The very last stop on our travel tour has finally arrived and we are in Brussels, the capital of Belgium. Not only is it Belgium's capital city, but also, Brussels also happens to house the headquarters for the UN. Home to nearly 2 million inhabitants, Brussels is definitely Belgium's most international and vibrant city.
Brussels is more of a hip and young city filled with bars and breweries. We found it difficult to locate a coffee shop, but if you want a beer, no problem, you've got at least three options on every street in town. The city is dotted with important political buildings including both the Flemish and French speaking governments as well as the European Union offices and meeting places. It is a city where three languages are spoken, including Flemish, French and Dutch. As in most countries, you can usually get by with your English too. Thank goodness! The day we were there was a Rainy Day, but then again, my Dad once told me that there is no month of the year without rain in Belgium. So, what you see is what you get.
Here we are in one of Brussels' Main Squares. It is a small, yet quaint plaza that would be so lovely on a sunny day. This plaza exemplifies that small town feel that Brussels seems to have despite it being a major metropolis.
See, we weren't the only ones who braved the rain. Locals are used to dressing the part for this weather. Bundle up in warm clothes, water-proof jackets, rain boots and don't forget your umbrella.
Le Grand-Place was just around the corner. The 17th century architecture in this central plaza illustrates the social and cultural life of the period in this important political and commercial center.
As we went on, we found more winding alleyways leading to more cobblestone streets with endless breweries, bars, pubs and shops. Seemed to be a great place for the single life where you would have a plethora of social options at your fingertips.
We knew we were getting close to the famous Mannequin-Pis, the famous statue of the little boy peeing, because we began to see images of him everywhere. We didn't really know what to expect, so we kept looking everywhere, keeping our eyes peeled for a large statue.
When we finally ran into the Mannequin-Pis, we were thoroughly disappointed. THAT'S it, we though to ourselves? But, it's so tiny! Do you see the little statuette in the fountain below? Yes, there he is, that is the famous Peeing Boy of Brussels. I don't know why or how he ever became famous, but he did!
Below, you can see that we ran into some more impressive architecture. Everywhere you turned, there were more streets to explore, more architecture to gaze at and more chocolate shops imploring you inside.
Brussels has some wonderful Shopping Areas but we didn't have the time or energy to find most of them during our brief visit. We did, however, run into Passage Du Nord, an indoor shopping arcade in the city. Outside of it was a popular shopping street. The high-end fashion part of town is a short drive away and we didn't have time to see it during our visit. It's called Avenue Louise and it's a 3 km long shopping area in a beautiful part of town.
Just a few minutes away from the shopping street we were just on, we began running into the Political Buildings. The buildings below are of Flemish origin and are just a few of dozens more in the area.
And then we came across, yet again, another new neighborhood within Brussels filled with eateries and food galore. It was such a cute area and my pictures just don't do it justice. I was so impressed with all the little neighborhoods within Brussels which help to make this capital city feel like a small town. Lo and behold, we also discovered (by accident) a red-light district in town, which I had utterly no idea was in Brussels. It was quite an experience to say the least.
We wouldn't have time to visit the Grand Palace, one of the main attractions in town. We were told it was a definite must-see while in town. Alas, there's always next time.
And even more popular is the Atomium, a grandiose structure built for the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels. In those large aluminum balls, there are restaurants, offices and all kinds of activities going on! Also a great view from the top ball.
And that concludes our trip to Belgium. From Brussels, we headed straight to the airport in Liege where we discovered a line full of Israelis ready to check-in for their flight to Tel Aviv. On the lips of everyone in line was the news of Gilad Shalit who had been released earlier that day after five and a half long years in captivity where no one knew whether he was dead or alive. It was a wonderful day to head back to Israel after being a month away.