Today was pretty wild and we definitely experienced some problems with language. When we got off the train in Brussels, we went straight to the information desk and asked for a schedule of when the trains go to Mainz tonight before 7pm so that we could travel on the same day of our Eurail pass. This whole conversation was in a mix of French and English, I believe, so perhaps I got confused? He ended up giving us a print out of the trains "apres sept heure" (after seven). Not realizing the error, we assumed there just weren't any trains before 7, so we decided to stay the night in Brussels and see the lights of la Grand Place. We moved down to the tourism booth and the woman gave us slightly weird directions to la Grand Place. We eventually got there and went to the town hall tourism office to have them book us a hostel for the night. We dropped out backpacks at the hostel and then walked around.
I bought a box of chocolates for my family from this cute little store called "Swans." It was actually a really good deal. We got to pick out exactly which pieces we wanted and even got to sample a piece. You just can't beat free chocolate.
We then took pictures of la Grand Place, which Victor Hugo once described as the most beautiful square in the world. It really was pretty amazing. The architecture of the town hall and surrounding buildings was beautiful.
Next we saw the "Mannekin Pis."Â It's a small statue of a boy peeing. I guess this is the most laughed at statuein Belgium. The townspeople make him clothes and dress him up, which has got to be the cutest thing I've ever heard. They actually have the outfits on display in a museum.
From a pamphlet: "A legend says that a rich bourgeois had lost his only son in the crowd during popular festivities. After five days, he found him at the corner of the Etuve Street, doing what the little man is still doing.
"Another legend makesÂ us believe that a little boy saved the city by extinguishing, in his manners, the wick with which the enemies wanted to put the city on fire.
"It was in 1619 that Jerome Duquesnoy senior was entrusted by the Brussels tax collectors to make a statue in bronze of their famous citizen."
We tried to go to the puppet theatre and the King's Museum, but both were closed. We ate a waffle and went back to the hostel. After we had put our sheets on our beds and our room was all ready, I was looking at the time sheet we had for trains from Brussels to Mainz. I noticed one train he hadn't pointed out to us, which departed at 5:55 that same night. That would save us a day on our Eurail pass, and we had basically already seen everything we wanted, since a lot of it was closed. So we ran down to the front desk and convinced the lady to let us check out and she even gave us a full refund. So we packed up and headed out to the train station.
After chasing the train around for a bit--it was delayed and had to come in at a different platform--we got on and headed for Germany.
What I learned from Brussels:
-Belgian waffles are pretty good and pretty expensive.
-Belgian chocolates are soooo good and fairly inexpensive. Shop around to find a good store.
-Mannekin Pis is pretty cute.
-La Grand Place is beautiful. Worth the stop to see it.
-There isn't a whole lot to do in Brussels. Don't think you have to stay more than a day to see the highlights.
-Hostels are very nice about refunds.
-HI hostels are pretty strict about curfews and stuff, but are very clean and nice. They have the feel that they were set up by a concerned parent trying to be cool.
-Don't be afraid to switch plans at the last minute. It usually works out for the best.