I was as right as rain! No pain! No limp!
And boy, was I ready to start our tour of Belgium!
Belgium was a walk down memory lane for The Hubs as he was here for a conference 14 years ago.
Our customary group photo in front of The Atonium in Brussels
The Atomium represents a single unit of iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. There are 9 spheres representing atoms which are connected by tubes with escalators and lifts. Each sphere is about the size of a large apartment (18m diameter). Only 6 of the spheres can be visited.
The Grand Place
Considered one of the most beautiful medieval squares in Europe, the opulent Grand Place is the center of Brussels, where many historic buildings dating from the 17th century are located.
More photos and history of this square in an upcoming post.
The Manneken Pis
More photos and stories surrounding the inspiration of this fountain in an upcoming post.
After an amazing lunch of Brussels mussels (an absolute must, I was told), we had a couple of hours of free time to explore and shop for Belgian chocolates in the city. And yes, we had their divine Belgian waffles!!
Random photos of Brussels
The best chocolates on the planet come from Belgium!
I couldn't get enough of these!!
One of the items on my bucket list was to sit outside a cafe in Europe with a drink and people watch. But at 13°C?!! All I wanted was to get inside a heated place fast!
A shop selling tapestries
This shop has a wide range of items including wall hangings, table runners, cushion covers, throws and bags.
Oooo! Belgian waffles!!
Toting bags of chocolates and souvenirs, we were then corralled to our coach for our next leg of the tour to Rotterdam. Some of us had to buy an extra luggage to carry our shopping haul back to Malaysia!
Our coach was waiting patiently outside this cathedral.
|Cathedral of St, Michael and St. Gudula|
This beautiful park (Parvis Sainte-Gudule) was right in front of the cathedral.
We came across this curious bust which turned out to be a monument to the King of Belgium - Baudouin l.
Their incredible Christian love story here.
Expecting storybook buildings, canals, cobble-stoned streets and windmills, I was surprised to find that Rotterdam was an open-air gallery of modern and contemporary art, set against a backdrop of some very quirky and audacious architecture.
Strolling along the streets of Rotterdam was like visiting an outdoor art gallery. Giant sculptures and contemporary artworks were exhibited publicly everywhere!
A Quick History
The WWII devastation by the Nazis that bombed Rotterdam to ashes gave architects and artists a blank canvas to work on during the city's massive reconstruction.
"It takes more than 100 years to rebuild a city that has been bombed to the ground... The people from Rotterdam did not look back in history. Don’t think about the past, they said, look at the future." — Wim Pijbes
Uninhibited by the need to respect historical skylines or aesthetic standards, world-renowned architects transformed the decimated city into a city of the future. Rotterdam rose phoenix-like from the ashes and, today, has some of the most daring and forward-looking architecture in Europe.
Think cube houses, a pencil-shaped tower, a market hall in the shape of a giant upturned horseshoe, a flying saucer-like metro station ....
It's hard to describe this city of cool in just one post. Each and every building/structure/sculpture has a story to tell. I will share them all in upcoming posts.
Meanwhile some random photos...
The Erasmus bridge (Erasmusbrug)
The yellow Cube Houses
Blaaktoren (Pencil Tower)
Monument of Marten Toonder (comic artist)
These stacked buildings contain offices, residences, and a luxury hotel, as well as conference halls on the lower levels. They kinda look precarious, don't they?
We were taken on a slow drive along the Westersingel Sculpture Route, a pavement by the side of a canal where 17 interesting sculptures are located.
La Grande Musicienne
L'Homme qui Marche
The Destroyed City
The sculpture depicts a distressed figure with its head and hands lifting skywards, allegorical of desperation, hopelessness, pain, horror... the gap in his torso represents the hole left in the heart of the city following the 1940 bombardment.
Standing at a place which once was nothing but a city of ashes and being surrounded today by high-rises and quirky modern buildings was inspiring. I love that the city chose not to look back but instead, embrace a future where only the sky is the limit. Rotterdam recovered from the destruction by freeing itself from the past and moved on with a great dose of pragmatism.