Baguettes, croissants, wine spilling over from France and fine chocolates, strong beers and… waffles. My journey through Belgium has been a true ramble. With an excellent map of the region, donated by the cyclists I met in Luxembourg (cheers!), it’s no struggle to go everywhere and anywhere, especially with the thousands of cycle paths. It’s at least an extra 10 degrees warmer here too, and it’s nice when you can feel your toes in the morning. I’m a happy camper once again.
Beggining in the south east, departing from the chilly and hilly regions surrounding Luxembourg and following the quiet canals and meandering rivers up the country, I climbed my very, very last hill of Europe, before descending into the plains of the north for good.
Oddly thin doll houses line the banks of the rivers in the south, a mix of style and colour, just waiting for a buddy to be built in the gap. I really know I’m getting close to the Netherlands when things start to get a bit out of the ordinary. Especially when the main road squeezes right through a cliff and special road-side bins are perfectly angled so you can launch your rubbish straight from your car window!
Brussels, the capital of Belgium and ‘Europe’, reminds me a lot of Glasgow, in that, you can see a really nice, interesting building, but then there is a massively ugly apartment block right next to it. It’s a multicultural, metropolitan city and they also, like in Glasgow, do and act as they want, sometimes wearing pyjamas and slippers to the supermarket. They also have a statue of little boy taking a piss.
But this bi-lingual, political nightmare is not the pro-Euro place I thought. In fact, most people here don’t really care about all the blacked out cars and police escorts whizzing high-end officials through their city; they just get on with their lives, knowing that their city was here long before all the European offices arrived.
The main square is a cluster of gold clad, flamboyant, ‘pimp-my-building’ facades, the smell of fresh chocolate filling the narrow streets and graffiti, a bustling flea market and flourishing art scene just a stones throw away. But it’s all nothing compared to Brugge.
Walking around this peaceful city, only 15km from the coast and 15km from Holland, I feel like I’ve literally time travelled back 300 years and have to resist the urge to buy a top hat and cane. Step-gable houses, churches and canals make this old port city all the more picturesque. With its omnipresent tower louring above the main square, guarding against enemies from times gone past, quietly watching you wander the cobblestone streets.
Today is my last day here. It’s back to The Netherlands once again!