27 August 2011

Visiting Brussels

Before returning home to Galway I spent my last day in Belgium visiting Brussels. It was a very warm and wet day, so I had to hide from the rain in shops. Sadly, on this occasion it was not only a lack of money stopping me from shopping but a severe lack of baggage space. I did, however, quite quickly decide that I needed to buy more chocolate to take back as gifts, only I had no bag space. Not lonly that, but the handles of my handbag had broken a couple of days before. So what better reason to buy a new bag? I found one for only 10 euros! It is huge (exactly what I needed for all that chocolate) and very colourful. So other than exploring shops I did my best to explore the city, but I got a bit bored of looking at buildings. I ate too many waffles as well. But anyway, here are some nice buildings. They look more impressive in real life where you can really notice all the decoration and statues. So this one is very gothic-y looking and is called the King's House, but I'm not sure if it ever really was the King's house.

This building was on the Grand Place, something that all belgian cities had, but in this place also called by it's Flemish name, Grote Markt. Very confusing for everything to have two names. It was a large cobbled area surrounded by nice looking old buildings, some decorated with a lot of gold. Full of tourists of course but it was a nice little area. Below is the Town hall, but because of the light in the photo you can't see all of the pretty gold decoration.

After I got bored of shopping and the city centre I went off to find the cathedral, because that is what a tourist does. It was a very large, impressive cathedral, on the top of a little hill so that you can get a nice view of it. The inside was very large with lots of stained glass windows and a huge pipe organ. While on my way to the cathedral I met another tourist, a Chinese girl trying to find the cathedral so we located it together and it was quite nice to have somebody to chat to for an hour. Being a tourist on your own is quite boring, I think the sights would probably be more impressive if there was somebody else to discuss them with.

After the cathedral I found the Royal Palace, in a very roundabout manner, only to find that it was not overly impressive. Some of it was nice, some of it was boring. But generally isn't that the way with a royal palace? A castle might be impressive but a palace is just a big fancy place to live in.

Everything in Brussels was far closer than it seemed on the map so after only a short walk I arrived that the Palais du Justice. Which had a lot of impressive potential with it's big golden dome, but sadly was covered in scaffolding! Isn't that always the way! It was at the top of a bit of a hill, so you could get a view of the city. Except you mainly got a view of boring buildings, which are all tall and blocking the view of the old buildings in the centre of the city. So it wasn't an amazing view but did have an elevator to save you from having to walk back down the hill.

On my way back into the city centre I came across this random piece of old stone wall and tower, in between a couple of normal, modern buildings. There was no information plaque to explain its presence.

Finally, before leaving the city there was one last sight that I had to find. The tour guides and stuff go on about this fountain statue, called the Mannekin Pis, which features a little boy peeing. Now, why this was a must-see I have no idea, it's a pretty common feature of fountains. But I went to find it just the same. It was not so easy to find, because I was expecting something much bigger. I finally figured it out when I cam across a small crowd of people taking photos. The statue itself? Surely only about 30 cm high! I have looked it up to try figure out why it is so famous, and why it is an icon of the city. I did not actually read anywhere that this was the first statue/fountain of its kind but I did read that replicas are common in many parks and gardens. So if all the others are replicas, could it be that this is the first? Though it is not actually because the actual one is in the Town Hall where it can be kept safe, because people keep trying to steal it. Anyway, that was it, the end of my visit. I left with too many waffles in my stomach and lots of chocolate in my bag.

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