I had a really great run into Brussels, on bicycle routes which run along the river. I got into town a little bit after noon, and spent the day wandering around and seeing what I could see. I went by the botanical gardens, the Grand Place, the major city park, the cathedral, and some other major sites. The city is great, but once again sells copious amounts of beer and unhealthy foods to a weary traveller. Around lunch time I got in a line behind a bunch of locals at a sandwich shop, and figured I would get whatever they got (for an authentic experience). I ended up with a Mitraillette, a sandwich filled with french fries, meat, lettuce, and sauce. Awesome.
The city is my first place on the route where French is the predominant language. Belgium is divided between French, Dutch and German (very small) speaking parts, and Brussels happens to be a French speaking island inside Flanders, where they speak Dutch. It is very strange hearing two official languages in close proximity...everything and everyone is bilingual. Even the street signs are in both French and Dutch.
Another thing that I found pretty surprising is the dominance of graffiti in some areas. There are tags all over historic buildings that look like they belong in the Washington Mall. It is hard for me to imagine a hundred kids tagging Able Lincoln everyday, and a guy with a pressure washer having to clean it on a daily basis.
In the evening I called Klaas, who I met at the Palingsfestival, and who is letting me sleep on his couch. We ended up going bowling with the same group of people from the night before We drove almost back to where I had started that morning in order to get to the place (slightly discouraging). On the way though, we passed the Atomium, which I hadn't noticed as I ran past in the morning (how one doesn't notice a massive building that represents an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times...I don't know).
I definitely did not do extremely well with the bowling. It's a good thing I'm not trying to bowl across Europe.
03 June 2009