Once back in the city, I quickly decided that I did not want to be out on my own. So after I got briefly lost, I grabbed a bit more food to munch on before heading into the hostel for sleep to get up early the next morning.
-One of the parks in Brussels was lit up with a rainbow of lights. Photo by me.
So after meandering around the main city and figuring out when the last train/bus was to make a quick trip to the nearby town of Hoegaarden, I made my way to the brewery which is no longer open to the public. They do have a very nice restaurant established in the old brewery near the new working one. The restaurant itself sells merchandise and had apparently offered a tour of the place, but I never went. By the time I actually got to the place all I wanted to do was sit down, eat, and have a drink.
The town itself was very nice and almost completely residential. I did make some friends when some public transportation issues came up, and almost went out for drinks with them afterwards, but I was really hungry and was afraid to miss the train back and didn’t feel comfortable asking them for a lift back to town or paying a ridiculous amount of money for a taxi.
-Outside of the Hoegaarden Restaurant. Very unassuming ain’t it? Photo by me.
-Inside the restaurant. There was a courtyard outside just as big that was completely filled with people. Great service even when packed! Photo by me.
-Train station at Tienen. The larger town that has the bus that goes that five minutes further to the smaller town of Hoegaarden. Photo by me.
Went back to Brussels by myself to see what the night life was like.
So beginning of my grand, solo adventure was in Brussels. Had already been to the airport earlier (when I went on my history study in Maastricht) so I was pretty confident that I could manage to get to the city center and find my hostel. Had my handy dandy Eurail Pass and got to hop on and off the trains as much as I wanted after I got it stamped.
Side story on the hostel. I did not know that the address I had was only for the front desk. My actual room was right next to the major square (a 15 minutes walk from the desk). No big deal, BUT as I went to pay for it, I was informed of the fine print, unannounced rule until arrival, that anything under 100 Euro had to be paid in cash. Well, I originally was going to travel with a friend, but that feel through, and I had to reserve the whole room instead of beds. This means that I had to pay for three beds myself. About 80 euro, in cash. I have a credit card for these kinds of situations! At least two of the beds were squished together so that I had a double, the comforter was amazingly soft, they provided towels (for a change) and right outside was a major courtyard in the middle of Brussels. So almost made up for it, almost. Dumb rule for those of us who are not traveling with friends to split the bill.
So adventure time around the city just seeing the sights, visiting tourist information for a map and ‘what to see’ guide. Got myself a Belgian waffle ta boot.
-The smaller square with an open market around the statue/fountain, Photo by me.
-A new creative way to use dogs to get money, photo by me.
-The major square near my hostel, photo by me.
-A side courtyard by the main square had this really cool glass overhang, photo by me.
-Human statues on the side of one of the roads in Brussels. The guy on the left scared the Bejaysus outta me when I walked by and didn’t think he’d move, but he tapped my shoulder, photo bye me.
-Belgian waffles! Mine had strawberries and chocolate on it. SO GOOD! Photo by me.
-Brussels’s famous Manneken Pis in his outfit of the day, photo by me.
Ok, so I got back from my Belgium/France Trip Almost two weeks ago and haven’t posted anything about it, but I will after this! Got lots of pictures, finished going through them all, rejuvenated myself, and then had a week a final exams (one more left, wish me luck!)
So I have less than a month left here until I go home, but I’ve got an idea of what I’m doing for each week and am making some final plans. For those of you not up-to-date with the major current events of Europe, a volcano in Iceland had erupted this weekend and virtually all flights ave been cancelled go to/ coming from Iceland, and now parts of Northern Ireland and Scotland. It’s looking like it’s going to keep to the general area and simply continue eastward. It’s been mostly sunny her with lots of intermittent rain and wind, but no sign of ash in central Ireland, yet.
Experts say the volcano is slowing, it won’t affect air travel in Europe like last year’s eruption, and it will be closely monitored so as to be inform the airports and public quickly and accurately.
Here’s hoping it stays way north and doesn’t ruin my travel plans!
So classes are over this week. I have a quick trip through the north part of France planed this weekend, and one more essay to finish before I go. 5 exams the week after I get back. 1 more the week after that and my studies here will be over.
