A Travellerspoint blog

Brussels

Mussels and Waffels and Chcolatiers OH MY!

Brussles or even Belgium in general has never been one of my highly desirable places to visit. But, when my friends suggested that we pass through on our way back to Germany it sounded like a good idea. Kenneth studied here for two years and speaks French fluently so he said he would be happy to show us around. We found a wonderful hostel! Especially after coming from Bob's Youth Hostel in Amsterdam, this placed seemed like a 5 star resort! It was extremely clean, had a pleasant design, friendly atmosphere and relaxing ambience. They even had a private room available so we would finally have a place to lie down and relax without strangers sleeping in the beds next to us! It's name is 2G04 Quality Hostel and I highly reccommend it!

After sitting in the car all day it felt good to go out and walk around. We decided to go out and tour the city. Brussels is unconditionally beautiful. It has a very genuine "Old Europe" feel to it: open, friendly and welcoming. It was probably the cleanest city I have ever been to and all of the architecture, buildings, streets and cathedrals have been very well preserved to represent authentic Medieval Europe. Brussles is truly gorgeous.

We walked to Grand Place, an extravaganza of medieval architecture displaying numerous gilded houses, The Hotel de Ville and La Maison de l'Arbre d'Or. By standing in the middle of the square we had a panoramic view of exquisite sights in every direction.

After a bit of sightseeing we were hungry. I insisted that we find a seafood restaurant so I could try the fresh mussels that Belgium is famous for. We found a great restaurant where were were seated next to a nice warm fire blazing beside us. I ordered a platter of mussels which were served in a delicious marinera sauce with large plum tomatoes, celery and shallots. It was an excellent meal! After dinner the boys wanted to go out and sample some Belgium beer. As you all know, I'm not much of a beer drinker myself so I left them at Delirium (known for its wide variety of over 4,000 different beers) then took a little "me time."

I walked down to La Sablon the busy and fashionable street of avenue Louise. It was nice to finally have some alone time! I tried on rediculiously expensive boots way out of my price range, sampled some rasberry liquor filled truffels and bought some souvenirs. After this I went back to the hostel, took a nice, long, hot shower and relaxed. Kenneth and Jaime came stumbling in during the middle of the night and asked me where Mark was. Clearly, I had no idea......to make a long story short: Mark had passed out in the bathroom at Delirium and, thinking that he had already left, Kenneth and Jaime left him there! Luckily, he got back in one piece. But let me tell you sleeping in a room with three drunken boys does not guarantee a very good nights sleep. All three of them were snoring louder than freight trains, one threw up during the middle of the night and the other got chocolate all over the floor, our luggage and himself!

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Van Goah

Today I was about to experience something that I had been thinking about since I decided I was coming to Amsterdam....the World's Largest Collection of Works by Vincent Van Gogh!!! Kenneth and I woke up early and took the tram to the Museum because we both knew we wanted to spend hours there! It was everything I imagined and more! Some of the masterpieces included the Sunflowers, Irises, Fishing Boats on the Beach, The Bedroom and Wheatfield with Crows. The museum also housed an extensive collection of works of art by other 19th century painters and sculptors. I had already seen part of the collection when it was on tour at the National Gallery several years ago but having the opportunity to see the full permentant collection in AMSTERDAM was AMAZING!!!

After the museum we walked toward the Jordan District and saw the Anne Frank House. This is where Anne Frank and her family and friends lived secretly in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam until their arrest only months before the Liberation. I read Anne Frank's diary and it was a very reflexive experience to pay homage to the house, preserved exactly as it was in 1944.

