Europe Trip 11-12 – Within Benelux, but without the lux…

After a week in Paris with my New Years Eve comrades, it was time to part ways, some for Germany, others for various other parts of France. For me, it was off to the Benelux region, (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxombourg, but no Luxombourg…)


- Liege, Belgium

Liege is one of three, ‘significantly major’ centres in Belgium, and in 2009, the city’s main station – Liège-Guillemins – got a massive upgrade, designed by the ever growing portfolio of Santiago Calatrava . In doing so, they’ve increased their rail capacity, and has opened the corridor for TGV high-speed rail.

Though Liege is far from an excitingly vibrant city. This is their main town centre on a quite Sunday. Very little is open on the Sunday, with the main shopping piazza pretty much deserted…

The main square in Liege where four people were killed a month before this photo was taken after a gunman fired and dropped grenades below from close to where I was standing. The glass still hadn’t been replaced at the bus stands below.

Every Sunday though, everyone’s at local markets here where the locals buy and sell their goods along the Meuse River which runs through Liege.

Inside the main church of Liege. It was interesting to see it’s black exterior and it’s comparatively dark coloured interior.

Before coming here, I had never heard of the city before. All I knew was that my Uncle lived here (hence why I visited Liege…) Arguably, the most notable permanent attraction here is pictured above, “The stairway of the Montagne de Bueren”. I had seen pictures of this famous stairway before, but had no idea what it was called, where it was, or what was famous about it. Turns out it leads to a citadel?

- Maastricht, Netherlands

A quick hop across the border took us to the City of Maastricht, a large-ish city located in southern Netherlands, also along the Meuse, of similar size to Liege from my short two hours here. It was amazing seeing the subtle yet strikingly large differences once you crossed the border.

It is a supposed to be a major centre of history and culture but I only managed to get a tour of the town centre, whereby I was told at the sight of a Kentucky Fried Chicken store that Belgium does not have any of these. Same with Burger Kings… But yeah, that was pretty much all I got to see.

- Brussels, Belgium

Then again it was a quick hop to the capital of Belgium and of the European Union, where of course, a waffle had to be eaten. ^^

Similar to Liege, I knew very little about Brussels… Above; Manneken Pis. Pretty much all I knew about Belgium apart from waffles, chocolate and beer.

About as well known as Denmark’s “Little Mermaid”, many legends behind it, the one I like is this:
“Brussels was under siege by a foreign power. The city had held its ground for some time, so the attackers conceived of a plan to place explosive charges at the city walls. A little boy named Julianske happened to be spying on them as they were preparing. He urinated on the burning fuse and thus saved the city”

In the main square where famous people wrote famous stuff, (See:Marx) is Brussel’s Town Hall. Another piece of architectural discussion. It’s a non symmetrical building…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brussels_Town_Hall

“…it stands 102 metres (335 ft) tall. It has nine steel spheres connected so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times”
I don’t know how I had never seen the above monument before, but it’s also an icon of Belgium almost as famous as ‘Manneken Pis’ and similar of story to the Eiffel Tower. Twas built for the Expo in Brussels in ’58, and is called The Atomium. Unfortunately, it was closed from the 8th to the 13th, (the duration of my stay here in Brussels)

Cinquantenaire, built to celebrate Belgium’s 50th Anniversary, and is similar to Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.

Rather large Military Museum located in one of the Gate’s wings.

I would love a Musket(?) with a pretty pattern just to put on for display.

Then it was down to see “The Lions Mound”, where the Battle of Waterloo took place. (I’m a historical n00b and thought it was in England…)

It’s just outside of Brussels and you pay 6 Euro to walk up this hill…

- Amsterdam, Netherlands

From one capital city to another; had a day to spend in probably one of the more intriguing cities of Europe, and what I think is a clever advertising slogan.

Both Belgium and the Netherlands are known for their production of diamonds so decided to pay a trip to see one of the factories/museums.

Honestly though, although pretty, I don’t understand why these can be sold for 58,300 Euros.

The Van Gogh Museum’s boring exterior, and where interior photography was prohibited. Van Gogh was an interesting person…

Heineken.

Trams run up and down the incredibly long main shopping piazza of Amsterdam which I thought was interesting in both logistics and pedestrian safety…

Someone dressed up in front of the Grand Palace who I hope is not Poseidon…

Amsterdam Centraaaaaaaaaalllll Station. Gets incredibly busy in the evening and despite all the rubbish bins throughout the station, they all get full and overflow.

The appropriately designed “NEMO” Maratime Museum of Amsterdam.

Overall, my stay within the Belgium and The Netherlands wasn’t all that exciting, either because I didn’t have anyone I knew, or there isn’t all that much to see in the region. (Despite staying with relatives, it was the first time I met them since I was tiny, and they also said that there wasn’t much to see here or do here)
For some reason, I get the image that Belgium is somewhat oppressed due to their lack of… well… dare I say ‘fun’? Each time I crossed the border from France, or into France or The Netherlands, there was just a better atmosphere to the area. That said, it’s not like I had a bad time, I certainly enjoyed the experience in Belgium, but despite being the capital of the EU, there really isn’t much here. (NATO and in some ways the EU Headquaters are also incredibly boring buildings/sites. Though a new NATO HQ is being constructed but who knows when that’ll be finished…)