Belgium

I have known about Belgium for a long time. I was a geography buff as a kid.  Also because Belgium had (and probably still does) a decent field hockey team. Hockey is India’s national sport. My family is from Coorg, where hockey is more than just a game. So I grew up playing and following world hockey scene. I also recall long time back, Jet Airways operated on its own with Brussels as its international hub before they married Etihad. So, I wasn’t totally oblivious to Belgium’s existence.

One thing that I sub consciously knew but never realised was that Belgium is a foodie heaven. Belgian beer, waffles, frites, chocolates and brussel sprouts don’t get their name for nothing. That is a lot for country marginally bigger than greater Los Angeles area. Well done, Belgie!

I set out for two hour drive to Antwerpen from Amsterdam Centraal station in BMW 5 series. Ten minutes into highway I was flipped a finger by a fellow driver. Why? Because I was being a (pseudo) American snob. Europeans are uptight about slower vehicle being on right lane. We in American, don’t really care about it. So, I was driving at 80kmph on fast lane. This guy behind me tails me for a good 4 minutes, passes me from the left and flips a finger. Ouch! Lesson learnt.

An hour later I crossed the border and enter Belgium. I have crossed country borders by road in south east Asia. But zooming through as if you are crossing California-Nevada border was new to me. I’d give a cookie to the guy that enforced Schengen regulation.

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I am now in Belgium

I checked in at the hotel and went out for dinner. I went to super Flemish restaurant and ordered a lasagna. That most likely was the best Lasagna I ever had.

I woke pretty relaxed next morning and had a sumptuous Belgian waffle for breakfast. What else, right? Then I set out to walk the streets of Antwerp.

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While Antwerp is a really beautiful city, Ghent was the place I really wanted to check out.  It is architecturally brilliant, calmly medieval and unlike Brugge, its not crowded.

Drive from Antwerp to Ghent was around an hour. While the city of Ghent is big, the part I was interested in – old town was clustered and close to each other. So a few hours there was just fine for a walking tour. I walked around Galvensteen castle, Belfry, Saint Nicholas church and various monuments and took a lot of pictures.

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After sunset we checkin at the our Hostel. Hostel Uppelink is centrally located and has a good view of St.Nicholas church.

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View from the hostel room

That night we went out for a typical flemish dinner. Chicken meat ball filled with delicious gravy (sauce?) inside with some good belgian beer.

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Dinner

Later that night we did some bar hopping in Ghent. Since Ghent houses a university and it begin a relatively small town, the crowd was young and fun. I made it back to the hostel at 2AM and crashed.

Next day I woke up decently early. But turns out Ghent doesnt come to life before 9:30 AM. While the metro was running and people were all over it, every other restaurant was closed till 9:30. Heck, even starbucks didn’t open till 9AM.

I had a delicious belgian waffle for breakfast for second day in a row.

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Plan for today was to drive to Mechelen. Spend an hour or two and drive to Brussels. Drive to Mechelen took about 2 hours with fuel stop, gas stop etc.

Mechelen is a quaint, small town. I managed to get this panorama when the city square was deserted for a few seconds.

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Then I drove to brussels which was very close. I check in at Marriott, freshened up and set out to explore Brussels.

I started off at Grand Place. It is one of Europe’s iconic public squares. It is beautiful. Then I walked the streets of Brussels. I was surprised at the amount of graffiti on public walls in this City.

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Couple of beers later, I called it a day and that was a wrap on Belgium.

Next day, I head to France (Nope, not Paris) and spend the night in Luxembourg City.

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