I’ve been more or less in bed for the past three days, recovering from a fever that probably came about from having too much fun.
The general consensus in Europe is that Brussels, and Belgium in general, is pretty dull. The country is always getting made fun of or rejected for one of its neighbors. But my weekend, pre-disease, is definitely proof that Belgium can be kind of cool.
It began Thursday night in an old train station. The scene was underground, in both senses of the word, with Afro-Portuguese pop and Brazilian Baile funk blasting till morning. The people were kind and carefree, and while some might say they were dancing like idiots, I’d say they were the best dancers I’ve ever seen in Belgium.
It was basically any California hipster’s dream, without any pretension. Thank you Recyclart, also organizer of alternative art exhibits and performances, for becoming my new party destination.
After a night of minimal sleep, I was relieved that Friday was a national holiday. No school!
I had lunch with an America-loving-European at Ellis, a gourmet hamburger restaurant in downtown Brussels. The dining room was sleek and modern, and set me right back to the States. It was packed, too, with all sorts of semi-creative burgers floating around. I opted for lamb with coriander, guacamole and bacon bits. It was tasty, certainly, but even after three burger-less months, I knew it couldn’t compare to the burgers I was eating all summer in San Francisco. What is the reason for the European struggle? My guess is not enough fat, not enough char and not enough juice.
They probably don’t add enough fat for health reasons, who knows why they don’t char their meat, but they definitely don’t make them juicy enough in order to be neat. The neatness is taken to another level, though: they eat their hamburgers with a fork and knife.
I watched my lunch date in agony, and I told him he was ruining his experience by cutting it up into little pieces. He said the burger comes with a fork and knife for a reason. I looked around the restaurant, and I was clearly outnumbered. Blasphemous.
After lunch we hopped on a tram to Tervuren, a rich community just outside of Brussels. Our destination was Tervuren Park, which many locals say is the most beautiful park in — erm, basically in — Brussels.
Connected to the regal-looking Royal Museum for Central Africa, the park boasts well-tended lawns and pristine lakes. Forests surrounded trees blanketed in warm hues, which surrounded the park’s center. As the sun set, we sat on a bench while hundreds of children marched with glowing paper lanterns for Armistice Day. On the other side of the park, an orange-tinted full moon was rising. The entire scene was perfectly idyllic and perfectly Belgian.
The festivities continued with hot wine and a small carnival in Tervuren. There were silly rides, outrageous lights, and still, the glowing full moon.
If only my camera didn’t break, right?
And finally, that leaves Saturday night — perhaps the number one reason why Belgium cannot be considered boring. It was I Love Techno.
I Love Techno is Europe’s biggest indoor techno event in all of Europe, and it’s in Belgium’s own Ghent. 35,000 fans poured into five rooms that featured the likes of Boys Noize, Steve Aoki, Nero, Crookers and more. What resulted was well-organized mayhem: sweat dripping from the ceilings, ambulances rescuing those partying too hard, and everyone else’s souls matched to the same reverberating beat.
And so, it was probably this epic night of dancing and happiness that led to my bodily downfall. A friend blamed the intense temperature change I experienced from the muggy dance floor to the cold journey back to Brussels the next morning. Regardless, it was worth it!
Academic Year 2011-2012
Read more about Janelle’s experiences abroad at www.janellebitker.com
Photo courtesy of orvalrochefort.