May 25, 2009

Day 5: Waffles, Hercule?

We bid au revoir to Paris the next morning and headed for Amsterdam with a stop over in Belgium.

An old man walking in stilts oddly with a broom greeted us at the station after our fast Thalys journey across the border to Brussels. We deposited our luggage in a locker and ventured out to a fine morning.

SR prefers to walk whenever he goes to a new city and armed with my map I declared I had found a way to walk down to the Grand Place. However as we continued on I noticed the shops mostly selling electric spare parts and halal meat, the street had a distinct Arabic feel to it. Through the interesting, rather circuitous route we arrived at our first destination. Waffles!

Being a vegetarian whenever I am travelling, I can only read up on the local gourmet food and not really get to enjoy it. From time to time there are exceptions - like the Gingerbread in the lake district, the Baguette in France and the Waffles in Belgium. I settled against a shutter with a lot of graffiti, the warm Belgian waffles from the waffle factory in my hand. The thick waffle oozing with strawberry and whipped cream was delicious to the last spoon. I got reminded of the crepe like pancake a Bosnian colleague's mother made long time ago.

I can't remember if my first introduction to Belgium is through Tin Tin or Hercule Poirot. While I have read a few Tin Tin, my favorite of the two by a very very long shot is Poirot. I believe I must have read 90% of the books with the Belgian detective with the egg shaped head. Much to my disappointment I saw more Tin Tin references than Poirot. The best was the building with a painted fire escape down which life size Tin Tin and Captain Haddock came rushing down.

We strolled along towards Grote Market. No wonder it is a UNESCO heritage site I saw with awe at the buildings surrounding the square. The buildings I had read were of different architectural style yet, there was harmony and a romantic, renaissance feel to it. I walked by the Guildhalls clicking pictures here and there fascinated by the different guild names. I clicked more pictures of the statues of what I presumed to be assorted angels and saints and then the gilded statue of St.Michael.

I tried to lecture about the history of Belgian revolution and the connection between Queen Victoria and the Belgium but the rest of the party was more interested in seeing the Manneken Pis. The statue did not have any costume on the day we went and was at his irreverent best. Forgetting the many stories around why the statue was there, I wondered why people still flock to take pictures of the statue of little naked boy urinating into the fountain. I am sure there is some Freudian psychological significance.

All the way to Belgium and how can we leave without buying chocolates. We spent the next few minutes in a Godiva shop buying and then immediately eating chocolates.

We walked back to the station, settled for a subway sandwich for lunch and caught the train to Amsterdam.

The train slowly moved out and with complete shock I saw the red light district with the window girls in their skimpy dresses. I was not sure what the emotion was - anger, pity?

We arrived in Amsterdam later that day. Rain clouds and unexpected chillness in the air greeted us. We ambled on, figured the bus out for slotermeerlan and called it a day.

I contemplated the permissive society and its impacts as I yawned.

May 25, 2009