I went to Belgium on Friday!! This was an EDUCO semi-sponsored event. We arrived took a short train right into the center of the city. We started by walking through the Grand Square and cute passages (and it was snowing!).
Then we took a tour of a museum of Comic Books. Now this might sound crazy to American readers, because in America Comic books are mostly just superheros and kinda weird. However, in Belgium (and France) comic books are considered an 8th type of art (to go along with sculpture, painting, singing, theater, etc) afterall it’s drawings WITH WORDS. Needless to say they are a big part of the culture in belgium (and France too). We learned all about TinTin and Smurfs (both of which originated from Belgium!). We also learned about the cartoon Natacha which started as just a comic about a woman (a new idea) but eventually turned into an “erotic” comic after a few years. The museum had a special room for adults only that our guide took us to. There was a funny “no children” sign outside.
For lunch I tried a sandwich made with brie and sirop de liège. Liège is a town in Belgium, and the “sirop” is sort of a mixture between jam and syrop and it is pear flavored. There also were some chunks of pear. The sandwich was delicious!! I also tried a brownie, which looked like a muffin, but was super tasty.
Next we went to the “Parlementarium” which was a super cool interactive museum explaining the history and functions of the EU Parliament. Unfortunately, our guide got lost on the way to the museum so we only got about 15-20 minutes in this huge museum so I was frustrated. I actually was super interested in this museum (and political science is far from my normal interests). There was a huge map of Europe on the floor of one of the rooms. There were these little podiums on wheels and you’d take it and place it over a major city in one of the European Union countries and it would give a short historical/cultural message about it. I learned quite a bit, I thought I’d include some random facts. Croatia is anticipated to be added to the EU in about 6 months. Norway is the only Scandinavian country who is not part of the EU (I’m actually not sure why). And, many of the EU countries have not switched over the euro (and likely won’t). It verified what I learned in the Czech Republic: the Czech Republic is part of the EU but they refused to sign one of the financial measure of the EU so they remain on their own currency instead of the Euro. There are also 14 vice presidents of the EU!
Next we had a meeting in the actual EU Parliament building! Unfortunately we couldn’t go into famous room where all their meetings are held (something about construction and safety…I didn’t understand completely). We had an employee give us an informative lecture about what the EU parliament does and the ways their meetings are held. Each member always speaks in their native (first) language and then it is translated into 23 different languages instantly for everyone else!! They also allowed us to ask questions. While this isn’t my domain, many of the students in my group are taking an EU class right now so they were very quick with lots of questions.
Lastly, we had some free time in the city. Without a doubt I wanted to go to the famous Christmas Markets!! I tasted so many great Belgian specialities. I tried waffles (of course). I actually prefer Liège style belgian waffles over the Bruxelles style (which is more similar to what we eat in America). The Liège style has almost a sugar coating on it, and they are smaller…. mmm so tasty! I also tasted french fries which were originally made by a French man who lived in Belgium. They had 15 different sauces we could put on our fries…. ketchup is the only one that sounded reasonable in my mind. I also got some belgian chocolates to give as gifts to people who have been especially helpful for me in my time in Paris.