Royal Greenhouses in Laeken – there’s something hairy

Royal Greenhouses in LaekenExactly a month ago, the royal greenhouses near Brussels were open for the public for a short while. Seizing the opportunity, I met up with my friend Thomas and arrived at the gates a bit before they were opened. Getting up before 8am on a weekend may be a bit insane, but at least we managed to get there before the massive crowds took the place over. We could actually walk on our own without being pushed forward by the crowd. Yes, the royal botanical gardens are very popular. Partly because they are only open a few days per year.

Royal Greenhouses in LaekenThe greenhouse buildings are in the beautiful art nouveau style and they really do look magnificent. Only a small part was open for the public, so I enjoyed the tiny part of the park that we were allowed to visit and took some photos there as well:

Royal Greenhouses in Laeken Royal Greenhouses in Laeken Royal Greenhouses in LaekenThat tree looked as if it was from an old horror movie, so I had to try it in black and white. Yup, old movie. These were the only outside photos, the rest is all from inside the greenhouses. A recurring theme throughout the exposition was “hey, this is hairy!”. Seriously, I’ve never seen that many hairy plants in one place. Some looked like monkey trees:

Royal Greenhouses in LaekenAnd yes, they were soft to touch. I tested. A bit after seeing those lovely hairy palm trees, we entered the more tropical areas. Of course my camera couldn’t handle it too well, so I sat there for a while with a foggy lens. Looking through the camera, it seemed as if I was in a sauna. Snapped a photo of Thomas as proof of the sauna-effect:

TRoyal Greenhouses in LaekenOnce the fog disappeared, I could take normal photos again. And then I discovered this little fella:

Royal Greenhouses in LaekenThis is the happiest-looking tree trunk I’ve ever seen. Such an adorable omnomnom-face. Also, I really loved the plants they used for covering areas that would otherwise have been empty. There were lovely light green “plant carpets” everywhere. They change the plants every now and then so they would look fresh and young. An example of the carpet:

Royal Greenhouses in LaekenSince I don’t really have much to say about most of the flowers, I’ll just show some photos of what I saw there. I really enjoyed the parts where flowers were hanging from the ceiling, it looked almost like a fairytale tunnel.

Royal Greenhouses in Laeken Royal Greenhouses in Laeken Royal Greenhouses in Laeken Royal Greenhouses in Laeken Royal Greenhouses in LaekenRoyal Greenhouses in Laeken Royal Greenhouses in Laeken Royal Greenhouses in Laeken Royal Greenhouses in Laeken Royal Greenhouses in Laeken Royal Greenhouses in Laeken Royal Greenhouses in Laeken Royal Greenhouses in Laeken TER-6669-130427And a compulsory mirror-photo, of course. (They really should clean the mirrors there more often.)

Royal Greenhouses in Laeken

Advertisements

wandering in Antwerp

in Antwerp train station

A long long time ago (read: the beginning of March) there was a trip to Antwerp. One of my sisters came for a visit in Brussels and on the weekend I took her for a day trip. Mairi and I were joined by Kristina (a lovely au pair with irresistible ginger curls) and about an hour later by Matthijs who came from Netherlands, so in Antwerp train station the group was together. Did I mention in my previous Antwerp-post that the train station there is absolutely gorgeous and crazy?

Antwerp train stationSo, that is the beautiful part. And the crazy? It’s multi-layered. There’s four floors where you can board trains. So when you look up, you see higher floors with trains… and it looks batshit crazy. But why should you have trains only underground or on ground level when you could go higher as well… So when you look at the next photo, know that all of those floors contain trains.

Antwerp train stationWe headed to the centre to take some photos and walk around. I annoyed everyone with talking about pies. Last time in Antwerp we had gone to a bakery with Matthijs and they had amazing tiny cherry pies. I had been dreaming of eating another one of those ever since. Of course I got disappointed when we reached the bakery – they had no crumble pies anymore. Lattice pies look nice, but there’s a distinct lack of crumbles. I like crumbles on my pies. Have I mentioned I love crumble pies? Anyway, after driving everyone insane, I didn’t even get to eat what I wanted. The lattice pies tasted nice as well, but they weren’t what I had been dreaming about.

