The last time I was here was for interviewing folks at NATO so I stayed on the outskirts of town. The time before that? Just a pit stop on the way to Afghanistan. The time before that? When I was a college student and Brussels was my last stop after seven weeks in London and four weeks railing it through West Europe.
In those days and many times since, my tourist strategy was to pick out a few key spots I wanted to see and then walk between them so that I could see much of the city (plus metros/subways intimidated me--how to pay and all that). Today, the target was a brewery/museum, and I saw much along the way.
What did I learn?
- That it is not good to be stuck behind a French tour in a brewery--very long explanations require me to wait, and I am not patient.
- That the brewery is still very much in the family as the person telling us about the place is the great granddaughter of the founder.
- That Lambic beers are not my thing--at least those that are classic/purest. Trappist stuff is more my taste.
- The idea of spontaneous fermentation is surprisingly new to me. I should have heard of it before since this is how we got all of our booze before the 1800s apparently.
- I learned all week that Brussels (and NATO) is at a higher level of alert due to foiled terrorist attack. I saw pairs (and more) of Belgian army soldiers around town, guarding various places. In many cases, I had no clue about the targets they were protecting. At the Belgian Jewish Museum, it was easier to figure out since they had an attack just last year that killed two people there.
The good news is that the worries were assuaged by much wonderful beer and food. If only the ISIS folks could sit down and chat over a beer and frites....