Oh, la la, La Belgique! I spent 3 days in Belgium visiting a friend from high school who is studying in Louvain-La-Neuve. Belgium is a wonderful mélange of French and Dutch culture; the south is almost entirely French-speaking (although with a bit of an earthy accent) and in the north it is Flemish…if you eat at a restaurant your menu will more than likely be written in at least three languages. It is so interesting how different languages are such an integral part of life in European countries; even if you speak one language primarily, learning and understanding other languages is virtually unavoidable. You want lunch? You gotta order in Dutch.
Bruges, a city whose canals date back to the eleventh century, is a beautiful example of medieval architecture. The massive churches and towers, the tilted and curving cobblestone paths, the cafés and shops each with a separate façade, the gently falling snow, all gave me the feeling that time forgot about this city by the sea.
In addition to the sights, I was able to sample several Belgian beers! The most famous are perhaps the Trappist beers, brewed by monks on church property to this day, and all profits go to support church projects. At my first petite soirée in Belgium, it became known that there was a foreigner in the midst and someone went out in the snow (at midnight no less!) and came back with a crate of assorted Belgian brews: Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, oh my! My vow to never again allow a Keystone or a Natty Light to touch my lips is definitely confirmed….