Antwerp / AntwerpenWe had no certain plan, so we just wandered around, chatted and took photos. When Mairi wanted to take some money out, we discovered that the ATMs there hate Estonian bank cards. Or at least the one that Mairi had. Despite there being enough money, the annoying machine kept repeating there is no money on the account. In the end Matthijs came to rescue – there were no issues with Dutch cards.

Antwerpen

Antwerpen Antwerpen

Of course no trip is complete without spotting some strange graffiti. That day’s discovery? Pedobear twins. With bonus pink toilet paper.

pedobear twinsMairi was supposed to take some videos over the next week and she had brought something special for that: a lens from a copy machine. It gave a very cool effect when looking through and I was able to fit all three trip companions in one photo, standing right in front of them. Unfortunately the lens never made it to the videos. Mairi’s fingers slipped and the lens crashed to pieces on the ground. She was so sad about it, but we had no replacement to take from anywhere.

lens

Antwerpen

To get some lovely views over the town, we decided to visit MAS (Museum aan de Stroom). It’s a huge building with a glass spiral around it, so you can walk up the stairs and see beautiful panoramas. Entering the museum cost some money, but the spiral had free entrance. So we decided to do just that and walk up to the roof.

Antwerpen MASAs you might see from the photo, the glass was not quite ordinary. It was in waves all around the building, so inside the spiral you could walk into the wavy corners and feel almost like you’re in a separate room. Of course I took the chance to take some photos of Mairi and Kristina while they were occupying the corner.

in MASSome views from the roof:

from the roof of MAS  from the roof of MASfrom the roof of MASMatthijs had a wide angle lens with him and we wanted to take a funny looking close-up with the girls. Didn’t work out quite as how I had imagined, but here it is:

on the roof of MASThis has been a very photo-heavy post, because the trip itself was more than a month ago and I can’t remember everything anymore. But I hope the pictures speak for themselves. I’ll try not to leave a month-long gap between posts again.

Bianca, Brussels and lots of houses

The worst part about making new friends here is knowing that you’re only in the same town for a limited time. At some point either they leave or I leave or we both leave. I know it’s inevitable, but it doesn’t stop me from being sad that Bianca is moving back to Finland. We only got to explore two towns together! We were supposed to see so much more than Brussels and Bruges! To make sure that we would miss each other even more, we arranged a meet-up today to walk around in Brussels together and take photos. I thought it was going to be cloudy and rainy, so I left my Canon 600D home and took the tiny “soap box” instead. I regretted it dearly when the sun came out.

Palais de Justice / JustitiepaleisOur first stop was the Law Courts of Brussels (Palais de Justice / Justitiepaleis), but unfortunately the entire building was covered in scaffolding and didn’t really look that nice. The doors were open though, so we stepped inside to admire the view and check out the postcards. The prices were ridiculous and the salesperson was more interested in checking his texts than dealing with annoying customers. I still bought one though, because I haven’t sent my nephew and niece a card in ages.

the ceiling of the law courtsBiancaThe massive building stands on a hill, so we had a nice view of the town from there before descending to the lower parts in a glass elevator. There was a man playing the accordion in front of the elevator, though I didn’t even notice him at first. I have gotten so used to street musicians (though often the term “metro musician” would be more correct) that they are pretty much a normal part of town scenery to me. Most often I see them in metro trains and usually they play the accordion. I have also seen performances on flutes, violins, harmonicas and some other intruments though and the newest addition was today on my way back home when a guy walked in with speakers, put on some music and sang along.