The rest of the afternoon we walked through the shopping districts and picked up some souvenirs-Mark even tried on a pair of Dutch wooden clogs! european_travels_040.jpg

We passed by gorgeous flower markets. Even though it was the off season, I was astonished with all of the beautiful bouquets, bulbs and live plants. Tulips are the universal symbol of the country, they are also part of the Dutch flower trade which accounts for 60 percent of the world market in exported flowers! I would love to be here during the Tulip season to see the explosion of blossoms! On the way back we stopped by a grocery store and did a little shopping. Anyone that knows me well of course knows how much I love grocery shopping. The grocery stores in Europe are amazing! First of all, you can receive an entire meal off of their delicious free samples. Plus, the stores are filled with tons of fresh produce, a large international wine and liquor section and isle after isle of gormet chocolate from all over Europe. Kenneth and I picked up some goat cheese, wasa crackers, Italian pinot noir, another bottle of Amarelo and some delicious dark chocolate infused with ginger (Lindt). We enjoyed this and of course some sweet mary jane then climbed into bed for our last night at Bob's.

I had a great time in Amsterdam. The people here were EXTREMELY relaxed and very down to earth. The general standard of living is very slow paced and easy going. However, for me I think it was almost too slow paced. I have a feeling if I lived here, I would never be able to accomplish anything or get anything done. The city also had a very touristy feel to it and almost reminded me of a European Atlantic City, lol. Of course the canals, bridges, and architecture was very European and well preserved, I left like a lot of the culture has been destroyed by the sex and drugs. But, oh well, isn't that why most people come here?!

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RED Light District

european_travels_010.jpgToday I woke up to the company of my 15 other suite mates. Luckily most of them were still asleep. I got dressed quickly and went downstairs to the lounge for my complimentary breakfast. We were each served two slices of bread with jelly, a hard boiled egg and a cup of tea. This breakfast wasn't much to write home about but the joint that we smoked to accompany it certainly was! All of the other people (dirty hippies) in the lobby of Bob's were smoking as well and it was literally so foggy in there I could barely see who was sitting next to me. We went out to hit some more coffee shops and do some shopping. (I should probably mention the vast amounts of bicycles that are EVERYWHERE! There are even huge parking garages just for bikes, no cars. A friend warned me to watch out for them and they were certainly right. All of the streets have a seperate lane for bikes and you need to be extremely cautious when crossing the street.)

Back in highschool I was friends with a foreign exchange student named Arne who is from Germany. Thanks to facebook, we have kept in touch with each other over the years and he was coming to Amsterdam today to meet me! We met up at a coffee shop and it was absolutely great to see him! He brought two of this German friends with him and they were both very friendly. We all ordered delicious hot chocolates made with heavy, heavy rich cream and shared joints with some other travelers. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the tree lined canals and exploring the windy streets all filled with delightful boutiques and decorative houses. We even went on a canal cruise where we saw beautiful gothic style bridges and cozy houseboats. We finished off our afternoon with some "space cookies" and then went back to Bob's for a nap.

Kenneth woke me up from my nap with a nice big glass of Amarelo. This is South Africa's traditional liquor. It tastes like Bailey's and is delish! We polished off two bottles of this and then headed out. We walked to a square filled with street performers swallowing fire, performing magic tricks and playing multiple instruments at one time! We found a fun bar with a live band where we met up with the other Germans and had a great time!

After lots of drinking, dancing and smoking we decided it was time to go to the RED LIGHT DISTRICT!!! First, I would just like to confirm that-Yes, all of the rumors you have heard are true. The streets of the District are all lined with scantily clad girls standing in their windows trying to entice young American tourists into their panties! By this time Kenneth, Jaime and I were the only three left standing. Everyone else was back at Bob's passed out....and thats clearly where Jaime should have been. While walking from the bar to the District he stopped 4, yes 4 different times for 4 orders of Dutch fries smothered with mayonnaise. Apparantly he was having a very serious case of the munchies. So, as we browsed through the District shopping for girls he was stuffing his face with these mayonnaise laden fries! However, surprisingly enough this didn't keep the girls from noticing him and giving him a little peak! I have to say, the Red Light District is quite a dirty place. There were lots of sex shops filled with various toys, creams and other objects that I probably shouldn't mention. After discovering that the average prostitutes rate is 50 Euro, we called it a night and went back to Bob's.

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Mark+Autobahn=Death Wish

We left the city of Berlin and were on our way to Amsterdam!

