06 February, 2010

Brussels: A Three Days Trip


Got another email from auntie Mir. This time she was coming to Brussels for another international event. So I came to meet her there.The journey was a lot less drama than my trip to Vienna since Maastricht - Brussels is only an hour away by train. I didn't even need to book a ticket because there is always a train from Maastricht that goes to Brussels every forty minutes. 

Maybe because the trip would not have been too much hullaballoo...by auntie standard, I had got in late at her hotel room. She had wanted to take Brussels City Tour bus and we were forced to run catching the latest one without much success. It was valuable experience for me though, seeing my high-power auntie ran to catch a bus like an ordinary Jakartans. Oh, and she even ran faster than I did despite her age. 

Running to catch a bus, however, was not the only ordinary thing we did that day. We then went for a cup of coffee around European Quarter and than took underground metro to an area near Brussel's Historic Centre. I couldn't remember the district name but the street is wide with line of chic shops and nice restaurants. Auntie went in to one of the shops and bought herself a pair of shoes. Afterward we went for dinner in a Chinese restaurant. 


While auntie spent entire day attending conference, I took the time to sleep until 9 o'clock before having breakfast downstairs. I think nothing can beat the experience of having breakfast in five-stars hotels in Jakarta. Five-stars hotels (4 stars also) commonly offer much wider varieties from Indonesian selection to Western (sometimes Indian and Chinese) menus. From Jakarta to Medan, I usually ate multiple plates and bowls when I was staying in a five-stars hotel. Here in Europe, in a five-stars hotel in Brussels, with choices only include cereals, muesli, breads and fruit, without even a scrambled egg station, breakfast only took me around 15 minutes.  

I later spent the entire day until late afternoon exploring the city all by myself. First walk was around EU Headquarter and then lunch at a busy restaurant around the area, then I walked (yes walked!) to Saint-Gilles area. Saint-Gilles probably the busiest area in Brussels, with multiple shops, bars and eateries. 

The most interesting place I went that day is the Comic Museum. During my mom last six months, dad used to come home after a long day at St. Carolus with children books he borrowed from the hospital's library. In between thick books he brought for me  and my brothers, there would also be comics such as Tin Tin, Asterix Obelix and Smurf (my favorite). In honor of childhood days spent reading Europe-original comics, a visit to the Belgian Comic Strip Center surely could not be missed while I'm in the city that claims itself a comic-strip capital. 

Having spent that afternoon on my feet, I decided to get an early dinner so my tired legs could rest. I stopped by at one of those eateries around Grand Place-Grote Markt and ordered escargot with garlic sauce (forgot the name) when came a text from auntie. 'Where are you, let's go to dinner with people from the embassy', she wrote. 

Apparently information that former Deputy Senior Governor of Indonesia Central Bank are in town has reached the embassy people. Resulting to our ride --the embassy's black Mercedez dong ;D--- to a posh Indonesian restaurant that night. There, waiting for auntie, were a bunch of 'suite' people aka. the bureaucrats. Not all though, some of the the ladies were ordinary 'ibu-ibu pekerja', all nice and friendly. One of them is around my age and her husband is an editor for Indonesia's National Geographic magazine. Cool, eh?

Like in a Vienna trip, sometimes I feel guilty when I get to spend time with auntie, like I stole her from her daughters. But I also know that she always does equally the same to her nieces and nephews.Overall I did enjoy my time there. Watching auntie calmly tackle all cornering questions on Century case made me proud. And one bureaucrat couldn't believe his ears when I told him that we took underground metro to dinner the previous night. Well, me too... when auntie told me that Japan is the only country with super clean subway stations, I realized --with a slight surprise-- that she must have had taking public transport when she travels abroad. Which is very unlikely for a famous figure like her.  

Since it was auntie's last night in Brussels, she decided that she wanted to see a bit of Brussels on the way home. We dropped by in front of Grand Place-Grote Markt where she told me that almost every cities in Europe are designed similarly. "You can find a church, town hall, shops and market all in the center," she says.


It was early morning when auntie woke me to say goodbye and catch her flight. She reminded me that a car from embassy would take me to go to Tin Tin Museum and Atomium, places that I had failed to go the day before. I have to say, going around in a Mercedez feels a bit too posh for me. But I had spent hours trying to find Tin Tin Museum without much success, while that unfriendly driver at least knows how to get there.

Of course I couldn't found the place, because there is no Tin Tin Museum...but Herge Museum! The place was in a small alley that could be easily mistaken as a regular apartment slash regular shop building. An interesting place, they even keep old stash of the comics' original in line of glasses. 

Next stop before the driver took me to Brussels Central was Atomium which I don't think I get. It supposed to be one of Brussels's icon, a mix of artwork, super modern architecture and science (atomic shape?). Then I found the place is built in demand for (pretentious) reflection, aiming visitors to question things like: what kind of future we want tomorrow? Our happiness depends on what? Huh?! Contradiction aside (it's impossible to build such an impressive figure without inviting --even the tiniest-- effect to environment), top of Atomium does overlooking a nice view...covering entire city all the way to Antwerp.