BrusselsOur next destination was Place du Jeu de Balle / Vossenplein to lurk around at the flea market. Bianca was looking for a nice decorative glass bottle to take home with her and I wanted to find something special to get her as a present. In the end we decided on an interesting-looking hourglass that also had a compass on top of it. I hope that she will put it somewhere in her room when she is back in Finland and think of her funny little hobbit friend every now and then when she sees it.

hourglassThe golden paint is partly chipped, but that’s alright, gives it a bit more character. Bianca found a nice glass bottle as well and tried to haggle for it, as is common at a flea market. Seems like that salesman hadn’t heard of that tradition though, because his response was very snappy. I was hoping to find a nice Kriek glass from the market, but unfortunately we saw none of those. We did however see creepy skull culptures, piles of old clothes, a ton of random cups and silver spoons and some unexplainable items that we passed rather quickly.

Place du Jeu de Balle / VossenpleinPlace du Jeu de Balle / VossenpleinHappy with our findings, we continued our journey towards the south. We saw a lovely little castle and Bianca wanted a photo of me. Her request for a pose: “the most touristy pose you can think of!” I’d like to think I delivered what was asked for. I mean, I even have a bonus camera hanging from my wrist, what more can you ask for?

tourist!

I have probably mentioned it before, but I love the houses in Brussels. There are some seriously ugly ones, but in general I really like the style here. It isn’t even just one style, it’s a colourful mixture of everything you can think of. The best one from today: a house that is a tree. Or a tree that is a house. Take your pick.

house / treeThe further we got, the more expensive the houses looked. Also, the trees started looking very strange. I hope they will look more normal once spring comes and everything is green again, but at the moment they are strange bumpy creatures. Close-up, they have camouflage pattern on them.

Brussels

Brussels

bumpy camouflage tree

To finish our lovely walk, we headed back to the centre and sat down at a cafe. Unfortunately I have no idea what the name was, perhaps Bianca can help me out with that later. The prices weren’t exactly the cheapest, but everything was oh-so-good. I had a lovely quiche, apple pie and a minty mocha. I don’t normally take food photos in cafes, but this looked too good not to document. Look, my drink has fresh mint on top! Heaven.

foooodWe hugged each other and promised to try to arrange a visit this summer when she is in Finland and I have moved back to Estonia. This isn’t the last time we are seeing before she leaves though, we are going to play some board games tomorrow evening. It was how we met and it’s how we are going to say our goodbyes for now. I’m going to miss her, she has been my best friend in Brussels and I hate to see her go.

Avenue de Tervuren / TervurenlaanBecause the weather was so nice, I didn’t want to spend the entire journey back home in a metro train. So I left the underground three stops too early and had a nice walk. Notice the lack of snow! I’m so happy about that, it was a nightmare to pick Minnie up from kindergarten with the pushchair wheels doing nothing but get stuck on the snowy roads. Plus I just hate snow. But now I can have walks outside again without feeling like my nose is going to abandon me because it’s too frozen to survive. Farewell snow, glad to see you go! Actually, this was the biggest amount of snow I saw on my way back home:

farewell, snow!

Some people have still not realised that January is almost over though. There is a house on my home street with one slightly annoying christmas decoration still hanging around. And literally hanging, as you can see:

santa is fallingLet the poor santa go, he needs to return to his people. But on a different topic: I took a photo today that for me symbolises Brussels. A beautiful old building next to a construction of glass and cement next to a house being renovated next to some random house next to… and of course there’s some random stone blocks on the ground, because everything needs renovating and reconstructing. Voilà, Brussels in one image!

Brussels

the band, the crew and the hobbit

Antwerpen

Continuing with my very late blog posts in order to catch up with all the photos I wanted to share here. In December, I had a lovely day in Antwerp with Matthijs. We wanted to see Ewert and the Two Dragons in the evening and also check out the lovely Belgian city, so we went there in the morning to walk around and enjoy the sights. It was close to Christmas, so light time was limited. As we wanted to take photos, the first place we visited was Sint Annatunnel, a pedestrian tunnel to get to the other side of the river Schelde.

The escalators in Sint-AnnatunnelThe entrance to the tunnel was via old wooden escalators. They looked amazing and as I read now, they are from the 1930s. So much better than those chunks of metal everywhere else, these had the elegance of older eras. After taking the long escalator ride down, we had to walk more than half a kilometre under the river to get to the other side and ride similar old escalators back up to the daylight again.

