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Archives for July 2013

Brussels, Belgium: World’s Fair and Royalty

This is the continuation of the city tour of Brussels. We hopped onto this bus and made our way through the town.

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The reason why this picture was taken was because behind the gate lies “The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin. It’s the green statue. Belgians claim that this one is the original. There is this same statue in France, and the French claim that’s the original. So, who do you believe?

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Tis is where the 1958 World Fair took place. It was the first major fair after WWII. That was pretty cool. The atom-looking steel structure is the Atomium. You can enter the structure and use the escalators to get to each “bubble”, which contain exhibits. Pretty neat.

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We passed through the royal residence as well. This is difference from the palace, which you’ll see pictures of soon.

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This Chinese House was located on the estate of the Belgian Royal Residence too. It was interesting to see this influence in Belgium.
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Here we have the Royal Greenhouse, which is also on the same grounds. I wish we were able to go inside. It would have been interesting to see what types of greenery they were growing.

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While driving to the next site, we passed by Brussels Park. Across the way from this is the Royal Palace of Brussels. Definitely picture worthy.

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We passed by some museums, automobile and music. Our guide made it sound it would be worth a trip to go and visit them. During this trip, we didn’t have time. It’s on my list if/when I do make it back to Brussels. The music museum is the black building with the tower in the back.

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The AutoWorld museum is located within Parc du Cinquantenaire, a large public park. The arch in the middle was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Belgium’s independence.

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Our last stop was at this church, Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. Among its history includes quite a few royal weddings.

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As you can see, Brussels has a lot of things to do and see. Beyond that, the way to  get to where you want to go is definitely scenic! Happy travels friends.

Brussels, Belgium: Karl Marx and a Good Luck Charm

It was nice that the Ibis Hotel had this little pamphlet to remind visitors about the good things to note while out and about. Some of my favorite notes/reminders were not putting your purse on the back of your chair or on the ground and dividing your belongings into different pockets. The pamphlet is very good to keep in mind no matter where you travel.

Keeping these thoughts in mind, out and about we went. First, we walked around the area and found ourselves by the Town Hall of Brussels – adorned with statues. It pretty much looked like a church. But, since it was a weekend, there were a lot of wedding parties. Some of which waved to the crowd =) This was the only building that didn’t get bombed by the French in 1695.

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Next to the Townhall were the Guild Halls, which are just east if you’re looking at the Townhall. These buildings are also a popular image when you see brochures of Brussels.
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Continuing clockwise , you’ll see this building: The Maison du Roi (King’s House; even though no royalty lived there), or Broodhuis (Breadhouse). It originally stood  as a bakery.

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Turning just a little bit more, and this building is in front of you, another Guild house.

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Congratulations. You just got a 360 degree tour of the Grand Place, the central square in Brussels =)

While wandering near the hotel, we came across a Gallery (Saint Hubert), but didn’t peruse much there. It was pretty though.

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Walking through the streets was something too. I love the architecture, the bustle of the people and there were quite a few street performers/artists.

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We found a tour office and went on foot for a city tour. We ended up back at the Grand Place and our guide was more in detail about each of the buildings. He also pointed out this restaurant, La Maison de la Cygne, which is next to the Townhall. The importance? This is where Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels wrote up the Communist Manifesto. Perhaps you’re heard of it before?

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If you follow the path and go through the underpass next to the restaurant, you end up seeing a statue of Everard ‘t Serclaes, famous for recovering the city. According to the story our guide told us, this man climbed the city walls and drove the Flemish people out. He was commemorated from the event with this statue.

Now, if visitors rub it (the arm – like touching St. Peter’s toe at the Vatican), they will receive good luck and good fortune and a return visit for Brussels (like the Trevi fountain in Rome). So, I rubbed it of course – hah!

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The tour around Brussels continued by bus, and that portion will commence next week. So, share the new thoughts and ideas about Belgium and have happy travels friends!

