Posted by Carter | Under Where to?
Thursday May 22, 2014
Belgium, Beyond Great Beer
If we were to play a game of word association and I said, “Belgium”, your answer would likely be a prompt, “beer and/or chocolate.” While I personally agree that both of these heady and decadent goods are more than enough reason to make a vacation beeline for Belgium, this diminutive country has more to offer than palatable pleasures (although those are significant).
Graffiti by definition, is the unauthorized defacement of public property and surfaces, and while the line between art and vandalism may be relative to some, by and large it is considered a big no-no. The city of Ghent has taken a different approach to the inevitable artistic endeavors of some of its local and visiting citizens since the early 90’s. City officials choose to provide graffiti artists a special space for their expressive works, unhindered by building owners and the authorities. This area has become an attraction that sees a consistent and appreciative flow of tourist traffic, while Ghent has enjoyed a fairly successful, city-wide clean-up project. Ranging from child-like scrawls to imaginative and detailed pictures, there is an average turn-around time of 3 – 5 days for graffiti artists to revamp surfaces with their own works of art, covering that of others. Whenever you happen to visit, there’s sure to be a new…exhibit to view.
Observing the gardens and architecture of a city as though they are an open air exhibit is a quintessential pastime for most travelers. It offers insight into the city’s roots and inspires streams of curious speculation as you journey between the visual feast of the past and the present.
Some of the world’s most famous constructs of today were created as “temporary” exhibits for the World Fairs of yesteryear. Paris presented us with the Eiffel Tower, Chicago unveiled the Ferris wheel, and Brussels built the eccentricly styled but undoubtedly eye-catching Atomium. Of the nine spheres engineered to resemble the unit cell of an iron crystal, five are accessible to the public. The topmost sphere offers a scenic view of Brussels from its interior. You’ll have to find out for yourself what else is inside!
At an alternate end of the architectural spectrum, Brussels Palais Coudenberg was once a lavishly appointed palace of the late King Charles V. Today the remains have been excavated and the atmosphere of the underground halls and corridors radiate an eerie chill during your self-guided tour, particularly when closer to dusk. Enter through the Musee Belvue and we recommend that you ask for the audio aid as a helpful accessory to your explorations.
If you can time your visit to coincide with Brussels Festival Carolus V-Coudenberg, you’ll see history come alive as you’re transported back to the time of the Renaissance with introductions into period dancing and music, Renaissance food tastings and games lend a greater level authenticity and fun to this all ages event.
The legend of Lange Wapper, while told in various towns in Belgium, found the strongest hold in Antwerp. So much so, that the townspeople erected a statue to the infamous trickster that now stands in front of the former fortress Het Steen. Another notable Antwerp statue is dedicated to Silvius Brabo, a roman soldier who purportedly killed a giant with troll-like toll bridge tendencies. One of the most memorable and variable legends relates to Manneken Pis, a bronze statue now hundreds of years old that resides in Brussels. It was created to look like a small boy relieving himself in a fountain’s basin and is the recipient of a mass amount of tourist traffic and Kodak moments all year long. This humorous statue has a series of costume changes to reflect a panoply of themes on a weekly basis.
The creation of myths and legends live on through the oral and written traditions of each subsequent generation. While some eventually fade into the annals of history, others only grow with time, ranging from light-hearted and amusing stories to spine-tingling legends and tales of admonition. How many more of these eclectic bits of folklore and fiction could you investigate on a long, leisurely vacation in Belgium?
Cuberdon , also called Gentse neus (Ghent noses), are a raspberry flavored, sugary confection made from gum arabic that’s formed into a small, conical shapes that somewhat resemble a human schnoz. While its outside is hardened, the interior retains a gelatinous consistency, which is the optimal time to sample it. If left too long the gel crystalizes. Due to their short shelf life, Ghent noses are not an exported item, but they’re available throughout Belgium!
If your dessert preferences align with Belgium’s more internationally celebrated sweet, chocolate, take a drive to northwesterly Brugge Don’t just dash into the first shop with an intricately designed chocolate window display you find, though! There are a mix of Belgian and imported chocolate shops in Brugge so not to knock the other options, but when in Belgium, eat Belgian chocolate!
Whether you are a burgeoning home brewer, consider yourself a beer aficionado or merely an appreciative imbiber, I am begging you to track down one of the many magnificent beer festivals that feature Belgium’s nationally crafted brews. While the highly popularized Munich’s Oktoberfest reigns supreme as the beer festival of all beer festivals, Belgian brewing is a culture, and their beer events are nothing to scoff at.
Attending Antwerp ’s annual Beer Passion Weekend in June is one example of a great way to beat the summer heat and treat your palate to a thirst-quenching beverage or two. More than thirty participating breweries are serving up over two hundred of their own Belgian style bevvy’s. Fill your tankard and get acquainted with some of Belgium’s lesser-known and limited edition brews at Arch’en Biers in Grez-Doiceau, which itself is a lesser-known town, approximately a 40-minute drive southeast of Brussels. The Hops Festival in Val de Sambre in the town of Erquelinnes offers a weekend with a fair-like quality incorporating hot air balloon rides, hop harvesting and of course, barrels of Belgian beer.
Sample some premium beers, schmooze with fellow beer-lovers and the beer-crafters while discussing the topic on everyone’s mind and in their stein…beer!
Kemwel provides the convenience of a short-term Peugeot car rental to you from the Brussels Airport . Make your way through Belgium behind the steering wheel of a factory-new Peugeot with the expert assistance of Kemwel. Contact a Peugeot reservation specialist today, toll-free at 1-877-820-0668, or request a rate using our online Peugeot reservation form .