Sint-Annatunnel

Sint-Annatunnel

The view from the other side was magnificent. Our timing was perfect as well, it was just before sundown and the colours on the river and the centre of Antwerpen were beautiful. We took photos of the town (and a few of each other – what else would two people with cameras do than torture each other with them?) and tried not to fall down from the high riverside structures we were climbing on. Considering that the temperatures were slightly below zero and everything was icy and slippery, it wouldn’t have been too difficult to slip and fall.

Matthijs in AntwerpenWhen the sun had begun to set, we walked back through the tunnel to explore the city centre a bit. That didn’t work out too well though, because it was already getting dark and we didn’t have time to see everything we wanted. So instead we only took a look at a few selected places and then headed for dinner. I wanted to meet up with my friend Karl who happens to be the tour manager of Ewert and the Two Dragons, but obviously he was a bit busy with the upcoming gig because of his work duties.

christmas market in Antwerpen

After dinner, we went back to our hotel to put some things away and check how to get to Trix, where the concert was held. Eventually we figured out what trams we had to take and where to walk, or at least we thought we did. When we stepped off the tram, we of course realised we have no idea what direction we should take. Thanks to some good guessing, we finally found our way in the dark and got to the venue. I have no photos from there, because I didn’t want to carry my camera around and left it in the hotel. Matthijs is focusing on gig photography anyway, so I left the concert cameraman duties to him.

Antwerpen and ScheldeThe gig was awesome. I managed to see Ewert and the Two Dragons four time that month, partly because I love the music and mostly because it was a good opportunity to see Karl, who is travelling around with the band and almost impossible to see in Estonia. Especially when living abroad, it’s very nice to meet up with your friends like that. The highlights of the concerts were not the relaxed atmosphere and awesome music, but the moments spent with Karl and his relative Siim (who was the merch guy for the European leg of the tour). I had missed my friends so much.

Antwerpen and ScheldeWe met up with them the next evening as well in Leuven. As usual, I have no photos of that because I’m too short anyway to see over the crowd, but Matthijs took some photos of the band during the concert and even some group photos for them after that. I managed to get my “fangirl picture” as well, after seeing them live for five times already. As Karl was already kneeling on the ground from previous group photos, I just claimed his leg as my seat for the photo. This caused some joking among the guys, with Matthijs saying he is allowing that and Karl winking and laughing that he should see the next pose then. Thanks to the guys goofing around, I have a laughing derpy-face on that photo. But I don’t care because I’m with my friends and my favourite Estonian band.

Ewert and the Two Dragons and crewSo there. The band, the crew and the hobbit, as promised in the title of this post. I’m out of photos to share for now, so next posts will appear when I’m finally not ill anymore (spent five days with a high fever and I’m slowly getting better now) and have had a chance to go out with my camera. I’m pretty sure there will be no posts this weekend, unless I decide to spend my train journey back from Nijmegen writing about long-distance relationships. Why? I’m going to Nijmegen to celebrate our second anniversary with Matthijs. Two years together and not once have we lived in the same country. Life is strange.

why I hate trains

train station

Christmas break has ended and I’m back in Brussels, working as an au pair. The journey from Charleroi airport to Brussels was a bittersweet one. On one hand, I had said goodbye to my family, friends and Estonia and it made me want to cry. On the other hand, I was going from icy Tallinn to +8 degrees in Brussels to do the job I love, so I should have been smiling. I just stared out of the window of the shuttle bus, listened to Radical Face and tried to hold the tears back.

The entire journey lasted for 12-13 hours (bus from Tallinn to Riga, waiting at the aiport, flying to Charleroi, taking the shuttle bus to Brussels), but even despite that I was still certain that flights are better than train rides. How come? Well, I can present a list of reasons.

