I’m a bit behind but I’m cutting myself some slack on this with how crazy life has been lately. Brussels was pretty nice, but it was a short visit. I left after school Friday for the train, metro, bus, to plane combination that I think I could do in my sleep at this point. I made the basic mistake of not checking exactly which airport I was arriving at and was pretty surprised when I landed to realize that Charleroi airport was a good hour from Brussels. That’s definitely a whoops moment, especially since it was freezing cold outside. Fortunately, they have a great bus route that goes every half an hour and directly to the middle of Brussels which then put me a short uber ride to my hostel. I don’t like many hostels, but Sleep Well Youth Hostel in Brussels is pretty good. I used Friday night to plan the rest of my weekend. people in Belgium speak both French and Flemmish and also some speak German closer to Germany. The street signs were even in both languages
Below is Saturday mornings walk to the main square and the main square which still had Chinese New Year decorations up. I always offer to take a picture for someone when I see they’re alone and taking a selfie. One guy I offered to take a picture for happily accepted the picture and wished me a Chinese new year, and it took me a minute to realize that he probably celebrated it. it was a rough day without coffee. I was really surprised with all the gilded buildings, it was really nice in the sunlight.
Saturday I took a free walking tour through a company I wasn’t familiar with. I have to say, it wasn’t great. I did see all through mascots (the peeing statues) and a couple other things but it just wasn’t a great tour. I was planning to go back in the afternoon through a second tour with them since I didn’t have much time to look for something else, but unlucky for them I found Sandeman’s tour on the way to theirs as the other guys’ guide got the next tour time wrong. Luck for me, I love Sandeman’s and these are ALWAYS the best choice. I had a great second free walking tour with Adelin and even decided to take a beer tour through them. On the tour I made friends for like the four trip in a row which is like some sort of record for me I think.
Do you recognize this little guy? he probably has too much clothes on to be recognized. I personally had no idea he had outfits. Still not sure? his name is Mannekin Pis, or peeing boy statue. There’s a few different tales about why there is a statue of a boy peeing, one is that in the great fires of Brussels, boys peed to try and put the fires out, another that the young king/prince was on a hill during one of the battles Brussels fought in and peed in the faces of the opponents which was seen as confrontational, but he was really just afraid. So as Adelin suggested, pick your favorite tale or make one up for why he’s a symbol. He is knighted by France, however, this happened after the French stole him one too many times in good humor, so French soldiers must salute him when they walk by.
I also him in two outfits, so here is the second as well as Jeanneke, the peeing girl, and Zinneke, the peeing dog. Brussels, your mascots are something else. Jeanneke is caged in so that she isn’t stolen. Mannekin Pis gets a new outfit regularly, I saw two in only four hours difference.
It would be no real blog post if I didn’t include what I ate. If you don’t know, Brussels is known for chocolate, and you know now. It was really, really good chocolate. And Belgium was actually the first to make French fries – the name comes from the slicing technique of frenching, not the country. Georgette’s is one that was recommended to me from a guide and also pictured is Mary’s all the way on the left. She was the first woman chocolatier and today is still all run by women. the second pictures was at a shop where I didn’t buy anything so I can’t say if the candies are as good as they look.
Not as well known as the chocolate but still worth talking about is street art in Brussels. I didn’t see as much of this as I had planned to, but there are over 40 pieces like these in the city. Brussels has the highest number of comic artists (if I have that fact right) so it’s only fitting that they have a bit of comics on the streets. I enjoy ones like the second pictures a little bit more myself, but the style is like the other three.
And finally, a round up of a church, the parliament building, the shopping street, and part of an old castle among other things. Brussels acquired a lot of money through it’s territories in Africa which is how such a small country has quite a few gigantic buildings, according to Adelin.