Now how to finish my few weeks here before my return flight to good ol’ JFK Intn’l?
Day 6 was the last day and the first stop was Fort Eben Email, the place where the first German attack of WWI was. It was a surprise attack using gliders and shape charges. Inside, there were many tunnels connecting the various areas. The ground floor was primarily for the care and keeping of the men while the level just above was for movement between communication points, lookout towers, and gunmen cupolas.
-The various military service areas were decorated with figures and props to show what they were used for. The barber shop, photo by me,
-The long tunnels underground that made up the vast majority of the fort, photo by me.
-One of the only visible parts of the forts were the domes housing the guns. The area is now cultivated for crops, photo by me.
-Posters that labeled the shape charges used, before and during the explosion, photo by me.
Some of the guns were not pointed toward the German Boarder so they had remained intact. The guide took us up the stairs to see the guns used, and then we got to see what a shaped charge does to those very stairs. The force was impressive. The elevator running up the center of the stairs looked like a crushed carton. He even played an imitation explosion for us to get a feel for what would have been happening. The funny part was that the base was so loud, it shook the walls and even knocked loose some of the rubble and/or shrapnel as we heard the little dings as they fell through the shaft.
-Left:Outside the dome after the shaped charge
-Right: Inside the dome after the shaped charge
-Photos by me
Afterwards we headed to the Chateau Neercanne which is now a restaurant that caters to weddings and other large ceremonies. The food there was very good, but the price is a bit steep. The small castle itself is near one of the many entrances into the limestone quarries that have been made through the large hill that is part of Holland and Belgium.
I did not go into the quarries and near by sections of Jezuietenberg and NATO Bunker because I literally got left behind because the guy in charge was too eager to get going and didn’t do a head check, and I had stayed a minute with another girl so that she could have a moment to rest. This really really pisses me off and I know I should have expected that he’d just want to go, but still. It should not have happened. I don’t know who I’m more mad at, myself for not encouraging her to rest with the group so we don’t get left behind, the ‘leader’ for not making sure the WHOLE group was there, or the people who didn’t argue enough with him to wait 1 or 2 more minutes. Whatever, what was done is done and I’ll just have to go back some day.
I did get to see the wine cellar that was opened up for us to see where not only the restaurant kept all the wines, but where political groups gathered to sign treaties and agreements.
-A section of the massive wine cellar near the Chateau Neercanne, photo by me.
Day 5 was the actual bus trip to 2 places, Fort de Loncin and the Lafelt Battle Field (1747). We were supposed to go to a third, the Margraten Netherlands American Cemetary, but we didn’t have enough time.
The Fort fe Loncin was where the Germans bombed it, killingabout 350 of the 600 troops stationed there. The fort itself was one of the largest at the time and made of solid concrete (the ultimate undoing since there were no stones or reinforced weaving inside it).
-Top: welcome sign with map of the fort
-Bottom: Model of the fort before the bombing
-Photos by me
-Dogs were used to pull weapons. A life-sized model was near a series of photos of the actual military canines, photo by me.
-Top: Model of the cupola gun system of the fort, including what was underground.
-Bottom: One of the actual guns left upside-down after the explosion popped it off via the hydraulic system.
-Photos by me.
Nearly all of the guns run by hydraulics for movement were destroyed after the explosion.
-Massive destruction of the fort with a statue of a soldier commemorating all those who died, photo by me.
-Inside one of the trenches of the fort, photo by me.
The battle field that we visited was kind of anticlimactic for those wanting something as visually stimulating as a collapsed fort. It is just a field with small section with a cross and circular marble slabs in honor of those who died. A good portion were Irish. The battle itself was during the Austrian succession and held in the field as opposed to the nearby town due to the interception of forces by the defending party. If you want to know more about the battle, please google it. It was an important part of the that part of history.
This day was a bit brutal on the feet because we walked from a bastion on one side of the city to a fort near the other side. Exhausting, especially since the fort was on a big hill. It was still fun though.
-Map of the part of the fortification we walked through both above and below ground, photo by me.
—Dry moat, photo by me.
