Maastricht to Brussels to Bruges

My first weekend traveling freely taught me a lot. My mom says that traveling teaches you a lot about yourself. In that regard was an excellent first weekend, very educational.

Friday

On Friday, Rob Dückers lead an excursion to Maastricht, a city about an hour south of Well. First of all the city was extremely gorgeous.

We enjoyed pie and hot chocolate in a cafe, which was splendid.

Maastricht still has part of its city wall from Medieval times, which is remarkable.

The other side of the wall was torn down when the city expanded, but since the Meuse river was right there, it made no sense to tear down the wall.

One of my favorite sights in Maastricht is the Boekhandel Dominicanen, an old church turned bookstore.

I love to see repurposing like this, or when churches turn into theaters.

Rob gave a tour of the Basilica of Saint Servatius, he's a curator of the treasury there. Our studies of Christian iconography in class got put to the test as we tried to identify the sculptures decorating the church.

Do you think this is the Virgin Mary? Why wouldn't you, it's a figure holding the baby Jesus, must be a Madonna, right?! THINK AGAIN!

It's Simeon! The dude who was the first to recognize Jesus as the messiah. We can tell because of his square jawline and flat chest. Also, he's standing next to a bunch of other stains from the New Testament.
After the tour ended, I headed to Brussels with my roommates Tim and Lorenzo, along with our friend Nora!

Brussels

The second I got off the train at Brussels central station I thought, "this is not a city that has my heart"
Most of the city reminded me of Midtown East in Manhattan. Large buildings and wide streets, plus the most hills I've encountered in weeks!

We explored the central square of Brussels, enjoyed waffles and chocolate (including a chocolate museum), and walked around plenty.

Our only goal for our one full day in Brussels was to make sure we saw the Magritte Museum. You may know Magritte from his famous works The Treachery of Images, or The Son of Man. Neither of those were at this museum! Regardless I loved these three paintings I saw: Portrait of the Writer Pierre Brochures, The Central Story, and The Heartstrings. After the Magritte Museum we went through the Brussels Museum of Fine Arts (which is one giant complex of museums) and saw some gorgeous art. James Ensor might be one of my new favorite painters.

After an exhaustive search of all the theater in Brussels I could find, I decided on going to the National Theatre of Brussels to see Notre peur de n’être. Google Translate tells me this in English is "Our fear of being, Do Be Our Fear, and Our Fear do Be" (depending on which instance of the title is being translated). My friend who speaks French, says it is actually "Our Fear of Not Being". On my bucket list was to see a play in a totally different language, without any English subtitles. So I got exactly what I wanted. But also I didn't because I didn't understand anything happening in the play. There was a lot of dialogue. Yet I did appreciate the staging: the entire proscenium was surrounded by fluorescent lights (which I adore on stage) and for the first of the three parts a scrim curtain was down. While scenes were happening, one of the characters was live-projected onto the scrim. So simultaneously you were watching a scene, as it was filmed (usually a medium or close-up shot) and projected on top. A handful of moments were genuinely exciting: a woman throwing a pot of spaghetti on stage, a mess of fog coming from upstage into the house, and the final moment of a woman's death when her dress ascended into heaven. Seven of my friends also saw the show, and I think one of them truly enjoyed themselves. The rest of us agreed that although the stagecraft was impressive, the play itself wasn't enjoyable; and even if we could have understood it, we're certain we would have found it pretentious.

Bruges

Bruges is called the "Venice of the North" because it has canals. Quite gorgeous. When I told my history teacher I was going to Belgium he explained how most of the wealth is from the country's exploitation of the Congo. Something to think in both cities.

After a walk through the city, we came to the 83 metres tall Belfry Tower. Since it was such a perfect day, we climbed the 366 steps to the top of the bell tower. The view was stunning, to be so much higher up than any other buildings around.

After climbing down 366 steps, we went in search in food. And there was our fatal error. Bruges is a very tourist-y city, and most lunch places closed before three. So the rest of our day was spent wandering for food, but still enjoying the usually sunny day.

LESSON: always pack lunch, you never know when it will be difficult to find inexpensive food.
Location: Well, Kasteelaan 20, 5855 Well, Netherlands
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