Brussels: Beer, piss and other surprises

Before arriving in Brussels we had been told by many that Brussels was a boring city and to avoid it at all costs. People made it sound like a ghost town. Being the capital of the European Union, websites and our guide book made it sound like a city where business and politics take place, and not much else.

Nevertheless, travelling through Brussels was the cheapest way for us to get to Amsterdam from Rome, so we thought we would spend a few nights there to check it out. What we didn’t realise is that the accommodation prices would just about negate any savings we made from the cheap flight. In the end we stayed at a place called Hotel de Fierlant for €69 per night. This was the cheapest we could find aside from staying in a place with permanent bed bugs or an hour away by bus.

We arrived by coach from Charleroi airport at Gare du Midi station in Brussels around 7pm and began to look for clues as to where we were heading. Our walk to the hotel was only short but wasn’t through the classiest of areas. At times we didn’t feel welcome but we never really felt unsafe.

We checked in, opened the windows to cool the place off (the hotel was always boiling), and spent the night planning any miscellaneous accommodation for the rest of the trip. We retired to the TV, watched Police Academy (the first movie we have seen in English since Singapore) and went to sleep.

The next day we tried to check out all of the local sights. We dropped by Grand Place, a square surrounded by (as the name suggests), very grand buildings. We spent a while in the centre just talking and looking around, constantly finding architectural details worth making a big deal about. Once we were done we walked through the shopping district, including St. Hubert’s Gallery, just taking our time and seeing what was popular in Belgium.

We had some hot chips in a square nearby, watching a skateboarder and some people do parkour (similar to freerunning). We spent the rest of the day doing more of the same – walking, sightseeing and relaxing.

On the way back to our hotel we wanted to see the Mannekin Pis, Brussel’s most famous statue. It’s basically just a boy pissing, and the locals love him. As we were walking in his direction we found a bunch of men all dressed up in royal looking costumes, all chanting and playing drums and trumpets. They walked us and everyone else who was following down to the Mannekin Pis, where he was wearing the same costume as them. Before long the little boy was pissing beer into cups that the locals were gladly drinking. It was one of those things that happen only by chance, so it was great that we stumbled across it.

The day after we had planned a relax in the park but it was raining. Instead we checked out a few of the local beers in some of Brussels’ pubs. It gave us some time once again to just catch up and talk about everything. Life goals, friends and family back home and abroad, and of course the travel we are yet to do.

We returned to the hotel, found some directions for our hostel in Amsterdam, and packed our bags ready for the early morning we had today.

I don’t know if this city knows what it wants to be. As I mentioned, it has a reputation to be a boring city due to it’s political history, however the population that we saw appeared to be quite young. The city is dirty in a way similar to that of Paris and, like Berlin, it appears that it was planned for a much higher population than currently lives there – many buildings are vacant, with some completely vandalised.

All up though, we enjoyed ourselves in Brussels, I just doubt we will return in the near future due to the price of accommodation.