Together in Brussels

Saturday, April 12, 2014

You know the feeling of going out on a Saturday night with your best friends? You know what a good time you have together? You know how good it feels to give a call to your bestie and meet her or him for a coffee an hour later in your favorite café, where you know the menu by heart, know what should be avoided and what the best cake is to eat with your Double Dutch or Caramel Mocha? You know that expression he or she makes when you admit that you couldn't resist texting that guy... again, even though you know you totally shouldn't have? You know how sincere and comforting their hug is?

Us in Bruges - post on Bruges coming up next, there was no way everything could fit into one post
I do, but I have to keep these moments vivid in my memory. Because I cannot have them anytime I want. I live abroad, so meeting my old friends requires a certain effort. It could be travelling back home for me, or them visiting me here. But actually, even if I lived in Serbia, I wouldn't be able to catch up with some of my closest friends on a daily basis. Or a weekly basis. Or even a monthly basis. My friends are the most intelligent and most ambitious people I know, and some of them just didn't feel that they could get enough knowledge in their areas if they stayed at home. In the past few years I witnessed them move away in all directions, looking for experiences, knowledge, degrees, jobs. China. Finland. Great Britain. Germany. Spain. Finally I moved away too.

Everytime somebody left, I felt both happy and sad. Happy for them, of course - and sad because I knew I would miss them. Yes, there is Facebook and mail and Skype and everything - but it's just not it. You want a living person next to you from time to time. You want to stroll the streets together, share a meal, laugh together, cry together if needed. On the other hand, us going to different parts of the world meant one more thing: now we had more places to explore together. My first such experience was going to London to meet a friend who lives in Helsinki. Then visiting my best friend in China two years ago. And then few months ago a friend from Barcelona just suggested that some of us could/should meet somewhere in Europe. In no time we opted for Brussels, purchased the tickets and booked the flat. Then there was the hard part: waiting for it!

Finally we met on the last Friday in March: Proka, Erna and me flying from Germany; Saška travelling by train from London; Ugi flying from Barcelona; and Team Belgrade - Jelena, Tijana, Srećko, Milan, Dimitrije, Ivan and Koši - flying from, well, Belgrade. Another girl should have been on that plane too, but she decided school duties come first and bailed on us. We forgave her, though. And missed her there!

It was such a good weekend. I'm looking forward to meet you guys somewhere else!

Brussels Recommendations:

Accomodation. We were 13 so we rented an apartment via Airbnb. Actually it was a garage turned into a living space - not really living, as it doesn't have any natural light, but for three to four days it was an excellent choice. The location was great, it was in the very city centre so we didn't have to spend any money on public transport. I already used Airbnb in Helsinki once and it was a really good experience - but if you're travelling more on a budget try some hostels (that was our idea at first but none of them wanted to have a group so big) or CouchSurf.

Sights. Enjoy the afternoon sitting in the central square called Grand Place / Grote Markt and having a beer (drinking is allowed in public). Take a look at Manneken Pis. It's actually quite small and you probably wouldn't notice that if there weren't so many people taking photos of it, but it's the most famous Brussels sight so it's a must.

Eating Out. The prices are more or less reasonable. Trying the fries or the Belgium waffle is a must! There are also a lot of Turkish/Arabic/Moroccan/etc. places where you can try their cuisine for just a few euros - and be superfull! I guess you should also try the chocolates, as the chocolate shops are everywhere. I managed to resist somehow (but then I bought a pack at the airport - because you cannot leave Belgium without having some Belgian chocolates. Mine were ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Favorite one: dark chocolate with pieces of raspberry - talk about foodgasm).

(When other people eat waffles, it looks easy, they wander around carrying the waffles and eating them with their little forks; that's why I thought people selling them also cut them in pieces... but no, you get an enormous waffle and this teeny tiny forkie so struggle with your waffle! Expression in the first photo says something like "how the hell am I going to eat this", then I slowly got it and finally tasted this delicious Belgian treat! But I have to admit I was a mess eating this, it wasn't as elegant as this first bite.)

Nightlife. The city centre is full of places to go out. We chose most randomly. One night we ended in a club that played weird nineties pop and techno and was full of girls not older than 16 - if I had been with someone else other than my group of friends who I always have a great time with, I would have probably left really early. Next day we went to a karaoke place. If you do care about the music, google the places - unfortunately I don't have a better suggestion :(

Drinking. You're in Belgium, so act so (of course if you're over 18). One word: beer. Delirium cafe offers more than 3000 varieties of beer from all over the world - but be reasonable, trying several is enough. I stuck to Belgian ones, and absolutely loved Pater Liuven Tripel. Delirium is a place full of tourists and almost everybody is cheerful and talkative, so expect to meet people while waiting to be served at the bar, at the table next to you or even on the way to the bathroom.

Other. The language spoken in Brussels is French, but the country is officially bilingual so you will see the street signs, menus and such in both French and Flemish. Don't worry if you don't speak any of them though - you can get away with English just fine. At many places with Spanish, too (that was a surprise to me, I'd never expect that). The city is quite dirty and there are beggars everywhere. But it's also extremely cute - cobblestone, sidewalk cafes, chocolate shops, flowers, nice buildings - cuteness overload! I fell in love with the city, and I think it's because of its two sides, the romantic one and the rough one. And the beer, let's not forget the beer. The others didn't really like it, but I would definitely want to go back there. Actually I loved it so much that I would consider living there if I spoke French.

Flower brooch H&M, ceramic speech balloon brooch Miona Stefanović, Gallery 1250

C'est bon - c'est Belge! I hope you enjoyed Brussels. I sure did.



Photo Credits. Some of the photos were taken by Tijana Grumić - the ginger one. Or any other people who got their hands on Tijana's camera.

P.S. Bruges

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