25 December 2014

Christmas in Brussels

I arrived in Brussels around 3:30pm today and it was nearly 5pm before I got to my hotel. My first instinct was to collapse in to bed, but I decided that I should at least enjoy an hour or so walking around town. I am so glad that I did!

I walked from my hotel towards the city center. Being Christmas Day, I expected the city to be semi deserted and everything to be closed. Based on my knowledge of German Christmas markets, I also figured that I was too late to enjoy any of the Belgian ones. My expectations were wrong, very very wrong.

I walked through town and it was lit up and beautiful. I love the way European cities decorate themselves for the holidays. It's always gorgeous.

I was absolutely surprised when I stumbled upon the Christmas market, active and fulll of people. 
There was live music, food, and even outdoors ice skating. 

As I walked around I found myself trapped in a crowd. I didn't know what the crowd was for or why there was such a crowd, but there was no way out. As the crowd surged forward, I saw a sign about filming and thought maybe that was the reason. Eventually the crowd reached a bottle neck and I could see the Grote Markt (Large Market Square). It then became obvious what we had all been trying to see. In the center of the square was a  gorgeous, tall tree with white lights. The buildings surrounding the tree were lit up as well. Once we reached the square, the crowd spread out and it was easy to move about. 

As I continued walking around, I realized I was a bit peckish. Rather than eat a full meal, I decided to have two Belgian traditions: waffles and chocolate.  I am generally not a waffle fan, but this one was hot, sweet and simply amazing. The chocolate I chose was a  chili-chocolate that got melted into steamed milk to make a hot chocolate drink. It was nice as well. I didn't have any fries, but I did see the fry guy.

I also exerienced some great examples of human kindness and passion. I saw a girl bring a homeless guy a candied apple, which put a smile on his face.
I saw a homeless man, dressed in a tattered Santa suit, giving candy out to kids who passed him by.
I also watched a peaceful protest parade through the streets. Although their chants and signs were in French, I got the basic gist of it, "the maladies of ignorance". Most of the participants were of African descent and I think it may have been a reaction to police killing of African-Americans in the USA. It was a very peaceful march.

I really enjoyed my evening walking around Brussels.

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