Brussels: Eat the Waffles, Not the Sprouts

With a final exam coming up Thursday, what was I doing biking 3 miles to hop on a bus at 6:00am Wednesday morning?

Heading to Belgium, of course. 70 of UU Summer School’s European Studies program students traveled in style on a double-decker bus to Brussels on Wednesday for an enlightening (and delicious) program excursion. Kristen and I got front row seats on the top of the bus, which made for a scenic 3 hour ride through industrial parks and cow pastures (sums up the Dutch dichotomy perfectly). One of the most interesting things I noticed about this bus ride was that you could definitely tell who the Americans were. Not surprisingly, the only ones who were talking. I thought at first it was because everyone was so tired, but our German friend Lina told us that in other cultures, it is considered impolite to talk on public transport, especially long bus rides. Works for me!

When we arrived in Brussels, it was quite apparent that Utrecht was nowhere near. Signs in both French and Dutch, a more multiethnic population, and graffiti – everywhere. Utrecht definitely wins an award for cleanliness.

Still, palatial architecture abounds.

First stop of the day was the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, which actually refers to several of Brussels’ museums. We visited two. The Musée Oldmasters Museum, or Old Master’s Museum consists of paintings from Flemish artists from the 15th-18th centuries and contains an impressive collection of triptychs, religious art, and portraits. The Musée Fin-de-Siècle reflects art from between 1868 and 1914, as well as other creative fields; literature, opera, music, and photography.

A triptych, or 3-paneled religious painting, from the Old Master's Museum.

Although there was less than an hour for lunch, we took our only opportunity to eat in Belgium very seriously, and scouted out a Belgian waffle truck! These waffles are much thicket and doughier than the American version, kind of like a sweet, sticky soft pretzel. We enjoyed our waffles on the steps overlooking the city, while a violinist played in the background. The quintessential European lunch, I’d say.

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Bruxelles

Come afternoon, we headed over to Parliament, for a tour of the Chamber. As someone who has been in the U.S. Capital building multiple times, the EU is huge. All of those debates on the Eurozone/Economy/Greek Crisis are being contested here!

Where the magic happens

Differences and language and nationality pose a huge challenge to European integration.

We were without a taste of Belgian chocolate, but too tired to care. Our time in Belgium was sweet enough.

Once we arrived back in Utrecht, some of the girls and I tried a new spot out for dinner along the Oudegracht.  Indonesia was once a Dutch colony, so the Dutch are known for their Indonesian food.  I had never had Indonesian before, but if it involves Asian cuisine, count me in.  Turns out it is like a mixture of Thai, Indian, and Chinese.  I got the sweet beef, jasmine rice, and vegetables in a peanut satay sauce.  It was gone in a matter of minutes…I’ll be back.

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The next day we had an exam to take, so hopefully all of those rainy afternoons spent in cafés around town will pay off. By the end of this summer, we will have patronized every café in Utrecht.

Until next time,

RJR

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