. I still enjoyed it and I’m glad we took the time to see some things though.

  3. That’s my capital! Haha, i’ve been to Brussels once, and coming from the Netherlands I can state they are nowhere NEAR as friendly and open, and proud or colorful as the Dutchies are, sorry to say! Brussels does have nice architecture and intriguing history, but to be honest, it’s blocked by the arrogant mass of people.
    Have fun in Bruges, I do like it there. Don’t forget to pass by the chocolate museum ^_^ and let me know if you’re near Kortrijk as well seeing as it’s so close to Bruges, i’d love to give you a tour haha!

    • You are so kind but we’ve been back for a couple weeks now. I’m reminiscing. If I’m ever that way again, I will let you know!

      I can agree with you, that the Dutch did seem more eager to please and more friendly. Bruges was nicer than Brussels at least, and we had a really nice stay there; probably one of my favorite cities we saw. We didn’t see the chocolate museum, but now I’m wishing we did. Looks like we’ll have to go back…

      • Haha 😀 well do let me know when you do! Sorry I misinterpreted your post though, looking forward to reading what you have to say about Bruges! Glad you at least enjoyed your stay there.

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