  • You can close your eyes once you have boarded an airplane and wake up when you land, thus making the journey seem extremely short. On the train you have to keep an eye on where you are or you might wake up in a random town in the middle of nowhere.
  •  You don’t have to stare at your belongings all the time, fearing they might get stolen. On a plane, you put most of your stuff away and the things you keep on you are under the chair and quite difficult for others to reach. On a train someone can just walk by, snatch your suitcase and jump off the train just as the doors are closing, leaving you staring at the thief while the train takes you away.
  • You don’t have to navigate the labyrinth called “a train station”. Seriously, airports are so much easier. Though this might be because I have had more flights than train journeys.
  • You can always get information in English (I’m talking about European airports though, I haven’t travelled outside Europe much). This eliminates the possibility of a situation where you’re standing in the middle of a huge train station in Paris, tired and close to tears, and still have to be able to speak perfect French because nobody understands you otherwise. Or hey, Italian train stations are fun as well! (Not.)

Want another reason for why I hate trains? I’ll tell you a story. In December I had to take a train trip from Ghent to Brussels. It’s a short trip, 35 minutes max. Worrying that I’d be late for work, I took an earlier train than I had planned. Well, that plan backfired majorly. I got on the train, it started moving… only to stop about 15 minutes later. And then there was an avalanche of announcements, each giving different information.

According to the announcements, there is a short delay, the train is returning to Ghent, the train is going to Brussels, there will be replacement transport, the train will go back to Ghent, the replacement transport is on the way, there is a disturbance on the tracks, the train will continue to Brussels, the train will take everyone to the next stop where we could catch a new train, there is a serious problem and the delay may be another hour, the police is evacuating half of the train, the train will take everyone to a different Brussels station than planned. Now try to understand that! And all the time, other trains were passing by on the tracks next to us…

Later I read from the news that three wagons got detached from a train between Ghent and Brussels. Guess which train I was on! By the way, I may have been in one of the detached wagons that was later left on the tracks, because I was asked to change wagons after we had been sitting for a bit. Everything was in Dutch though and I hadn’t slept much (I had been to a Muse concert the previous night), so it was difficult for me to grasp all the details.

Anyway, I got home three hours later than planned, cold and hungry and thirsty and needing to pee (because the train had no toilets) and I was completely late for work. I vowed then to never start liking trains, because trains suck. An airport has never reduced me to tears because I have no idea where my flight is departing from or what time it goes. It has happened several times in train stations though and I’m normally pretty good at figuring out where I have to go.

For those who want to practise Dutch and/or just see a video of that unfortunate train incident, here’s the news item: http://www.deredactie.be/cm/vrtnieuws/regio/oostvlaanderen/1.1507813

medieval Bruges / Brugge and chocolate insanity

I have found Belgian Tallinn! Or to be more precise, the Belgian version of Tallinn’s Old Town. The shape is more or less the same and probably even the size, but instead of being surrounded by ancient town walls, this one is surrounded by canals. I’m talking about Bruges (or Brugge in Flemish), a small town near the western coast of Belgium.

Since my previous Sunday was free, I found a travelmate and went on a day trip. Bianca is a total sweetheart, a Finnish Swede who is spending some time in Brussels as an au pair. We both loved the tiny medieval town to bits, despite the insane amount of tourists and some grumpy locals who hated tourists. Our “favourite” was a shopkeeper who stared at us for half a minute or a minute while we chatted and tried to decide what we should buy and then asked sharply whether we plan to buy anything or we just want to chat. She looked so pissed off! After that we of course didn’t want to buy anything from her, so we just left and stared at each other in disbelief for a moment. So rude! Sorry for interrupting your precious alone time while you’re at work…

We didn’t let that ruin our day, there were plenty of other chocolate stores around. In fact, we weren’t able to walk even for five minutes without seeing another shop crop up! Bruges is a total paradise for someone with a sweet tooth! We definitely do, so we kept on squealing and pointing at amazing things in stores and telling each other we should skip that one and not spend any more money. Well, that failed miserably. We didn’t buy any of the generic Sinterklaas / Christmas sweets, but we did get some pralinées and amazing dark chocolate and rock candy and… Soon we had big paper bags with sweet stuff.

