Belgium

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The Brouhaha of Brugge

Yet another day trip to Brugge, and as the travel guides promised, that place is overhyped and insanely touristy. I reached there smack in the mid-morning of the weekend and a bustling market was already in place selling mostly old women’ clothing, lace, hardware and other bric-a-bracs. The lace shops are undoubtedly tourist traps but also hark back to the era when Brugge was a textile powerhouse, and lace was one of the many materials that merchants dabbled in during its heyday. I was momentarily outraged that I had to pay a good dollar for a map, but the soothing nature of the girl in the tourist office helped take...

A day in Antwerp

The foray in Antwerp began from the impressively massive Antwerpen Centraal Train station, a masterpiece unto itself. They are still expanding it to add more shops in its staggering 3-5 storey-high building, with train platforms nearly on each level. The distance of about a km and a half paves the way from the central station to the historic core (Grote Markt) is a massive pedestrian vein known as the “Meir” of shops ranging from the kitsch to the large department stores. Antwerp is known for its avant-garde designers and has since become a shopping magnet for hard core shoppers. I walked around the historic centre for a while, and wondered how...

The unofficial capital of the EU

Sleeping off the stress associated with missing luggage works wonders. With that cat-nap behind me, thinking suddenly becomes easier, and Brussels suddenly looked more beautiful. Did I mention that my bag finally arrived on a separate plane, chauffeured to my hostel? I am also now clean and scrubbed, thank god, but my room still smells like a sewer every couple of hours. 2Go4 Hostel Brussels is the place (strange name), on Boulevard Emile-Jacqmainlaan, and a sneaky 2 streets parallel from the shopping stretch. Walk down a mile more and hit the Brussels’ central tourist catchment area (or trapment area), the Grand Place/ Grote Markt/ Grande Place, some World Heritage site which the Belgians simply acknowledge as ‘too many people’. The architecture is even cheerfully gothic. The people speak French, Dutch, Flemish and some other dialects that sound like American English shouted aloud under water. Weirdness is worshipped. Where else in the world do you have a status of a pissing boy (the Mannaken Pis) as an icon? The rage right now, is to be seen eating the rectangular waffles...

Misadventures in Brussels

Ingredients for misadventures: Take – 1. smelly, beer-swirling, alcohol-loving fat man 2. A less fat Korean man with a nasal English accent Put #1 and #2 together, mix with 3. Lousy Airline Food (poor excuse for Chinese fried rice and watery egg) Vigorously fold in 4. Incompetent baggage handling Garnish with 5. Nose bleeds For dessert: Throw in many loud-mouthed, vocabluary-challenged teenage Americans enjoying their gap-year thronging every corner of the hostel and several thieves who shoplift their way through the city. As far as I know, all these have happened in the space of the last 12-18 hours. “Your bag is still in Amsterdam,” some baggage handler said curtly as I...