I’ve been a bit busy this week, exploring Brussels and getting used to taking care of kids and learning their quirks. On September 16th I was out for most of the day – first had a walk with the host family to enjoy the strange sight of no cars on roads (Car Free Sunday) and later went to meet up with strangers from CouchSurfing to get to know some locals. It was strangely exciting to walk in the middle of big roads that day and see only pedestrians/cyclists passing by.
There were a lot of outdoors events to celebrate Car Free Sunday, the closer I got to the centre the more activities I found. For example there were quite a few stretching/yoga/whatever else groups around.
Car Free Sunday has been celebrated in Tallinn as well, but there it’s “recommended to leave your car home and use public transport / bikes instead”. Brussels has gone some steps further, it’s actually forbidden to drive any motor vehicle in the city limits, except for a few streets that have been kept open for traffic. If someone really needs to use their own vehicle that day, they have to get a special permit that they have to show to the police if they are caught driving. And nearly everyone would get caught anyway, police is everywhere that day to ensure there would be no random cars driving around.
Tunnels were of course closed off – bikes don’t go there and cars had no business in town that day. Such a strange sight, at some points it seemed like I was walking in a ghost town and next moment there was a huge group of cyclists passing by. Everyone was on the bikes and even small kids were finally allowed on the big streets. Also, I saw a few horses. Later I saw piles of horse manure.
As I got closer to the centre, streets got more and more crowded. When I reached Jubelpark / Parc du Cinquantenaire, it was full of food stalls and different areas for dozens of different sports activities. I haven’t seen so many kids in one place for a long time, there were families everywhere. Of course there were activities for adults as well, some of them even looked really appealing to me… but the massive queues were not that appealing, so I walked on.
Later that day I went to the centre by metro (which was free that day, so of course rather full) to meet up with people from CouchSurfing in a park. The mini-picnic was great, I met some lovely people and hopefully I’ll have some time soon to meet up with them again and do something together. I showed up to the picnic without any food because I had just had lunch with my host family, but soon enough I felt a bit peckish and went to explore the park with one Belgian girl. Warandepark / Parc de Bruxelles was full of delicious bio food, there were stalls everywhere.
It was difficult to go through the crowd, most people were walking really slowly (which is appropriate for a slow food area, I guess), but I was in a bit of a hurry to get back to the others. Eventually I just got a nice raspberry sorbet and rejoined the picnic. Too bad we were sitting on the other side of the park, there was a nice lounging area created near the slow food stalls. It was already very crowded though.
After the picnic (and gathering contact information from some people who said they would like to join a board game and cake night if I manage to organise one), it was time to move to another meet-up. I had signed up for a Dutch conversation table, but unfortunately I found there that the conversation moved a bit too fast for me. I could understand most things that were said, but by the time I had a nice Dutch sentence formulated in my head to join in, the topic had already changed. I made a promise to revise a bit on my own and return to a later meet-up either this or next month to try again.
On the photo above you can see the European Commission. A rather massive building, I wonder how often do the employees get lost in there? It would probably take me months to get to know the building properly. The metro station right at the Commission building was quite a shock to me. I already knew that Brussels doesn’t have the nicest-looking metro in the world, but the Schuman metro stop looks quite scary. Hopefully this is just being renovated at the moment and it will look normal again soon.
After navigating the system of stairs and tunnels down the the metro stop, I noticed a strange mirror on the wall. It seemed to be a mirror, but I could barely see myself in it. I looked like a ghost, strangely fitting for that location. So, have a nice ghost portrait of me to finish this post: