Thursday, April 21, 2005

Brussels update

Here beginneth my Epistle from Brussels to whoever will listen... and this might have taken me a while as I get used to the French keyboard in the internet cafe.

Yesterday we flew from Dublin to Charleroi, and bussed and metroed it to the hotel. Having got settled in, we then had dinner, and it wasn't long after til I was in my bed!

Yet even with plenty of sleep, Hazlett and me managed to sleep in later than we had planned this morning... leading to a slight rush to be ready for the time we had told the group! But we made it, and set off on the metro for a journey including a change of metro twice - it led to a bit of excitement!

Our reason for going to Brussels was to visit the European Parliament Building, which we did this morning. The building is huge, with lots of people moving about it, and another few groups of visitors like ours. We were first given a talk on the work of the Parliament by one of the guides, before moving into the public gallery of the Parliament Chamber. There was some form of committee meeting going on (on the subject of drugs we were told), but the speaker during our time there was French, and despite being able to listen in to the English language translation, we left again quite sharpish, as it wasn't the most exciting thing we had heard.

Since then, we have been free, and while the rest of the group went off in smaller groups, I have been a lone ranger (or explorer!). I visited what is claimed to be the 5th biggest church in the world, from which there is a great view of the entire city from the dome 90 metres above the ground. I have also been in the Cathedral here, which has an amazing carved pulpit, although I am quite convinced the Gospel is not preached from it...

I then did some of the more usual touristy things, and visited the Chocolate Museum, which shows you how they make chocolate, and gives a demonstration of making chocolate figures. There was even a chance to taste some of the chocolate (just a wee bit though), as the woman dipped a plain biscuit into a big vat of the stuff. It was delicious!

Since then, I have been wandering about, not going into very many shops, but just wandering. It's strange, to some extent, being in a different setting; and having two languages (French and Dutch) both of which I don't know, just floating over my head. And I'm sure they think me weird, listening and singing along (quietly) to Handel's Messiah or Stainer's Crucifixion on my minidisc player! But it's good to be here.

The weather has also been very good, with me being able to run about today in my shirt with the sleeves rolled up.

However, one other thing has struck me about Brussels, more so than anywhere else I have been. There seems to be an awful lot of people begging in the streets... and from the internet cafe here, I have seen one guy rummaging through the bin to see what he could find to eat. Could it be that in the 'capital' of Europe in 2005, that people are begging and 'bin-hoking' as it was called at school? It's amazing that despite all our technological advances and scientific breakthroughs, there are people going hungry and without shelter in western Europe. What to do...

So anyway, that's my update from Brussels. I have tomorrow to explore the city a bit more, and purchase the obligatory Belgian chocolate.... but I might call into a net cafe if I have time, or need to rest my weary legs! If not, it will probably be next week before these thoughts are updated again...

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