A Travellerspoint blog

In Bruges

rain 2 °C

On Saturday, the IES paid for a trip to Bruges, which is a town in Belgium about one hour north of Brussels by train. It's a big tourist attraction because it looks much the same as it did in the 17th century - the layout of the city is the same, even though some buildings have been destroyed and rebuilt. It used to be called "The Venice of the North" because, once upon a time, it was close to the sea and it was very powerful in terms of trade. After the sea receded (thanks global warming in the 1600s), Bruges became very poor and no one went there anymore thanks to a series of bad calls by the ruling dukes. Now, it's funded mostly by tourism. Only 20,000 people live there. It is a very beautiful city - lots of canals and historic buildings and quaint shops that sell lace and chocolate. I took over 200 pictures, and they're all of very different things (I know you're rolling your eyes, Daddy), so this is just an overview.

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This is the inside of a convent that dates back to the 1500s.

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Typical Belgium - a bicycle, beer in the middle of the day.

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This is the main square in Bruges. This section showcases building styles from three different periods - 20th century, Renaissance, and Gothic.

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This is one of the most popular tourist shots in Bruges - a canal, a wooden house, the bell tower in the background.

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The previous three photos are of the outside and inside of a basilica on the main square. It contains a vial of Christ's blood that the Duke of Bruges was awarded for his bravery during the third Crusade. I went inside and touched it and paid 50 cents to light a candle. It was very beautiful.

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A chocolate shop...

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We went to a brewery and, yes, parents, I drank a beer - unfiltered, straight from the tap, the only place in the world you can get this particular beer on tap. It was delicious.

Posted by rawrnold 18:59 Archived in Belgium Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

My Room

Here are some pictures of our room. I share a room with my friend Jordana. We technically have two separate rooms - there is a full wall and door between our rooms, but we never shut the door. The light switch controls the lights in both rooms, so one day we might get into a fight and turn the lights on and off to annoy each other. The door locks on both sides, so I can lock Jordana out of my room, and therefore lock her out of the bathroom, but she can also lock the door on her side and lock me in my room while she leaves. Hopefully we never fight!

We live in the international student housing for the VUB. It's near the city center, the Rue Neuve, which is a huge pedestrian shopping street, a mall, a grocery store, and the North Station for the trains into and out of the city. There is a subway station a block away. It's dark and rainy outside right now, but soon I plan on taking photos of our building and our neighborhood and posting them. Someday, eventually, I also want to photograph my journey to campus - it's pretty impressive. For now, though, I have some pictures of my room and our bathroom.

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This is my room, viewed from my door.

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This is my room, viewed from my loft/bed/cliff.

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This is my room, from my bed, with Jordana in the corner for scale.

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These are my feet.

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This is my bed, decked out in IES-provided linen.

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And this is our tiny tiny bathroom! Yes, it's bright orange. It takes some getting used to but it's definitely growing on me.

Posted by rawrnold 22:38 Archived in Belgium Tagged lodging Comments (1)

European Parliament

Yesterday (Friday) we walked around the European District, where all the buildings of the EU in Belgium are located. We also took a tour of the European Parliament building (!!!) and got to see the legislative chamber, listen to a boring lecture about the structure of the EU, and take a lot of pictures.

My internet wasn't working well enough to upload pictures last night, so this post is a day late. Today we spend the day in Bruges and I have a lot of fun stuff to post about from that trip, but I will try to do that tomorrow because there is a lot to say and I took a lot of pictures.

Today marks one week that I have been in Brussels. I miss my family and my cat and my friends at Hendrix, but I am in love with this city. I haven't seen all of it yet, but I'm so glad that I have six more months to discover everything about it. I'm already accumulating a list of things that I want to show off when my family comes to visit. I'm so thankful to have this opportunity - I love Brussels and I love the people I am with. I'm very happy here.

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This is the front of the European Commission. It's important.

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This is the front of the building that houses the Council of Ministers. The presidency of the Council rotates among the members every six months. Spain assumed the Presidency in January. Belgium will take it in June.

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This is the legislative chamber for the European Parliament! All 736 members sit in here during parliamentary sessions. No one was here when we were touring - the sessions were held in Strasbourg last week, so all of the delegates were out of town.

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This is me, in front of the row of Member Countries' flags in the reception area of the Parliament building.

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This is a sculpture in the EU Parliament building. I didn't learn much about it. It hangs from the ceiling and it's made up of a bunch of metal rods. If you move one, the entire structure moves. As our tour guide said, "It's symbolic."

Posted by rawrnold 21:23 Archived in Belgium Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

First Look

Pictorial evidence that I am actually in Europe

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Posted by rawrnold 16:27 Archived in Belgium Tagged photography Comments (0)

Monday, Monday

Day 3

overcast 2 °C

Today was our third day in Brussels. We toured the university where we will be taking our courses, Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Our courses are managed by the Institute for European Studies, which is part of the VUB. I found out that the name of the University translates to "Free University of Brussels," but it isn't referring to price - you do, in fact, pay to go there. The "free" in the name is referring to the Free Masons and the state of enlightenment that comes from education. Or something like that. It was a little hard to understand our tour guide.

As soon as we walked into the building on campus which houses the Institute, where our classes will be held, a woman named Hilda greeted us and showed us where she had set out refreshments for us. Coffee, chocolate, cookies, just sitting in a conference room, all for us. Hendrix College, take notes. I'm never leaving Europe.

Our day on campus was laid back. We walked around the campus, ate lunch in the super-swanky cafeteria, got our photos made for our student IDs and athletic facility passes, and looked at some apparently famous cartoons. They were written in Dutch, so a lot of the humor was lost on us. For dinner, the officials from the Institute took us out to dinner at a very nice restaurant. I ate steak and fries, since the Institute was footing the bill. Otherwise, it would have been spaghetti bolognese - I've found it's the cheapest thing on any menu.

Yesterday was a more exciting day. We took a bus tour of the city and saw some beautiful parks that I can't wait to return to. In the afternoon, we walked around some neighborhoods in Brussels. Our tour guide was possibly insane - rather than showing us the typical tourist destinations, or things that would be helpful to us during our time in the city, he took us down random residential neighborhoods and discussed the gentrification process in Brussels since the 1700s. (I'm not making this up.) He stood on the sidewalk and talked very loudly about how to identify a neighborhood as poor according to the stores in it, the colors the houses are painted, and how many people are walking on the street. It was weird and pointless.

I'm still trying to get settled in my room - I need to get to an Ikea as soon as possible so I can buy some clothes hangers and some plastic drawers. Our room is... non-traditional. I'll post some pictures as soon as I can walk across the floor without tripping over my half-unpacked suitcase.

Posted by rawrnold 15:02 Archived in Belgium Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

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