Brussels, Belgium

May 2016

I came to Brussels after briefly visiting Amsterdam in order to meet up with a friend who was studying at a local university. Just before the trip I had taken a class on European current affairs, where we learned quite a bit about the European Union (and some about Belgium as a country). Knowing a bit about Brussels' role as a focal point of the EU made walking about way more interesting, as the downtown is filled with various government buildings and organizations that we had talked about in class.

This was what a typical street looked like in the city. Just like every other European city I've visited, the architecture was really unique and beautiful; something I can't really say as much about most of the U.S. cities I've been to.

Embarrassingly enough, I came to Brussels without having the slightest clue about one of their main tourist attractions: the Automium (pictured in the middle). This bizarre atom structure was built in 1958 for the World's Fair, held in Brussels. In each ball was a unique exhibit, ranging from a light show to a history gallery.

My favorite of the various government buildings was the curvy EU Commission headquarters. We ended up getting a tour at the Parlamentarium which had an interactive history of the EU's conception and growth.

During the tour we'd constantly joke about the EU being one country smaller, as this trip was just before the UK referendum. At the time this was just fun and games, as we all assumed that Britain would never actually vote "Yes" to leaving the EU.

Those jokes aren't quite as funny anymore...

My timing was slightly unfortunate, as I arrived just a few months after the March bombings of the Brussels airport and metro.

The city was still a bit shaken at the time (there were a lot of armed guards throughout and the airport was under very tight security). Along our walk we ended up at Maalbeek metro station and passed by the memorial placed where a bomb exploded.

Let's end this post on the bright note that such an awesome city deserves.

One of my favorite parts of Brussels was this sandwich shop, run by an amazing guy named Tonton Garby. The motto of his store is "if you are happy, I am happy!" and this clearly shows as you start ordering. Once you get to the front of the line he will start asking you about your preferences in order to decide on the perfect sandwich for you, and trust me, he delivers. Note that he speaks something like five languages fluently (including English), so you can enjoy the experience even if you don't speak French nor Flemish.

If you take only one piece of advice from my travelogue, be it this one: go to this sandwich place if you're ever in Brussels.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands