I really do love Brussels. The funny thing about it is that I really had no expectations for Brussels and no real desire to go to Belgium at all.
Luckily for me it was a cheap flight destination, I got lucky to couchsurf with Rafael, a man who became a good friend instantly, and along with all that I was introduced to a charming old world city that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
I love that Brussels is so proud of it’s comic heritage that intermingled with the ancient buildings are full scale murals of famous comic strips.
My flight from Dublin was a whopping 10 Euros thanks to a Ryan Air promotion. The thing with Brussels is that when you fly Ryan Air, you fly into Brussels South- Charleroi…actually nearly two hours from Brussels. So once at the airport, I caught a bus for 13 Euros to Brussels and then getting off at the Zuid (South) Station I walked through the dynamic Moroccan neighborhoods to Rafael’s place on the North side. The walk was only about 30 minutes, but the sounds, the smells, and the sights…really like walking through a Moroccan Medina.
Rafael greeted me when I arrived and we went out to one of his favorite Vietnamese restaurants. I had some very excellent Duck Pho (Pho by the way is Vietnamese noodle soup) and a coffee that I needed quite badly. One problem with those bargain flights is that they are usually not at the most convenient times, very early or very late. In this case, very early.
Brussels is one of the greenest cities around and in the center there is always some sort of Green display, in this case a house built of Pallets. Nice.
We also strolled by a sinkhole that had recently opened up in the middle of a busy street and then we wandered to a house owned by the city in which an artist had begun squatting. He fixed the house, opened it up, and turned it into a gallery. At this point the city decided to evict him. So he did what anyone in that situation would do.
HE CEMENTED HIS LEG IN THE DOORWAY SO THEY COULDN”T MOVE THE FURNITURE OUT!
Raf and I toured through the house, it was quite nice and he talked with the squatter for a while. The man said that since his mother was a potter and his father was a mason, he felt right at home with his leg cemented in.
Watch a video here: http://www.deredactie.be/cm/vrtnieuws.english/mediatheek_en/1.602653
In the centre of Brussels Jeroen Peters has been squatting a council house that has been empty for years. He has turned it into an art gallery. To keep a bailiff from turning him and his art out, he cast his foot in cement by the front door.
Later we sat at Raf’s and caught up like the old friends we now are. It really is the greatest joy of couchsurfing to meet strangers that become your good friends.
In the evening we grabbed a drink at a Spanish cultural center where a Spanish comic was making everyone laugh, but since neither of us have enough Spanish to get the jokes, we simply laughed because everyone else was.
So you start to get the idea why I love Brussels! It really is everywhere at once. The weather was rainy and grey, but I’ve lived in the Northwest enough, that doesn’t bother me.
(Originally posted 08 October 2009)