What makes you want to travel? Especially when it comes to picking a certain destination?
It is probably a mix of many different reasons for everyone.
I had one simple reason when I planned a short trip to Brussels: to drink Belgian beer in Belgium.
My Couchsurfing host who agreed to host me months before my trip had to cancel it at the last minute due to a business meeting. I was too busy to look for other options so said to myself “I will send only one (1) more request. And if this will not be approved in 1 day, I’ll just book a hostel.”. I was lucky because it was approved within the deadline and by an amazing person.
It was a rainy September day and I was in Amsterdam for work. My host, let’s call him Jon, said he had to work until 8.00pm which was perfectly fine for me as I was not going to make it earlier than that anyway. I took Ouibus from Sloterdijk Station. As I was the only passenger from Turkey – and the only Istanbulite – I suddenly became center of attention and found myself giving travel tips and tricks. With WiFi, power outlets and super funny staff on top of it, my journey ended up being quite pleasant.
It was around 11.00pm when I arrived to Brussels Midi/Zuid Station. It was the official start of my holiday so I was ready to rock’n roll. Jon offered to pick me up from the station although I told him for 5 times “YOU WORKED ALL DAY LONG, YOU MUST BE TIRED, I CAN FIND MY WAY.”. He didn’t listen and was there on time waiting for me.
He was as thoughtful as I was and asked if I’d like to go home and take a rest. Coming to Brussels after a long day, all I could think of was a cold cheeky beer. I did not know what a great drinking partner Jon was, but I was about to learn…
After a quick tour at night, he took me to Cafe Bizon where a great blues band was jamming. Good beer? Check. Good music? Check. Good company? Check. Do I recommend Cafe Bizon? YES!
Jon warned me about pickpockets and told me it is mostly short guys smirking around. I just laughed and said:
“I am a big girl coming from Istanbul, no short guy can steal anything from me.”
Our blues session ended around 2.00am but we were not ready to go home yet. Jon, who likes to show his city, took me to another tour around Grand Place and introduced me to Manneken Pis, which did not impressed me at all. I had same feeling after I saw Mona Lisa.
The tour made us thirsty so we moved on to our next stop Café Kafka.
Café Kafka is a traditional Belgian Pub where they offer more than just beer – which is namely 11 beers on tap and a good selection of bottled beers! There is free WiFi, daily newspapers, smoking lounge, cigars, board games, PIANO!, private rooms, and music events. So definitely note it down and make sure to pay a visit.
This drink beer-stroll around-drink beer-stroll around loop continued till early hours of the morning.
Jon had a day off on my 2nd day and asked me if I had any plans in mind. The answer was a big no. I do not care if it will sound shallow but I was there only for beer, the beer, BELGIAN BEER. Jon said he could be my guide for the day if I would not mind. A smart, humorous person who can drink beer as much as I can and who knows about the best places in the city? Would I mind him being my guide? This did not require so much thinking time…
He decided to take me to Atomium and I had nothing against it. Jon did know about his city very well, and explained me all about from history to politics, architecture to culture. It was like being on a private tour. So well done Couchsurfing, you did it right once again!
I was taking pictures of literally everything and Jon stopped me at a point and said “Go there and pose, I am going to take pictures of you so that you can have some memories with yourself in them.”. Then we found ourselves taking pictures of each other while pretending as if we were licking giant Atomium balls. This is of course a well-kept secret and those pictures will never ever be exposed.
We left Atomium when it started to rain. It was around 1.00pm and Jon said “I’d like to have a beer but this is probably too early for you.”. Jon didn’t know me well by then, so we eventually decided to continue our drink beer-stroll around loop.
We walked, drank and ate all day long and I can not even remember all of the places we visited, but Jon made sure to show me fair amount of attractions or squares; from St. Michael Cathedral to Les Galeries Royales, from Place Ste. Catherine back to Manneken Pis – which was still not impressive. I also saw a Black Madonna, which was a first for me.
“There is a 9th century cathedral right here and you are taking a picture of a bad drawing?“
“Please Jon, do not judge my decisions and accept me as who I am…“
Besides of being a traveler, beer drinker, city shower; Jon was also an avid reader. I spent my childhood reading adventures of Tintin over and over again during each summer holiday so was looking for something special. Although I could not find it in the first try, I did not stop trying. Jon took me to comic book stores and shared his in-depth knowledge with perfect recommendations.
We made quite few beer stops in between. And unfortunately my memory fails to remember all of them yet there a few I must mention. First one is Au Bon Vieux Temps, a small traditional pub from 17th century. You first need to walk down from a little alleyway. And I probably would not be able to notice it If I was alone. You will find a good selection of beers including Corsendonk and Westvleteren. Next one is Grimbergen where you can get discounts if you make a reservation online. This is of course not where it ends because I have not get to La Fleur en Papier Doré / Het Goudblommeke in Papier yet. It is a great place to try Belgian food with Belgian beer on the side. It also hosted many artists back in the days and its walls are now full of history, so this place worth a visit!
We were both exhausted around 8.00pm and decided to call it a day. We made our last stop at Café L’Archipel before meeting Jon’s friends at Cafe Bizon.
Next day I had a flight to Berlin and Jon had to work. We were trying to sober up while our short interaction was coming to an end. After one last bus trip, we said goodbye and I went to train station to get rid of my luggage. By getting rid of, I mean putting it into a locker.
I had few hours left in the city and I decided to go tourist all the way. First I took advantage of the sunshine and did some photographing at Grand Place again.
I still had an important mission: finding a Tintin book! I was lucky to find a Tintin store where I got dis babe so this mission was accomplished successfully.
Then I went back to Les Galeries Royales to spoil myself with greatest sweets you could find on Earth.
After some more strolling, discovering new shops and streets, I took a rest at pedestrian friendly streets of Brussels and headed to my final -super touristy- stop which is known as Delirium Café. If you visit all above mentioned places, then you are allowed to visit Delirium too.
After doing the last touristy thing, I went back to train station to catch my train to the airport. I enjoyed my short stay in Brussels thanks to Jon. Hopefully I will have another chance to visit Belgium to discover Bruges, Antwerp and Gent this time!