Last week I got the opportunity to travel to Belgium for a few days. Two friends from school (Kate and Lena) and I thought it would be a nice getaway. We found a 20 Euro plane ticket on RyanAir and couldn’t pass it up.
We realized that the trip fell one week after the Paris attack and that Belgium had been under the spotlight. We decided to go anyway. The first night we stayed in Brussels at a Hostel outside the center. After a bit of walking around, we found the place. We arrived pretty late and went to bed soon after. Of course not until we had a quick Belgium beer – I choose a Trappist Triple. Beer was one of the main things I was excited about. Germany has good beer, but they lack variety. I think the Germans are very proud of the original ‘Bier.’ The craft beer and microbrewery craze is just starting to pop up. Belgium on the other hand is a mecca for delicious dark, sour and fruity beers.
On Friday we got up and took the train to Brugge. This is a tiny city about an hour west of Brussels. Belgium in general is very small. Everywhere you look in this city is beautiful. It did seem to be a bit of a tourist town, but still very charming and not too crowded. Below are a few shots (more of facebook)
The original Michelangelo – Madonna with Child
Brugge City Square
Saturday morning we woke up with plans to go back to Brussels and explore that city. We checked our phones and realized Brussels had been placed on lock down. The Metro was closed, all the major sites were closed and police were taking over the streets. The reason for this was that Brussels moved to the higher terror alert. A few of the individuals involved with the Paris attacks had traveled back to Brussels where they lived. It was thought they may be planning another attack and it was best to stay away from crowds and events.
This news was a bit jarring. We knew there was some risk, but didn’t think the city would actually be shut down. We made a quick decision to stay in Brugge for the day/night and then take the train all the way back to Brussels airport on Sunday. We spoke with our current hostel, who was clueless about the news. Unfortunately, they also didn’t have any extra beds. We called a few places and found a brand new hostel on the other side of the city (I’ll discuss hostels in more detail on a post about accessibility).
We spent the day eating more chocolate, roaming the city and drinking delicious beer. Oh and we also ate tons of fries. Belgium is known for their yummy fries and sauce. Additionally, the Christmas Market was open on the square so we had Gluhwein (hot spiced wine).
On Sunday we took a train back towards Brussels and stopped in Gent. This was about halfway to Brussels. Another adorable city with many gothic looking buildings. I think Gent was much bigger and the ‘old/traditional’ part didn’t seem to stretch throughout the entire city. That day was a bit cold as well. Here a few snaps from our walk.
Overall, I think I liked Brugge better than Gent. Now, we were only in Gent for a few hours, but it didn’t have the same adorable feeling as Brugge. Brugge felt a little like a fairy tale – cute roads and tiny houses, horse drawn carriages and Christmas lights!!
We made it back to the airport and to no surprise there was quite a bit more security. It was still very busy, but there were many more police with large guns. I don’t think we ever felt too unsafe, but it was still a weird experience. I think the hardest part is that you never know when something could have happened. Obviously, the events in Paris were unexpected and it could happen again anywhere. We were glad we didn’t risk anything by seeing Brussels. We’ll have to wait for the next trip to see that city.