Like I mentioned, Brussels was a short visit. After the beer tour with Sandman’s on Saturday, I was sitting with my new friends and the tour guide at the last bar when someone nicked my purse. In my purse was the following and more: passport, residence card, drivers license, (expired) student ID, phone charger, portable charger, wallet, about $40 between forints and euro, three credit cards, American bank card, passport cover I bought in Thailand, American SIM card, etc. The area around us wasn’t crowded, people at my table were facing me and so could see behind, and I put it so I could feel it. I weighed the risk in my head when I took my purse off and decided the risk was low. Sorry to say that I learned there’s always a small risk. I went up to get one last drink at the bar, had my purse, and twenty minutes later when we went to leave, it was gone. About 7 of us at the table and no one saw anything. It’s serious gut punch moment, my breath went away, I was a bit speechless, and I couldn’t think. ‘oh shit’ replayed in my mind. I looked under the couch next to our table I don’t know how many times. My friends checked the bathrooms and the bar to see if someone threw it out or turned it in. I finally gave up and left my number at the bar in case they did find it, and left with tears when the bartender started expressing sympathy. For me, someone acknowledging how much something sucks for me always means I’m going to cry if I’m not already. My new friends and I checked out the trashcans nearby to see if the person dumped it. It was one girl’s birthday and she bought me some French fries while I decided I should go to the station right then. Fortunately since I’m careful about how much I drink when I’m not with familiar people, I was sober to go to the police station to fire the report. this was a small positive in the grand scheme of the night. The girls parted ways at that point as I really didn’t want to ruin the birthday celebration. The guys, both from Australia, accompanied me the whole way to the police station, waited as I filed a report, and then walked back to my hostel with me even though I said many times it was okay for them to leave. I really didn’t want to ruin their night, but they insisted on staying. I am so grateful for that. Thank you both if you see this. They both did say to me that I was handling it better than they felt they would. After the bartender had me shedding a couple tears, I told myself that wasn’t going to help anything and had a mental pep talk. it went something like “Well dude, this is really going to suck. It’s going to be expensive, but it’s going to be okay. You’ve been in 1,000 worse situations, you’re not alone, and you’ve learned that everything works out. This too, will work out” So I told the guys that really what I’ve learned from traveling is every situation works out. Every single situation. and then I told them the positives: my phone wasn’t stolen, I have the credit card I use my most often, I have my Hungarian debit card, I wasn’t alone, it wasn’t violent, and they didn’t steal my chocolate that was sitting next to the purse. Australia, I have a high opinion of your people. I have never met an Aussie I didn’t like and these guys only made that more true.
After I made it back to my hostel, I asked the receptionist to call WIZZ Air for me, since the police officer I talked to said I could maybe fly without my passport depending on the policy. It was a strong no. I don’t know what airline has this policy, but it for sure isn’t WIZZ. I tearfully asked the receptionist if there was any open rooms for the following night since the embassies aren’t open on Sunday and I wasn’t going anywhere that day. He was so nice and ensured that I could stay in my same room in my same bed and even comped me the room. He didn’t speak so much English, we didn’t have any great conversations, but I’m sure I’ll never forget his kindness. But after consensus from my mom and Steph, I decided it was best to get back to Hungary if I could go. I didn’t get much sleep and was up early for the train station. Due to a Sunday market I couldn’t predict, my uber had to take a 20 minute detour and I missed the train I wanted to take by less than a minute. That one would’ve gotten me back in slightly more than 12 hours. Instead, I took a 24 hour journey back to the land of paprika. I would never do that again, but I was very relieved to get back. I grabbed my passport copy from my apartment and went straight to the embassy only to discover they were closed that Monday for a special event. Oh. The security officer saw the look of pure panic on my face and asked me how soon I was planning to travel. When I told him Friday, he had a bit more sense of urgency and made sure I had an appointment to come back the next day for the replacement. I went back straight away in the morning, somehow I was even on time even though my train was delayed by 30 minutes (of course it was, because of course). I had no idea just had tense I was until I walked into the embassy and was greeted with the American flag. I haven’t seen it flying in seven month and to say I missed it more than I miss things making sense in the grocery store isn’t the half of it. The woman was unbelievably nice. She had me fill out the necessary paperwork for my emergency passport and my next ten year passport and it was a quick but not cheap process. However, I was in the same area as visa applicants and I can say for sure that is not a quick or easy process and it didn’t seem cheap either. The visa applicants were getting grilled while I was getting “oh I’m so sorry! Oh you know, I think I can waive your ten year passport fee since you’re applying for both at the same time” Awkward was an understatement. I had to come back later that day to pick up my emergency passport. The consulate asked “How are you today?” with my new passport in his hand and my answer of “a lot better now” could not have been truer. He did ask me a few more questions about what exactly happened, but I was grateful not to have a lecture and I think he could see from my face that wasn’t what I needed. I walked out of the embassy exhausted but feeling like I could breathe the first time in about 72 hours. I can now say almost every traveler’s nightmare also works out. I’m also a little paranoid about my stuff in public now, but that’s probably a good thing. The person didn’t even try to use any of my credit cards, so really all the got was 20 euros, and I do wonder what they did with the forints. They got next to nothing for their efforts, and I have everything replaced now. It just cost a lot of money. I was so proud of my $20 tickets to Brussels too..
It was a really terrible experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but in case it does: Stay calm, report to local police, stay calm, go to the embassy, stay calm. Also, learn from my mistakes as I have. No matter how careful you are, all IDs in the same places is a bad plan. It seems super obvious in hindsight, but I was always so careful. And really, don’t panic. It sucks a lot, I know this, but it really truly does work out. I made my flight to Lisbon five days after it happened with no issues. Emergency passports are also good for one year and it is important to take passport sized photos along to the embassy, and an ID or copy of an ID. I do think my emergency passport looks like a really bad fake, but it got my to Lisbon and back with no issues.
A couple weeks ago I went to the local dog shelter to volunteer to walk dogs since I was missing mine so badly. Every time I scroll through my camera roll and come across this picture of Barni in the cone of shame, I smile no matter how mad I am that it’s still snowing.