This past month I had a holiday break from University in between Spring and Summer terms, so my best friend from back home Emma (Hello if you are reading this Ems!) and I decided to take a little backpacking trip around Europe. Cliche, I know but hey I figured since I’m so close to many different countries, I might as well take the opportunity to explore other cities out there because who knows when the next time I’ll be able to do that is. . . Before Emma ventured across the pond to come visit me, we had been planning out where we wanted to go that would be realistic to travel to in the three weeks that we’d be away for. Considering our wanderlust, deciding where to go was actually more complicated than we had thought! We decided to get a Eurail pass to save some money on train tickets, which was also a great decision to help us narrow down our options for where we could travel. Although we had originally planned to fly from London to Rome and then make our way back towards the U.K. through other countries our plans were changed when we discovered there was an airline strike occurring on the day we were meant to be traveling. That day seemed like everything that could’ve gone wrong did, but sometimes things just don’t work out exactly as you’ve imagined and you just have to roll with the punches. After all people didn’t come up with the saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” for no reason! I think that part of the adventure of traveling is facing any glitches in the road while remaining positive because at the end of the day, it’s usually a small issue and ultimately makes for a good story! Since we weren’t able to fly out of London that day without paying for another expensive flight, we decided to take the train to mainland Europe and do our trip backwards. Our first stop was Brussels, Belgium! We only had two nights in Brussels and we definitely wanted to make the most out of the limited amount of time we had to soak in the city sights. I will admit, we had a bit of difficulty figuring out the transportation system to get us from the train station in Brussels to our hostel in the city centre but we managed to just observe other people and work out how to pay the tram fare. Our hostel was only about a two minute walk to the main square in Brussels pictured above, which was perfect since it made getting to the main parts of the city really easy. The exterior of the Hostel Grand Place.The seating area at the hostel entrance. (The evergreens on the curtains in the background were a nice reminder of home back in the States)The opposite wall of the seating area.
We stayed in an eight bed room in this hostel and got to meet a fellow traveler from the U.S. who was really nice! Since we arrived in Brussels in the evening we decided to take a walk around the city centre and go out for dinner and drinks with the girl we met. Emma and I always love meeting new people and I think one of the amazing things about staying in hostels (in addition to the fact that they are usually a lot less expensive than a hotel room) is getting to swap stories with people from different parts of the world! Of course on our little walk that evening we just randomly ran in to the infamous statue of a little boy peeing in to a fountain, the Manneken Pis! We had heard that it was small, but we didn’t know that it was going to be that small! I think that’s what made this tourist attraction particularly funny because it isn’t very epic, yet it attracts so many people photographing and giggling at the uneventful sight. The next day we took a trip to the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, which is a must when you visit a place famous for making the delicious sweets! Although it was a smaller museum, it provided a lot of insight about the trade and history of cocoa as well as how chocolates are made. The end of our visit to the museum even concluded with a demonstration of how different types of fine chocolates are formed today and we even received a complementary piece to eat!The entrance to the Museum.Fashions constructed using chocolate!The chocolatier giving us a demonstration of chocolate making.
It was incredible to see how many chocolate shops there were around the city. Perhaps this is because we were staying in a fairly touristy area, but still you didn’t have to look far to find a sweet treat to eat! Brussels definitely knows how to attract fellow people like me who have a sweet tooth. Following our trip to the Museum of Chocolate we stopped by the Maison du Roi or The King’s House to have a look around the museum which just so happened to be free on the day we were visiting! Stained glass windows by the staircase to the top floor of the museum.A view from the top floor.
Although we didn’t have the ideal weather during our brief stay in Brussels (We like to joke that the rain just followed us wherever we went on our trip) this didn’t stop the city from really coming alive at night. If the main square didn’t seem buzzing with tourists before, we really got a sense of community during the evenings when people would just find a place in the city centre to sit in a circle with their friends and party it up! I really enjoyed our time in Brussels, but I will have to say it wasn’t the cleanest city we traveled to, even our Belgian friends that we met at a hostel in Prague filled us in on their opinion of that. Next stop on our journey was Berlin, a vibrant city with an enormous amount of history . . .