Two of Mark's friends were traveling with us. They both seemed very nice. Kenneth is from South Africa and has quite a charming accent! He also speaks 7 languages including Dutch, German, French, Arabic and several others. Mark's other friend is named Jaime, who I had previously met in Philly last summer. We stopped to grab some snacks and hit the road. Now, for those of you who have never traveled by car in Europe: Let me explain the Autobahn. Supposedly the Autobahn is the pinnacle of the German driving experience, perhaps the ultimate in driving all together. Drivers literally FLY down these freeways. There are no speedlimits and apparantly most general driving rules and regulations don't apply. Mark sailed onto the onramp and immediently reved our little Volvo up to 160 KM which is approximately 100 miles per hour. However, it wasn't the speed that bothered me. Mark was racing up behind drivers traveling at half of his speed, flashing his high beems then swerving around them. After several near panic attacks I decided that I just needed to go to sleep and hope to arrive there in one piece.

When I woke up later luckily we were all still alive. Mark was crusing at a smooth 200 KM which is about 125 MPH. I decided to keep my eyes off the speedometer and enjoy the scenery. I glanced out the windows and saw immense windmills in every direction, as far as I could see. They were absolutely amazing! I couldn't believe how advanced these sources of alternative energy were. The American's should really use this as a guide to avoid some of our excessive pollution and waste problems.

We arrived in Amsterdam about 9PM and when we showed up at Bob's Youth Hostel, I knew I was in for a real treat. Let me tell you, this place was really something. When we walked in the door there were about 15 hippies sitting around in the lobby smoking various joints, bubblers and bongs. The walls were covered in movie posters, graffiti, signatures and snapshots. This place reminded me of the Manson commune! To add to the experience, we were staying in a 16-person room with both males and females. Can you imagine!? Anyway, I tried not to let this bother me and we headed out to explore. We grabbed some dinner and then wandered down the tiny cobbelstone streets along the remarkable canals and seductive buildings. Most of the streets were filled with coffee shops, famous for selling the largest assortment and best quality of marijauna in the world. We made our rounds and sampled blueberry nugs, sour diesel, Mexican hash and fresh kief. Luckily we somehow made it back to Bob's that night and thanks to my altered state I was able to sleep soundly among 13 other strangers!

Posted by veranoamor 13:41 Comments (0)

Welcome to the land of the DONER!

After rushing through an alumni networking lunch, I raced back to my apartment, did my last minute packing and headed for the airport. I boarded my plane to Brussels, Belgium and was delighted to be seated next to a cute twenty seven year old lawyer that lives in Dupont Circle....(this was quite a relief compared to the obese men I'm usually placed beside, who are binge eating strombolis the entire flight.) LOL! My new friend's name is "Fritz" and he happens to be the only "Fritz" I've ever met aside from my father. Anyway, we chated for most of our 7 hour flight which went by rather quickly. We arrived in Brussels at 7AM and headed directly to the airport bar for my first taste of Belgium beer!

After my short layover I boarded my plane for Berlin where Mark was waiting to meet me. Germany was FREEZING! It was snowing lightly when I arrived and the air was absolutely frigid. Mark and I went to pick up our spiffy Volvo stationwagon that we were renting for our trip to Amsterdam and he gave me a quick tour of Berlin. (We had nearly 4 serious accidents just while on this "quick tour" so I was beginning to get a little nervous for the 6 hour drive we had ahead of us on the Autobahn.) Before leaving we stopped at a take away restartant for a Doner. By definition, a Doner kebab is made of meat cooked on a vertical split and sliced to order. The meat may be lamb, beef, chicken or some other type of unidentified "mystery meat." I decided to opt for the vegitatian option with falafel. It is very similar to Middle Eastern dishes such as gyros or shawarma and is served with lots of veggies, subway style, made to order. The German's add lots of extra pickled cabbage which makes it delish!

Now we are enroute to Amsterdam, back to Berlin in several days!
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Posted by veranoamor 08:49 Comments (0)

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