Antwerp, Brussels and Brugge!

I journeyed to the beautiful land of Belgium! My friend and I planned on traveling to three different cities in Belgium in one weekend!! We ended up going to Antwerp, Brussels and Brugge!

I always find it fascinating when I step of the plane and am immediately exposed to another country and their culture. I found myself asking, “How do we even know if we’re in Belgium!? Where’s the massive sign that says so?!” I guess I need to see it to believe it but when you do become immersed into a different country and city, you don’t need a blatant, tacky sign to tell you you’re there. When you’re there, you know you’re there! You can see it in the different language, in architecture, and in the people who you interact with. It’s truly remarkable I was transported to a different world in a 2 hour plan ride. The first thing I noticed about Belgium that I really liked was all the different influences of the French, Dutch, and German cultures because they’re all so close to Belgium. I took the French language for 7 years and found that I could actually read the signs and understand them which is bizarre to me. I was even able to have basic conversations with some of the locals too. I also love how everyone rides a bike. There are mountains of bikes piled on the side walk. There was even a garage type thing where you would usually park your car but housed hundreds of bikes.

The first city was Antwerp because we wanted to check out Peter Paul Ruben’s house, who was a Flemish Baroque painter who lived in the late 16th century to early 17th century. His house was so eccentric and a work of art in itself; he designed and built it himself. He was a pretty impressive dude and was very influential in the art scene with his work in Antwerp.

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Peter Paul Ruben’s House

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Peter Paul Ruben’s House Window

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Just chilling outside in the Courtyard

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Zoe and I enjoying the famous Belgian Waffles! 

Then, we traveled to Brussels by train the same day to spend the night at an Air BnB. This was my first experience staying at another strangers house for the night, but it was nice to be in an actual home for a change. Our hosts were really nice. That night we ended up just wondering around Brussels. In the back of my mind, I was thinking about the recent news and how they caught one of the people involved with the Paris attacks in Brussels a day or two before. It was scary thinking about how close it was to where we were but I wasn’t concerned for our safety over it at first because I hadn’t really exposed to it before. I’ve heard about the attacks in Paris and other terrorist attacks and we would keep up with the news but it became even more real to me actually being so close to it. I felt concerned but unaware of what could happen.

The next day, we woke up early and took a train to Brugge. This is my favorite city that I’ve been to so far! It is a smaller city with wondering canals and carriages with horses just flying through the cobblestone streets. There are numerous parks and even a lake called Minnewater. There is even a statue of a mermaid that you can kiss which will bring you good luck with love. (I didn’t kiss it because it was closed off, so no good luck in love for me!).  My favorite place in Brugge was the windmills on the outskirts of the city!! They hold a dear place in my heart because I grew up with all things windmill because it’s such a huge thing to be in delft pottery, tin glazed pottery famous in the Netherlands. This comes from my Dad’s side (He’s 100% Dutch) and we have a lot of it all over the house. I also enjoyed this market by one of the canals that had vintage, old objects as well as handcrafted doohickeys. We spent the night in Brugge and then headed off to spend our last day in Brussels.

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Gazebo at Astrid Park in Brugge

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Chilling at a Canal in Brugge

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Another Typical Waffle Picture 

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Delftware Pottery

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I love Windmills!

We went to Brussels for the day and I was immediately on edge. I knew that things were happening in Brussels ever since capturing the Paris terrorist but we only had half of the day to spend there so we wanted to make the most of it. Another person from my program who was also in Brussels that weekend later told me that there were protests and a lot of turmoil happening in Brussels when we were there. Thankfully we missed that part of Brussels and we made sure to stay away from the area where he was captured. We heard police sirens in the distance but tried to ignore them. We tried to make the most of it; we ended up buying lots of chocolate, eating lots of waffles and seeing the infamous little boy peeing foundation. I did not see what the big deal was about this boy peeing but if a bunch of tourists are huddled around it, it must be important and taking a picture is a must. We wondered around and found this flea market which had a bunch of eccentric and cool things unique to Europe. We left that night and landed safely in Prague.

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Small Square in Brussels

 

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Flea Market in Brussels

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Enjoying more Waffles in Brussels!

 

But what came two days later was shocking. The Brussels attack really put things into an intense perspective. To have been in the same place where these attacks too place only 2 days before shook me up and really makes me think about the world that we live in. It’s extremely scary to think about and I am so thankful that I wasn’t there when the attacks happened. However, it’s unfair to the people who lost their lives and other who have lost loved ones. My thoughts, love and prayers go out to them. It’s not fair for those who live in constant fear not just if a terrorist attack will happen but WHEN it will happen. I knew that coming to Europe wasn’t going to be easy and that this would be one of the problems that I would face here but this really opened me up and reassured me that I need to be on my guard and be aware of what could happen in order to remain safe. This doesn’t mean that I can’t continue to study abroad and have full experiences. This means being mindful of my surroundings and being informed. Terrorism can’t stop us from living.

Alyssa, a psychology major with a concentration in psychobiology, is excited to spend the semester in Prague, Czech Republic. In the hopes of adventure, she wants to meet new people, learn a new language, try new foods, and travel whenever she gets the chance. She can’t wait to experience the culture of a different place!

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