7 Hours in Brussels
Oddly enough, the most affordable and simple way for me to travel from Pula, Croatia to Budapest was to fly back west to Brussels. So, I figured I might as well make an impromptu Belgian day out of it. Starting the day off with an early flight to South Charleroi Airport, I booked a 9 pm flight to Hungary’s capital for that same evening. This left an afternoon to explore Brussels. The EU’s capital was underwhelming and I spent a large portion of the day wandering confused, tired, with an aching back. After getting that bit of truth out there, I can still say that once I found what I was looking for (after an hour of two of getting lost with a heavy backpack and grumbly tummy) my spirits were much higher.
I did not have much of a plan for my day in Brussels. My only intentions were to eat, drink, find chocolate, and wander. After being lost and unimpressed for a while, I found La Grand-Place. The exquisite architecture of the UNESCO World Heritage site had me doing 360’s for ten minutes. After peeling my eyes away from the ornate gold detailing on each building, I found myself in a Greek restaurant ordering something I didn’t know how to pronounce and talking to the Greek men who worked there. After constantly being told how much Americans are disliked around the world, it is refreshing that every single stranger I have met on my travels has been really excited to talk to me and extremely friendly after I revealed that I am American.
I will admit that my day in Brussels was probably the most frustrating day I experienced on my backpacking trip. I got lost, couldn’t find wifi or a map, attempted to hail a cab for over twenty minutes without seeing a single one, walked unhappily in the rain for a while, didn’t have an EU adaptor for the fourth day in a row which left my phone at about 10% battery, and I had barely talked to anyone in days because I was trying to conserve said phone battery in case of an emergency.
Now after spouting out that laundry list of first world problems, I can also say that I found one of the city’s few English bookshops, where I bought Hemingway to read for the next few days. The girls working in the shop explained the public transport to me so that I would make it back to my bus stop on time. The girl at the airport tech shop and I managed to communicate with one another despite that fact that I didn’t speak French and she didn’t speak English, which resulted in a new, wonderful EU adaptor, a charged phone, and some excited text messages home. I still had three amazing cities ahead of me and no idea what to expect. My belly was full of Greek food, chocolate, Belgian beer, macarons, and frozen yogurt. I spent a day doing absolutely nothing and yet so many things. I am so lucky and grateful that I am able to have experiences like these and that my problems are small as a low iPhone battery.