Travel Journal

Brussels - March 2008

(Tuesday 1 April 2008) by Karin
Back in Brussels again and I am surprised again at how quickly I adjusted to most things at home and at work. At times it seems I never left. Other times I reflect on the differences. Driving was a bit weird at first.... not on the left please (SA)..... no right turn on red allowed (US)..... lights before the intersection (B) (that is the hardest one I think) .... and don't forget the, what some consider, mad priority to the right rule (B). I managed to stay accident free but only barely. I once slipped going up a highway ramp and sure was glad the brakes of the cars behind me were really good.
I can still get totally excited about a shower, or a flush toilet. A kitchen... what a luxury, and I can go around for half an hour in the fruit/vegetable section of the supermarket and marvel at the amount of different fruits/vegetables I can choose from. I miss the sun and the warmth (in these few weeks I've had rain, hail, cold, too much wind and even snow but very little warmth and sunshine) ..... I miss meeting new people..... I miss nature, sun rises and sun sets, an evening on the beach, stargazing, etc but I don't miss waiting for buses and planes, the packing and unpacking and I surely do not miss handwashing my clothes. I do not have a washing machine (yet) but I do know loads of people who do so no worries for the time being.
One decision I made was to not sit back every weekend but to start discovering some of Europe now starting of course with my backyard, Brussels, and Belgium. So for those of you that are interested.... keep checking as I will write a regular 'travel' update.
Now, for those non-Belgians reading, here's a little info about Belgium. With a little over 10 million residents it is a fairly crowded country divided by a language frontier which runs from east to west, separating the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders to the North from the French-speaking region of Wallonia to the South. There is also a small German-speaking area on the Eastern Ardennes known as the Eastern Cantons.
Brussels, the capital, is rightly renowned for its chocolates, beer, the magnificence of the Grand Place and the cheekiness of the Manneken Pis. But, to many people in Europe and beyond, it is principally recognised as the headquarters of the European Union and therefore, the administrative capital of still-expanding Europe. Brussels comprises 19 communes and is the only area in Belgium to be officially bilingual. Forest is one of the communes and the one I'll be living in for the time being. But just barely, my backyard being in St-Gilles and Uccle being just across the road. Speaking of a backyard, yes, I am living on the ground floor of this 1920's house on the beautiful avenue Moliere.

What a change from all those top floors in buildings with no elevator I lived in before. From an exercise point of view, the fourth floor would have been better but living only 2 km from work I walk whenever the weather permits ;-).

Work.... not much changed and it soon felt as if I never left. I still spend too much time there. Piles of papers had accumulated and needed to disappear. In the end, I did disappear behind the boxes. Unfortunately, people still found me.

Outside of work I met with friends, did some catsitting and some babysitting (the trip left me totally broke but I do need to eat ;-)).





I also managed to go for a hike in the Ardennes between La Roche, Hotton and Marche-en-Famenne, but believe me, if I would not have promised a friend, I probably would not have left Brussels as it rained when I left, then on and off all day and the last hour it poured. In the end I was glad I went anyway even though I returned wet and exhausted. It was a beautiful and peaceful hike and it was nice to see some new faces again. Scenically, the Ardennes is Belgium at its best, home to deep valleys, forested hills, meadering rivers, tranquil stone villages and ancient castles. For those into nature, this is as wild as Belgium gets.
Next will be the Comic strip route in Brussels.
To be continued....

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