Goeiendag (Hello in Flemish) Ocean City! Welcome to Brussels, Belgium. Brussels is the capital of the EU and the political heart of Europe. More importantly, it is the world capital of Chocolate & Beer!
Belgium is paradise for your sweettooth. Belgian chocolate is the standard by which all others are measured. What makes Belgian chocolate unique is their fanatical adherance to Old World manufacturing techniques. Belgian chocolate is still made by hand in small shops using the same equipment used since the 18th century. Similiar to wineries, tours of Belgian chocolate shops include tastings and exclusive souvenirs. In 1912 legendary Belgian Chocolateir Jean Neuhas invented a special blend of chocolate called “couverteur” to be used as a cold shell to house nougats, creams & other fillings. He called his discovery the “Praline” and it revolutionized the chocolate industry. Today, Praline icons Leonidas, Godiva, Neuhaus and Nirvana proudly carry on that tradition. True Belgian pralines are the most expensive chocolate in the universe, but for a true connoisseur, they are priceless!
The only indulgence that can rival Belgian Chocolate is Belgian Beer. 125 breweries produce over 500 standard beers and 8.700 microbrews. Not bad for a population of only 11 million. Beer has been brewed in Brussels since the Middle Ages and originated in monasteries. Originally exclusive to local Trappist Monks, the first beer was sold to the public on June 1st, 1861. Beer is the drink of choice for most Belgians and is regularly consumed with every meal during the day. Even McDonalds serves beer (Jupiler .33 L cans). There are hundreds of scenic beer gardens in the city center of Brussels (known as “Grand Place”.
Our first evening we enjoyed the sunset at the bustling La Rosa Blanche. We sampled local favorite Hoegaarden. Hoegaarden is the original White Beer, first brewed in 1445. It is served with lemon mint sprigs to produce the amber color you see in the picture. Like most towns in Belgium, Hoegarden has a beer named after it (find out more at www.hoegaarden.com). Belgians produce beer the same way the French treat fine wine. Most 750 mL bottles are sealed with a cork and a brown metal cap. The bottles are also tinted a darker color to reduce any negative effects from light. Brussels cuisine is a mixture of Flemish and French. The most popular menu items are Mussells, waffles and French Fries. The sprout originated here as well, hence the name “Brussel Sprout”.
On many occasions, the statue is dressed in a costume. His wardrobe now consists of several hundred different costumes. The costumes are changed according to a schedule managed by the non-profit association The Friends of Manneken-Pis, in ceremonies that are often accompanied by brass band music.On occasion, the statue is hooked up to a keg of beer. Cups will be filled up with the beer flowing from the statue and given out to people passing by.
We loved the gastronomy of the Belgian culture. The beer & chocolate were the best we’ve ever had. The city was expensive, but very clean and safe. Brussells is a melting pot of many different cultures. It’s hard to describe what a typical Belgian looks like. They speak many dialects there and the menus are usually in at least three languages. Flemish is the native tongue.
We arrived in Belgium via an eight-hour flight to London followed by a ninety-minute ride through the Chunnel on the Eurostar. The Eurostar is one of the coolest trains on the planet and travels at 186 miles per hour. Belgium is six hours ahead of Ocean City time. The currency is the Euro. We had a fantastic time and highly recommend the Belgian Chocolate & Beer experience to everyone.
– The Rox