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Published: November 11th 2018
All right, I'm back to try to be "back on track" with my entries. Still running over one year behind!
Summer 2017 came and I was gone again! Decided to make a 5-week trip to Europe, mostly to see family and friends, some of whom I did not see for 5 years! Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Netherlands
I arrived in Amsterdam
in the morning, the capital and largest city in the Netherlands with 800 000 inhabitants. I immediately went to see a cousin of mine. Later on I headed further to my uncles house where I stayed for two nights. That same night I met a former student of mine and the next day I spent most of it in the city centre of Amsterdam with another cousin and I took advantage and did some shopping! I left almost all of the shopping stuff at my uncle's since I'd come back to Amsterdam again before flying back to Curaçao. Amsterdam remains full of tourists and although I love spending a day there, I would never want to live there. Too crowded, too expensive to stay (hostels costing 80 EUR a night or even more, what the hell?!).
It's worth a visit by strolling along all the canals, bridges, visit the museums etc. but all that crowd (especially the drunk Brits at night during weekends) and the exorbitant prices makes it a bit overrated in my opinion. As a backpacker I would have probably skipped Amsterdam if I didn't have family/friends there.
After two nights in Amsterdam, I continued to Rotterdam
for two nights too. The second largest city of the country, with about 600 000 inhabitants, is a harbour city. It's the city where I spent my 6 years living in the Netherlands from 2001 tn 2007 and it's always great to be back there for some time! Here I met with four cousins, some good friends and two other former students, one of whom I taught in the Netherlands back in 2004. Since I used to live in the Netherlands I did not do any real sightseeing and visits to this country are mostly to catch up with loved ones like I did this time. Rotterdam has a much more modern appeal compared to Amsterdam, since it was bombed by Nazi-Germans during the Second World War and was re-build afterwards. This makes it an interesting
city worth visiting for two/three days due to the modern, distinctive architecture, art and also nightlife. Brussels, Belgium
From Rotterdam I took a bus to Brussels, where I stayed three days. It was my second time in Brussels. The first visit was a daytrip in 2007 so this time I was able to see more of the city. The reason to stop in Brussels, capital and largest city of Belgium with 1.1 million inhabitants, was to catch up with my friend and former colleague Louis. We worked together at the hotel in New Zealand back in 2014 and became good friends. Without a doubt he's one of the best friends (if not the best) that I made during my 2.5 years travelling and working abroad. He lived in Paris and we decided to meet half way. Besides, I had already been to Paris (2004) and he had never been to Brussels. I arrived late in the morning and went to the hostel and checked-in. About two hours later "mon frère", like we call each other, arrived. Glad to see each other again after 3 years and had a lot to catch up since we didn't speak
to each other a lot in between. Our first stop was at the "Belgian Comic Strip Center". I've been a big fan of Belgian comics since little, Tin Tin most of all. Other comics I liked were Suske & Wiske (Spike & Suzy in English) and the much older "Bram Jager en zijn buur". The last two were not shown at the museum, but Tin Tin was and also the famous "Asterix and Obelix". It was a very interesting visit, I'm glad that we went and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We left the museum without any particular plan, the only visit I really planned was the comics museum. I had a map and we continued towards the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, built in the early 16th century. Like most cathedrals of this age, the inside is pretty impressive. The most interesting thing was the basement of the cathedral, where you can see the excavation of a Romanesque church dating from the 11th century. The foundations of this Romanesque church and its so called "Westbau", a construction west of the church which served as a fortified refuge for the people in the Middle Ages, were found during restoration
works between 1983 and 1989 on the Gothic-style built cathedral.
We headed further to the "famous" fountain of a little boy peeing: the Manneken Pis. It's like a "landmark" in Brussels but you might be disappointed when you see how small it is. The bronze statue was originally placed there in 1619 and the current version dates from 1965. In the meantime we had a Belgian waffle, can't visit Belgium without having one unless you're diabetic I'd say. You won't walk much more than 10m without finding a place selling waffles in the city centre. We had some food and ended up on the main square of the city: Grote Markt. This square is surrounded by stunning, historical buildings with beautiful façades, including the Brussels City Hall dating from the 15th century. At night the buildings are lit and look even more stunning! There was a stage on the square where the event "Brussel Danst" (Brussels Dances) was held and many people gathered there. There were stands selling drinks and food. We remained there and enjoyed the music until late while we had a couple of beers (I think Louis had a few too many since he was "very"
happy all the time, lol).
The next day we left the hostel late in the morning to see more of the city. Again we had no real plans but decided to head towards the Atomium, also a landmark in Brussels. The steel construction with nine balls connected to each other, was built in 1958 for the World Expo that was held. It was supposed to be removed after the Expo but it's still standing to this day! We couldn't be bothered to go inside though. Our next stop was both the buildings of the European Commission and the European Parliament. The European Union has no official capital but could be considered as such. At the European Parliament there is a sign with "European Parliament" written in 24 languages spoken throughout the union which contains 28 member-states (when the United Kingdom withdraws on 29 March 2019, it will become 27). The parliament building is big and consists of a lot of glass, which gives it a truly "powerful" and statuesque look!
We headed towards the "Parc de Cinquantenaire" (Jubelpark) with its "Arc du Triomphe" (triumphal arch), built in 1880 by Leopold II to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence. And
yes, it's the same Leopold II who was responsible for the atrocities in Congo. Just next to the arch you'll find the Royal Army Museum. Beautiful and colourful due to the symmetrically planted flowers and plants is the Albertine Square. The view from the top over the park and the city is very nice! We had some dinner early evening and later Louis had to leave back to Paris. It was just a short time but was awesome to catch up. I stayed one more night in Brussels and didn't do much the next day. I slept in, did a bit of work on the laptop and later I met with a former classmate from Curaçao, Queenayda, who lives near Brussels and we had lunch at the Grote Markt. Late in the evening I took a bus towards my next destination. More in my next entry!
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