(This photo of me staring at the sweets was taken by Bianca. Go and check out her blog! http://biancasoderlund.blogspot.be/ – it’s all in Swedish, but she does have some awesome photos that you can check out even if you can’t speak a word of Swedish.)

We got really lucky with the weather. It was pouring down in Brussels in the morning, but by the time we reached Bruges, the skies were almost clear and the sun was shining. Perfect weather for being a silly tourist and taking a ton of photos! Some shots even ended up looking so nice and warm that I could have sworn I was enjoying Estonian summer. The only distracting thing was my thick coat and a hat, but at least I didn’t need gloves! I can’t remember a November day in Estonia where I would have been able to leave the house without hiding my hands in warm gloves first.

In addition to buying some rather expensive chocolate, we also stepped into a nice café that had tons of delicious-looking cupcakes on display. We decided to be cheapskates though, so we only took one cupcake each and even refused any drinks. Why would we take a drink if it costs as much as an already overpriced cupcake? So we just sat in the cosy café and chatted over the cupcakes, the perfect break from walking around and ogling at every chocolate store on the way. Ignoring all the delicious stuff in stores and walking on was so much easier after getting something sweet in my stomach.

For some reason Bruges confused me a lot. I kept thinking that I was in a tiny town in England, some things reminded me of my trip to Cheddar. At the same time it could have been somewhere in The Netherlands as well, I was already accustomed to seeing canals in Dutch towns and I had only seen one measly example in Brussels during my two months in Belgium. But you should never tell a Belgian person that their hometown looks like something in The Netherlands. I’m pretty sure you’d get beaten up or at least subjected to a deathly glare.

After enjoying the chocolate stores and canal views for a while, we wanted to find the central square of the old town. We actually walked through it without realising it was actually the square we were looking for. I had been expecting something grand and beautiful. Instead we found a square where you could barely walk since the middle was built full of some roofed thing where people were selling their paintings and jewellery. It was so disappointing that I didn’t even bother taking a photo of that. We went and explored some more canals instead.

As it started getting darker, we tried to find a place to eat. We had almost decided on a nice-looking restaurant where you could get soup + lasagne + créme brûlée for 11.50€, but we got scared away for a creepy-looking man smiling and waving at us, trying to invite us in. We returned some time later, hoping he would have finished his food by then… only to find he was actually one of the waiters. The food there was amazing, but the waiters seemed a bit creepy, discussing us in Italian half the time and calling us pretty little ladies. I do like compliments, but those guys crossed the line a bit.

After eating, we wandered around for a bit more, but we had seen most things we wanted to and the sun was nearly gone, so we headed back to the train station to take our hour-long ride back to Brussels. The day was a total success – we saw a beautiful town, got some Christmas / Sinterklaas shopping done and found a lovely companion. I’m meeting up with Bianca again tomorrow to bake together and eat some dark bread. My parents sent me a package that (among other things) included some actual rye bread! I’ve been missing it so much. Since Bianca is also a fellow fan of mint (and especially mint chocolate), we’ll have dark bread and mint chocolate and cake tomorrow. Sounds like a wonderful morning to me!

After that morning food orgy, I have to start working again to do another 10-hour day. But that’s the last of the four very long workdays this week, Friday is free and then I’ll be on my way to Nijmegen to see Matthijs, play board games and go to gigs. Ewert and the Two Dragons is playing in The Netherlands this week and I’ll be there!

autumn leaves and the military museum

Autumn has arrived. It has always been one of my favourite seasons. Everything is colourful, I get to wear an array of pretty tights and sweaters and scarves and hats… though to be honest, I wear most of these during summertime as well. Hooray for chilly Estonian summers! Anyway, autumn has conquered Brussels. I was rather miserable for a week when it rained nearly constantly, so I found myself hoping every day when I had to pick the older kid up from kindergarten that those dark clouds would have mercy on me and stop raining for that hour.

