I landed in Brussels this morning after flying from Phoenix by way of Newark. I got up at 3 a.m. yesterday to catch my flight out of Phoenix, and I didn't get any sleep on the planes, so I am quite groggy, causing me to act even more punch-drunk than normal. I don't deal well with sleep deprivation.
The landing in Brussels during a windstorm was quite exciting. Our jumbo jet was bouncing all over the sky in the wind gusts as we approached the runway, and after the plane touched down, it swerved a few times on the runway at 120 miles per hour before the pilots got it rolling in a straight line. I suppose such landings are normal, but I would prefer not to have too many such experiences.
The only way to get adjusted to the eight-hour time difference is to stay up as long as possible and then sleep 10 hours or so and get up at a normal local waking time tomorrow. So, instead of taking a nap when I arrived, I wandered out in the cold wind to see the sights.
You may be thinking that my first stop would be that giant model of an atom that was built here when Brussels held the World's Fair in 1958. No! No! No! The first stop on a tour of Brussels has to be Manneken-Pis. He is a statue and is pictured below. Manneken is Dutch for "little man," and pis is Dutch for.......you can probably figure that out without my help.
Brussels is a nominally French-speaking city in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. I say "nominally," because the city is rapidly becoming English speaking thanks to its being the capital of the European Union. Outside of Brussels, the Dutch\-speaking Flemish almost all speak excellent English. The French-speaking Walloons, well, they have a bit of a problem with languages.
After visiting Manneken-Pis, the next thing a tourist should do is grab a couple of Belgian beers. The country produces more than 1,100 brands of beer. Enough of these and you'll be standing up there on the pedestal alongside the Manneken.
|This store has about 20% of the Belgian beer brands|
The languages here may be French and English, but the architecture of the older buildings strikes me as Dutch. The buildings in the background in the picture below look like the style that is also common in Amsterdam.
I was flabbergasted to stumble across clam shells in the old part of Brussels. Those of you who read my Camino blog entries will recognize them as the way markers of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It turns out that some people begin the pilgrimage in Antwerp, pass through Brussels, and hike through France to pick up the Camino at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Porte.
|Marker for the Camino de Santiago|