Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Europe 2005 - Belgium

We have had campsites that were close to town before. They were usually on the last stop of the tram or bus line. Here in Brussels we are right in town. I guess the church makes money during the summer by letting people camp in their court yard. The internet cafés here are cheap too (for some reason it averages about 1.25/hr everywhere else has been about 3 euro/hr.). We were able to burn our pictures to a DVD too without it costing $100. (it was only 3 euro so we made a backup too.) I had heard all these stories about everyone having such fast internet connections here in europe I didn't think it would be a problem uploading them. But I guess that is not the internet cafés because it takes an average of 4 min. per picture so the DVD backups will have to do until I can get back.

Brussels-
Musical Instrument museum- here is another place I found in the “Weird Places in Europe” book. They have instruments from all over the world and throughout time. 4 floors of every type of instrument you can think of. The interesting part is that they give you a pair of infra-red headphones. As you walk through the room there are little spots on the ground that if you stand over them you can hear how the instrument in front of you sounds. Listening to the evolution of the sound of the piano was interesting to me. L. was just happy to wander forever. When leaving a room the random sounds you would hear as you walked out sounded bizarre since you had to walk over many spots.
E.U. Headquarters- Brussels is the headquarters for a lot of the departments of the E.U. I thought we would be able to tour the building but apparently they are removing asbestos so no one is using it right now.
Comics museum- Brussels is proud that they had the first university to teach comic art as an art form. All of the comics on the walls were in French or Dutch so I could only focus on the art and not the story line. The art style is different here then what I have seen in American graphic novels. Apparently comic style art is pretty popular around here as it is painted on the sides of buildings and comic stores are everywhere. The most famous is tin-tin (apparently a cross between Richie-Rich and James Bond.) who is the mascot for the 175th anniversary of the country.
Grand Place- this is the central square for the city and it is surrounded by some interesting architecture since they were built by powerful guilds at their time. This is where we found all the tourists.

Bilingualism- Belgium has come to terms with 2 languages long ago so even 100 year old churches have the name in both. (its weird to see since I’m so used to them being brand new signs when companies are just barely getting on the band wagon for multiple language signs.) the problem being is that with the French and Dutch being on all the signs of the museums it squeezes out any room for English that we have been enjoying reading.
Politics- (my swami hat is now donned ) As more countries join the E.U. A lot of people see it becoming more like the united states of Europe. With more combined money than the USA they will have a lot of economic sway (as soon as they convince France and the Netherlands) that will make products start following European standards like metric sizes. (or maybe something like the Japanese craze in the late 80s) I guess I’m saying the USA needs to get off its laurels.

Driving- We are back to the more aggressive driving. I think there is a correlation to how friendly a culture is with their neighbors. The more people stop in traffic to chat with people they know the more it forces people to swerve around them. With all the cars double parked and the narrow roads its every person for themselves. I think this was avoided in the Netherlands since so many people rode bikes.

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