Most of the time the clouds were merciful and allowed me to do the kindergarten trip safely. There was one time though where I ended up thoroughly soaked. The kids didn’t have much of a problem, Mickey was sitting in the pram and Minnie was on the pram stand, so I had to push both of them uphill for the entire way. I was soaked with rain and sweat by the time we reached home and my cheeks had morphed into tomatoes. Hey, at least I got a free workout!

Last week was my busiest one here so far. I had Monday off (so I had an extended weekend that I spent in The Netherlands with Matthijs, hooray for some couple time!), but I was working all other days. On the weekend, FrenchDad and EstMum left for a little weekend trip and I was alone with the kids. It wasn’t as bad as I had feared it would be, the kids behaved surprisingly well. I did not appreciate the 7am wake-up-call from them on Sunday morning, but I could deal with it. In any way, it was more pleasant than was was to come that day: breakfast didn’t seem to agree with Mickey and he ended up vomiting. On everything. Twice. Even after my jacket got washed, it still smells like puke. Maybe after the next wash it will be okay again. My laptop seems to be non-smelly again though, that’s good.

I made the most of the free time I had on some random mornings/evenings last week, getting out of the house as much as possible. One morning I decided to visit The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History. The Dutch and French names aren’t much shorter: Koninklijk Museum van het Leger en de Krijgsgeschiedenis / Musée royal de l’Armée et d’Histoire militaire. Anyway, the museum was in the park you can see on the two photos above and the entrance was free. The latter was the main reason why I decided to visit that particular museum as I was running out of money.

The first areas of the museum were very interesting to me. Old uniforms, swords, funky-looking helmets… what’s there not to like? I mostly walked around just looking at things, since the exhibition notes were mainly in French/Dutch and the English texts were short, if they were even there. I was in no mood for brain-twisters, so I decided to be happy with just looking and no reading.

The museum looked too cluttered to me. It seemed to devalue every piece on show, because there were too many things to look at and you couldn’t really devote your attention to one outstanding piece. It was a huge collection of everything and anything army-related, but instead of feeling like a comprehensive showcase, it just resembled a messy warehouse of random items.

Some things were showcased a bit better than others, like this tricycle that belonged to King Leopold II. One of the most fascinating parts of the museum for me happened to be a bit further away though. I loved the display of old helmets. Most of them look a bit ridiculous now, but I guess they were stylish in their own time.

I enjoyed the areas of the museum that were dedicated to older times. I can’t stand guns and rockets and bombs etc, they seem cowardly and brutal to me. A good old swordfight feels more courageous and noble, it’s an honest face-to-face fight. Unless you stab someone from behind, of course. Taking what I just wrote into account, you can probably see why I didn’t enjoy the areas with newer war machines as much. Wars with swords and bows were in the distant past, but guns and tanks are too fresh and raw even for me, though I haven’t personally experienced war.

This gas mask reminded me of Sharon, my friend from Israel. She once told me that her earliest memory was being in a bomb shelter with her family, everyone wearing gas masks. This is no distant past, this is the first memory of a young woman from Israel. So this display was too close and scary for me.

There were also some actual big tanks on display, but I chose to take a photo of this small colourful machine. Even though I tried to get a photo of a big tank (it’s just outside this picture), I couldn’t bring myself to do it, besides it happened to be too big to properly fit in the frame. Having no personal experience with tanks, that display still managed to make me feel so anxious that I pretty much fled that room in hopes of finding a display that seems a bit more safe.

While wandering around between airplanes, I kept wondering how could some people stand in front of a tank to protect their country when I couldn’t even bear standing next to an unmanned and out of use war machine. Even my own father took part in a human chain protecting Tallinn’s TV tower when Soviet powers threatened it with tanks. I already had huge respect for my dad, but after seeing an actual tank with my own eyes, I respect his bravery even more.

I didn’t stay in the museum for long after reaching the areas dedicated to modern wars. It was all making me a bit too anxious, giving me vivid mental images of what war was and is like. So after just a short hour in the museum I fled, deciding to explore the town a bit more instead. As always, I returned from my expedition with a new photo of a graffiti in Brussels: