Never have I been to a place like Belgium. A place with so much to offer, a place with so much natural wealth, with so much beautiful architecture and so many glaring contrasts. Belgium for me represents two simple ideals. The first of which is diversity. Belgium is uniquely diverse. Each major city boasts residents from all over the worlds, incorporating the intricacies of life around the world into a mashup of cultures, a Belgian-creole if you will. A creole of languages, of beliefs, of societal values and of course food.
This incorpation of all things has left Belgium in a tough spot. It has now become one of the epicenters of terrorism, of negative media coverage and of the ugliness of society. Fortunately for Belgians, they can roll with the punches and keep on trucking forward through the hard times and the good ones. Belgians are resilient, strong and passionate about what they do and their identity, even if this identity may be fracturing the country at the base.
The second word that resonates with my time in Belgium is subtlety. Belgium is subtle and to the common traveler, its identity is inherently, hard to identify. Compared to France, Germany and the Netherlands, Belgium’s identity as a whole seems to be a simple mixture of the three, without having their own unique traditions, language and cultural traits. This however evident on the surface, is not the case beneath the water per say. Upon my first trip to Belgium in the summer of 2014, this was not apparent to me.
Belgium seemed like a weird combo of France and the Netherlands and not nearly as nice as either. My first trip to belgium didn’t leave me wanting to come back, but for this I can firmly say that I was wrong. Belgium has caught me hook, line and sinker. The vibes, the people and the landscape are all too beautiful not to appreciate to their fullest extent. My time in Antwerp has turned me into a believer, even into an enthusiast. I’m not saying that I fully understand what is at play here, but at least I can comprehend the subtlties now.
There is Wallonia, there is Flanders, there are contrasting opinions, theer isconflict. There is love, delight, pride and joy. This is the Belgium I have come to know. Whether you want to go somewhere French, or somewhere Dutch, or even somewhere oddly in between, Belgium, my friends, is for you.
Bruges and I have a love hate relationship. I know Bruges is nice, its beautful, its undeniably a good place to be. I know this. But in all honesty I probably had one of my worst traveling moments in Bruges and it is a place I really have no interest in ever seeing. The day I went there is was hot, like scorching for Belgium.
It was crowded and I spent my entire time stuck behind loud packs of audio guided tourists, squaking loudly in their native tongues, completely overpowering anything else around it. The line for the boat ride through the canals was longer than one could comprehend. The tipping point of this expiernce was paying 9 Euros for one of the worst ham and cheese sandwiches of my life, a so called croque monsiuer. I’m sorry Bruges, maybe in another life.
For being such a small city, Ghent is a fantastical conglomeration of modern and old, of extravagant and restrained. Something like a Jackson Pollack painting, crazy but with thought. Abstract yet real art. The old town of Ghent is filled with huge catherdrals which dominate the city center in a way unlike any other place I have been. I went to Ghent with my buddy Manuel on a windy October day and spent about 4 hours there. After having been to other cities in Belgium, Ghent certainly didn’t blow my mind but it was hard to hate all the beauty that it had to offer.
They also have a refurbished castle in the middle of the city which truly has stood the test of time. The cool part about the castle is that it was used only for 200 years as an actual castle and then transformed into a pseudo torture chamber for about 500 years until its near destruction during WWII. I am happy its back in its former glory.
My one month in Antwerp was absolutely amazing. Not only has it become a new home for me and a starting point for my largest Euro trip to date, but it has become one of my favorite cities in Europe. It’s big without feeling to much like a city, it’s small without feeling claustrophobic. The people are nice, the food is good, the architecture rivals that of any one of Europe’s great cities. The ASH will always be a part of my memories here, being the place were I slept, worked, ate and made tons of friends. It was a perfect outlet and a wonderful place to be.
Antwerp itself is quite the place. Never before in my life have I been to a city as lively as Antwerp. The bars and clubs here are world class, the city is full of tourists and locals alike and the city puts on more events then any I have ever seen. Who knew that in one month I would go to a mascaradeball at a world class museum, see the red bull bmx and skateboarding championships, go to a 10000 student music festival with not just one stage but three, see some of the best Dutch rappers in the game, explore one of the best Saturday food markets in the world and go to the opening of a newly established LA central market-esque food show. I have lived the high life without spending nearly any money. I have become a tour guide, a party promoter, a night shift receptionist, a housekeeper, a tourist, a local and everything in between.
Antwerp will always hold a special place in my heart. It will be the first city I lived in out of college, the first place I really came into my own as a socialite, the first place Pierce became a part of who I am and the first place the food blog really became the center of my attention.
One day I will live in Brussels. Not for the city, not for everything that makes Brussels what it is but for how important the city has become in international politics. One day I will overcome the challenges of finding a job for a political science major and make an impact in this world, and that will be in the city of Brussels. Brussels itself is nice enough. The best thing about the city for me is the large outdoor parks they have, many of which are home to a large chateaus tucked away in the grassy pastures. Simply delightful.
I went to Liege for one reason and one reason only. Waffles. It is the name sake for the Belgian waffle that I have come to my during my time here. What I didn’t know is that the city is actually awesome as well. Its the most environmentally unique place I have been in Belgium with the city sitting on rolling hills and a large winding river. The old city was nice but most of it was under construction. Liege had the most attractive Bakeries and food stands I have found in Belgium and the smell of baked goods really did fill the air everywhere you went. The city felt much more industrial than the others, yet it certainly has its own charm. At the end of it all, the waffle was the least interesting part of my visit.
- Friets with Mayo
- Buckwheat Pancakes with cheese
- Liege and Brussels Waffles
- Mussels in Brussels
- Tripel d’Anvers
- Duvel Tripelhop
- Rochefort 8
- Tripel Karmeliet