– it abounds with interesting and unique architecture. art nouveau really took off there.
– it has a strong history in surrealist art with magritte (the ‘this is not a pipe‘ guy) and delvaux. and there’s a pretty good set of museums with works from older masters like rubens, bruegel, heironymous bosch and jacques-louis david.
– the cuisine is excellent. either the traditional belgian food or french/european. you don’t have to have the mussels & chips, though you must try those at least once while there.
– it possesses one of the world’s most beautiful squares, the grand place.
– you might have heard of the famous pissing statue they have there. the manneken pis. a bit overrated(it’s so small) but worth a chuckle. they dress the little dude in a different outfit every day and he goes full monty at nightfall. when we were there, he donned a japanese outfit(pictured) and a jockey’s uniform.
first and foremost though is the beer….oh, the beer. there are over 400 varieties in belgium alone, with the best being the trappist ales, in my opinion. i had a westmalle trappist, a tripel karmeliet, a straffe hendrik, and a delirium tremens (what a great name). check out the beer advocate for reviews on these and many more, including my hometown’s own evil empire swill. i know….only four beers in four days is pretty weak, but i had aussie girl holding me back. plus, i would’ve tried more, but i had some bad quiche or something and was out of action for a day. never even got to the lambics. i thought of my pals back in DC that worship the microbrews while i drank (what a great site for the next stufest, by the way).
of course, i wouldn’t forget to mention the waffles and the chocolate…or as homer would say, with drool spilling out of his mouth, “aghhhhhhhhhhhhh…choc-lit”. it was everywhere and in all shapes and sizes.
the highlight of the weekend was our day trip to bruges. it was an hour by train from brussels. what an amazing city! it was like being dropped into the 16th century. very clean with scenic, cobbled and tree-lined streets running alongside and over canals. stunning architecture. gabled townhouses with ten foot ceilings are the standard, unlike the british homes which are seemingly built for trolls(and skinny trolls at that). bruges’ town square (the markt) was even more beautiful than brussels’, which is really saying something.
all in all, i wasn’t expecting much from belgium and it really surprised me with what it had to offer. i definitely would like to visit again, maybe next time via the chunnel.