Europe's Capital of Capitals
Much of Europe is unique in that most countries are sovereign states forced to play nice with each other under the guise of the European Union.
And as the seat of the European Union, Brussels is the capital of capitals. Now I understand the headquarters of the European Union is actually Starsbourg, France but that’s more of a legal point than one in practice. The committees meet in Brussels and that is where decisions are made. So it was a place I felt I had to visit.
What struck me immediately getting off the train from Amsterdam were two things. One, everybody spoke French. Comment allez-vous, monsieur?
Second, there were significantly more black people in Belgium than the Netherlands. Which makes sense given Belgium’s involvement in the Congo. The two are obvious in retrospect yet it struck me as a novel experience in “Europe,” meaning someplace that was actually out of my comfort zone.
But much ado about small observations, let’s quickly address the main point about Brussels: the food is incredible. Think about it. Brussels has a solid claim on waffles, chocolate, and fries.
One of the more popular waffle shops I patroned was called Maison Dandoy. Locals and tourists alike are always present waiting to grab a bite of its famous delicacy. Mind you, it was 89 degrees at the time so hardly a pleasant wait for anybody. It ended up all being worth it because the waffle was the best I’ve had in my life. If you go, I do recommend the Brussels-style waffle over the Liege style.
Fries were equally notable in the tourism scene. Streetside shops selling fries were numerous. They consistently had tourists lined up to make an order. What I enjoyed about the fries was how crispy they were. Friends know me as somewhat of a picky fries eater and I was left impressed.
I have less to remark on chocolates. They’re not my cup of tea. When asking about places to buy chocolate, I was told by locals that the Cote d’Or brand was one the top choices among locals. That’s what I ended up gifting my host in Amsterdam as “Belgian chocolate”. Well turns out Cote d’Or is a mass-produced chocolate and can be found in the local Albert Heijn grocery stores back in the Netherlands. I wasn’t wrong but count it as a fail on my part!
Beyond food, Brussels the city wasn’t particularly special. There is a central square that doubles as the core of its old town. It’s called the Grand-Place and serves as the tourist hub of the city. Buildings in this plaza reflect the baroque architecture during the country’s kingdom. At night, the city will project a light show onto the buildings. Pictures of the Grand-Place below.
As for Manneken Pis, I found it to be highly overwhelming. The statue is viewed as a major symbol of Brussels but it’s pretty small in real life. Just imagine a crowd of tourists standing around an unassuming street corner fountain and you get the idea.
The sunny weather meant I had plenty of time to check out the city. I’ve included some more photos of Brussels below for your viewing pleasure.