Brussels, Belgium: Chocolate and Sweets Galore

Belgian chocolate anyone? Yes, it wasn’t too difficult to find a chocolate shop in a placed that’s renowned for its chocolate (among other delectable goodies). There were as plentiful as McDonalds and Starbucks, with one practically around the corner from each other. I’ve got to sample my fair share during my quick visit here back in 2011.

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After getting settled in, onward to the chocolate (not really chronologically correct… but we’ll get to the other sites in another post).

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We sat in for an explanation of when the cacao beans are harvested to selling the chocolate at the counter.

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After the presentation, we got a mini tour of the back room, which you can see from the front because there are glass windows (like at Krispy Kreme). I wish people were working when we were there… would have been neat. Nevertheless, these are the apparatuses/conveyor belt that help create the little delicious goodies.

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Here are some of the chocolates that I got to sample. The first one is white chocolate with a raspberry ganache interior. The second one is a sea salt chocolate.

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We brought these home as souvenirs from this Belgium trip — probably one of my favorite souvenirs ever!

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Over the course of the trip, that being in Brussels, Ghent and Bruges, I took a picture of quite a few chocolate shops and some of their treats that went along with it. Enjoy the sample of stores and sweet treats sweet tooths =D

This is one of my personal favorite store names ^_^

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One sweets shop (I believe in Bruges), made its own candy. The demonstration was pretty cool.

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Marzipan in the shape of popular fruits also were a popular seller too.

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Clearly, if you’re a chocoholic, this destination is a place for you. Suffering any tooth aches yet from looking at the pictures? There’s a lot more goodness (in food and sites!) that Belgium has to offer.

Until next time, happy travels friends =D

Berlin, Germany: Memorials and Monuments

There’s an eerie feeling in the air when we visited the Holocaust Memorial of the murdered Jews in Europe. The memorial resembles a cemetery and the different sizes are supposed to represent the chaos and order on each side of the ordeal.

Pictures do say a thousand words.

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Along that same note, our guide pointed us out to this area which is supposedly where the bunker of Adolf Hitler once stood and where he commited suicide. Now, it’s apartment/condo homes. Strangely ironic.

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I will promise my next post will be more cheerful and include a jumping photo, one that I didn’t get to take in Berlin >_<. Oops.

Happy travels friends.

Berlin, Germany: “Tear Down This Wall”

One of the first things you think of when you think of Berlin is likely the Berlin Wall; an iconic symbol of division during the Cold War.

While most of the wall now has been torn down. There are areas of Berlin where a small portion of the wall still stands.

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For the most part though, the wall has been taken town and there are poles that showcase where the wall would have been.

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For perspective, here’s a photo timeline where you can see changes of this actual area of when the wall when up and when it came down.

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It really hits you when you see how the wall really looked. Our guide brought us here, where you could peek through to ‘no man’s land’. The first layer of concete is the original wall. The additional 2 layers stacked on top are just to simulate what it would have been like.

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In case you didn’t know, the Berlin Wall wasn’t just one wall. There were 2 walls. There was an area in the middle, also known as ‘no man’s land’. This area had guard towers as well as those on patrol.

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People who attempted to get to the other side were not very successful. Just think about the obstacles: climb over 1 wall, dodge guards walking, dodge the watch tower, and climb over a 2nd wall.

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When the wall became ‘serious business’, any building that was caught in ‘no man’s land’ was demolished. To see that, there are rods on the ground in certain areas indicating the foundations of homes that were caught in the middle. The homeowners were designated as East Berliners even though when they walked out of their front door, they were techically in West Berlin.

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There was an picture and a story that our guide shared with us of police boarding up the windows of these homes that were technically on the border. On the other end of the home, the families were trying to jump out of the home into West Berlin without getting caught. That’s tragic. Many families ended up being separated when the wall went up. That’s even more tragic.

Another visual is this picture here. The church in the background (far right), used to be a church, but was demolished because it was in ‘no man’s land’.

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This event is quite recent in history, 1990. While I was too young to remember, this event, I do know about Regan’s words in his speech at the Brandenburg Gate: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” And now I know the significance.

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Happy travels friends.