Belgium, My Homeland

Well, we arrived two days ago in Brussels. We are staying in a hotel on the outskirts of the central part of the city. Brussels is a very interesting city, somewhat schizophrenic. The neighborhood we are staying in is inhabited by mostly immigrants from the Middle East and Africa. I have heard ,any different languages spoken, but officially, people speak either Dutch of French, depending on which part of Belgium they come from. In Brussels, everything is in both languages because it is right in the middle. It is also the headquarters of the European Union, so many people speak English.

Yesterday we toured the central part of Brussels. The Grand Place is the main attraction, a beautiful market square surrounded by old buildings that used to be the town halls and administrative buildings. I have enjoyed connecting my family's past and present. For exanple, there is a huge church dedicated to St. Nicholas, one of Belgium's favorite saints, and still a favorite with my family. As a kid, my grandparents gave us gifts on St. Nicholas's day, a popular Belgian tradition. I have also noticed that Brussels is in general a very eccentric, even goofy city, also like my family. The national symbol seems to be a statue of a boy peeing into a fountain. They dress him in various costumes throughout the year. It really helps explain where I got my cheesy sense of humor from. The patron saint of Belgium is the archangel Michael, and there is a huge cathedral dedicated to him. Strangely, there are no Michaels that I know of in my dad's family, but coincidentally, it is my middle name.

The food here is awesome. Yesterday we hqd waffles with strawberries and ice cream. We also had waterzooie, a Belgian stew. Today we had waffle sandwiches for lunch. We want some fries before we go - they are Belgium's most famous food product, even though we insist on calling them French fries in the US.

We are about to catch a bus to the village my great-great-great grandfather was born in. I will blog more about that later.

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