-Door that leads through a bastion (yes, the guides had true kerosene lights with them to see). Under the draw bridge is a pit with artillery slits, photo by me.
-One of the gates that leads into the tunnel system, photo by me.
-Part of the tunnel system. The small inlays were for allied forces to listen for enemy miners who were trying to collapse the bastion, photo by me.
-On top of the limestone hill is Sint Pieters Fort. The second spelunking adventure of the day, photo by me.
-View of the fort and its three levels. The three arches were for fire by mortar while the upper arches where for cannon fire, photo by me.
-Now on the second level of the fort, photo by me.
-The mortar with nearby ammunition that is too big for the weapon displayed, photo by me.
We had walked what seemed like hours. The leader of the group had claimed a possible bus the day before, but that did not happen. I wish we could have stayed and had a picnic on the top. There actually used to be a restaurant there, but was relocated for historical preservation purposes. Just sitting on the top with the sun shining, a light breeze and a gorgeous view of the city was a nice way to end the trek, if only I had a sandwich and water…
-View from the top of Sint Pieters Fort, photo by me.
Day 3 was the first day of spelunking in some man-made underground tunnels! Itwassocool.
West side of the city is where the high ground is. It was there that we walked trough the dry moat and had a private guide lead us through the tunnels that connected the chambers that were part of the wall and outer works. The bastion that we got to see was called Waldeck near the Kazematten or “killing house” where there were artillery slits for the gunmen.
-Map of the area we went through, including underground passages, photo by me.
-In the dry moat looking at the bastion, photo by me.
-On top of the Bastion now (with a cannon behind us) looking down at the door we ultimately ventured through to the underground, photo by me.
-Underground now, photo by me.
Some of the sections underground had these square seal in the floor. Apparently they were ‘wells’ that were made to have explosives set in one opening and then a rat would go to the other while pulling the line to detonate the charge. The two openings would be divided by a door and, if needed, they could collapse the tunnel if invading forces penetrated.
At some of the tunnels’ junctures was a dome space called a cupola where the sound is focused by the dome and you could whisper to someone on the other side of the space and they could hear you perfectly. It was a lot of fun to try this. There was also an opening in the ceiling for communication with people on the outside (that was the actual purpose of the space and the other acoustics effects were just happenstance). The fort eventually became obsolete as weapons improved, but during WWI, the sections with benches were used during the air raids of WWI.
-A poster in a section open to the public with posters from WWI. Note the ‘improved’ headgear, photo by me.
-Where we returned to the surface with our handy guide manning the gate. No where near where we went in, photo by me.
Day 2 had our first official morning lecture at the nearby college. If you’re interested, topics were: Imperial Rome & The Carolingian Empire and The Medieval Walled-Town.
-Heading through the college entrance to the lecture room. Outside was a marbel statue of books. No graffiti surprisingly, photo by me.
Afterwards was a nice walk into the church/fortification next to the hotel with the Roman Temple in the basement and then to the surrounding walls, towers, bastions, moats, etc.
-Inside the church, photo by me.
-Part of the wall where they have the cannons back where they would have been when operational, photo by me.
-Another part of the fortification outside the wall, photo by me.
-Round tower with picnickers nearby, photo by me.
-Inside the city looking at the wall. This portion is right next to the gate, photo by me.
At one point we walked through a park with a petting zoo and a moat and lots and lots of ducks and geese. They were everywhere. Maastricht should be the city of “Fortifications, Bikes, and Birds.” The “birds” bit could even be a play on words with how many very good-looking women were there. The men ogled and commented and ogled some more after some drinks.
-Ducks! Geese! Everywhere! Photo by me.
-Ducky resting his head under a blooming tree, photo by me.
As we followed the fortification, we got to see the sights from on top of the wall and check out where the original gate is. At some point we found one of the statues of D’Artagnon who was supposedly killed during the 1673 French siege of Maastricht. He was one of the invaders and yet is immortalized in the city where he died. I do wonder where he and any of the other musketeers are actually portrayed with a musket…
- D’Artagnon just outside the wall, photo by me.
“Tous pour un et un pour tous!”