I think through my traveling experiences in the past 15 months, I’ve come to find myself enjoying the small towns more than the big cities. Sometimes, you just end up getting lost in the hustle and bustle of big city life, contrasted against being able to lose yourself in small towns.
While my first stop by train after Amsterdam was into Brussels, the seat of the EU, I immediately hopped on another train out the morning after to a small town called Brugge, just about 100 km from Brussels, and about an hr’s ride away by train. On the way towards the city center, I kept stopping and taking photos of picturesque cobblestone roads, narrow houses, and old medieval architecture. And as I was making my way around, there was a certain charm I felt to the place as the people and town hadn’t woken up yet (even though it was nearing 9am). But sure even, within the next hour, all the various shops and cafes and restaurants opened up, people spilled out into the streets, and the previously idyll roads sprung to life.
I did a morning and night walking tour, and I had the same guide for both tours again (just like Amsterdam). He was a self-admitted history buff, which I do enjoy, but I think he may have gone deeper into the rabbit hole than was enjoyable for a general overview of Brugge. But it was great though, to see/hear about how this small place was once the center of Europe, and you can just use the combination of context clues and your imagination to see how nations from all over used to call to Brugge for trade (Street names and architecture influences).
Being in Belgium, I felt that I just had to go visit a chocolate museum and beer museum. Maybe should’ve skipped the beer museum and just gone straight to beer (Admission + 3 tasters was 14 €. 4 tasters was 10 €.) Some good stuff here, including a fruity drink that I got by accident, but still enjoyed. Got myself a Belgian waffle too. Do all the touristy things! Haha.
Amsterdam is pretty well known for their canals, but Brugge too has its fair share of canals, with its main inhabitants including ducks and swans. Supposedly, the story goes that a favorite adviser to Emperor Maximilian of Austria named Pieter Lanckhals was accidentally beheaded, so as punishment, Brugge would have to have swans there. Apparently Lanckhals can roughly be translated to long neck, and swans have long necks… Yeah. Random, but entertaining nonetheless.
Only thing that sucked about Brugge was that, in catching a train out back to Brussels, I had gotten to the station at just after 10 pm, but the next train out was at 11:20pm or so. Too unfortunate.
Brussels. The next day. As I mentioned, seat of the EU, and definitely a far larger city than Brugge. It took like 30 minutes to walk from one side of town to the other, but it was like a 20 minute walk from my hostel in Brussels to the city center. I thought that, since I was returning to Brussels for my flight home, I might have some more time to explore it later. Also did a walking tour here, and our tour guide was pretty outrageous, in an entertaining way.
It ended up raining on and off again, so by this time I’m pretty done with rain, and tired and hungry. Our tour guide had mentioned this awesome place for mussels, so a small group of us made the trek over (20 minutes to it, in heavy downpour). When we got there, we found out it was only open for dinner. Fantastic. We found another joint and ended having some awesome moules frites (mussels and fries are a thing. idk) there, so that was fine. I hung out with this group for a little bit, as we saw the EU location (very much a let down), and the Belgian Arc de Triomphe, after which it was off to my next stop.
Apparently, you can buy bus tickets from a kiosk at a train station, which is a bad thing because you need to go through security and scan your train ticket to enter the airport if you arrive by train. So lucky me, I had to go purchase an actual train ticket to exit. Lame. But airport = chance for me to pop into a lounge (Thanks American Express Platinum – Priority Pass), and had some quick dinner (and beer!) before hopping on my 40 min delayed Ryanair flight out to Bratislava. And my backpack, the Tortuga, is officially a few cm over sized according to Ryanair dimensions, but I had no issues getting it onboard.
Note, if you’re ever flying Ryanair, be sure to go to the ticket counter before security to get a “visa check” if you’re a non-EU citizen. That’s just them checking your passport and signing off/stamping the boarding pass. But you can and may be denied boarding if you fail to do so. So be aware. That’s all.
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