On Christmas morning we walked through Luxembourg, enjoying the beautiful hills of the city one last time on the way to the train station. Five hours later, we arrived in Brussels, Belgium.
We grabbed a sandwich in the train station and ate while we walked the short distance to our hostel. After we checked into our private room we headed toward the Christmas market. On the walk there, we happened to run into the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. As we walked toward the front we were completely stunned by how big it actually was, while being almost hidden within the city block.
The sanctuary was even more stunning than the exterior, as to be expected. The stained glass was the most detailed I’ve ever seen and the organ was also quite impressive. The sides of the church were lined with different Nativity scenes from all around the world.
When we got to the square, the Christmas Tree was beautiful, of course. We walked a bit farther down to the market and picked out our ornament and magnet souvenirs, had frites, a waffle with chocolate, and a cup of mulled wine before we had to head inside to warm back up.
We were really surprised by how busy the Christmas market and the surrounding area were on Christmas Day. The streets were packed as were the bars. We couldn’t visit Brussels without going to the Delirium Cafe, so that was our stop for the night.
The Delirium Cafe holds the World Record for having the biggest beer collection in the world with over 3000 beers. I was just a little disappointed that there wasn’t a 30 page menu listing every thing they have, but I can certainly see how cumbersome, not to mention expensive, it would be to keep a menu that large updated. Suffice it to say that if there’s a beer you want, they have it!
The next day, we stored our backpacks in a locker and went back to the square for a guided four-hour tour. We only stayed for half of it because we were short on time and didn’t want to get into Amsterdam too late. We still learned plenty of interesting things in just a couple of hours though.
Here are a few fun facts:
- Brussels means swamp, which is exactly what Brussels use to be.
- Brussels originated as a trading city.
- The Smurfs, Comics, and frites were all born in Belgium.
- There are 3 national languages because of how many times the city has changed hands.
- The city is planning to change a great deal of its architecture within the next 5 years, as much of it isn’t very pretty at the moment.
Also, the main tower in the square is off-center. This is because the architect enjoyed his recreational beverages just a little too much. When it came time to present the building to the city he realized his mistake and was so embarrassed that he climbed to the roof and jumped to his death. Just kidding! But that is a common myth. The true story isn’t quite so entertaining. Turns out that after the construction had begun, they decided to preserve the back road, and therefore shortened the building.
We also saw the famous Manneken Pis. Possibly the most underwhelming part of our entire trip. I thought the toddler would at least be life-sized. I would l-o-v-e to have the job of dressing the little thing every day though. There are many legends as to his origin, but one that we heard hasn’t turned up on any of the sites I’ve seen so far.
This version says that his father, the King, died in the middle of a battle. Having no other heir to the throne but the toddler, they carried him onto the battle field. As they were losing their battle, the toddler climbed out of his basket and peed right in the middle of the field as if it were an act of defiance against their enemies. This rallied and inspired the wounded troops enough to pull themselves together and win the battle.
Originally, I wanted to see his sister, who is located in the Delirium district, but after seeing him I decided against taking the time to hunt her down. And, for some reason, no one has decided she is worth of dressing up. Maybe I can apply to be her stylist . . .
After the tour we grabbed sausages from the Christmas Market for lunch and picked out some chocolates to bring home before grabbing our backpacks and heading back to the train station. I really wish we’d had more room in our bags for chocolate. What we did get is gone now and it was seriously the best chocolate I’ve ever had.
We decided to spend only one night in Brussels and three nights in Amsterdam because there were several museums we wanted to see in Amsterdam. In hindsight though, it would have been nice to have at least one more night in Brussels. There’s so much we didn’t get to see and I would have loved to get outside of the downtown area and see some of the rest of the city. And I also would have eaten about 8 more waffles. At least. So perhaps going on to Amsterdam was for the best!