Day 34 – Brussels National Day

Today (21 July) is the Belgium National Holiday. The most common phrase I’ve seen is La Libre (The Freedom) which makes sense as this is the day of Belgium Independence. I can’t remember the exact number of years, but it’s a lot shorter than one would think. We often forget that while these places have an enormously long history, the actual country designations haven’t always been as long. If memory serves me (almost two weeks now… oops) it was the freedom from the Hapsburg dynasty which was, at the end, an Austrian and Spanish dynasty. Ruling families in Europe are amazingly difficult to follow.

So this being a holiday, which I hadn’t planned on, I was limited in my museum options. Luckily, the Musical Instruments Museum was open, which was my top choice. I got there a bit before they opened. I’ve never figured out metro timing, I’m always either late or early, rarely there when I plan to be there. Better to be early. This is even true when I’m at home and am only taking the single green line train.

The museum has audio guides. Which are different than the audio guides you get at most museums. These ones play the instrument in the case when you get close (some sort of NFC technology for the guides). I’m not sure why I have zero pictures from this museum. I thought a lot of it was really cool, but I guess I didn’t want to document it for anyone else. You’ll just have to go some day when you’re in Brussels.

My favorite was seeing instruments that eventually evolved into modern instruments. There were a couple that surprised me in the slight differences. The clarinet used to have a single reed on the top of the mouth piece. But more interesting, the old, old saxophones had double reeds. And there used to be a lot more double reed instruments.

After the museum I grabbed a bite and drink at their cafe (they sucked me in with the roof top bit).

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I could see where all the festivities were going to take place before I got into the museum but seeing it from above was pretty cool.

I left the museum and headed over to the park which was all set up for the day. Pretty much food and drink stands and games for children. I am not yet over the French fry thing, and figured the stands that get to be at the park for this day must be some of the best, right? So I grabbed some. I’ve noticed it’s pretty normal to get two sauces with your fries, and if you don’t get mayo you’re weird. I actually tried to get mayo and curry (a spicy sauce, but not curry like indian curry), but they were out, so mayo and ketchup it was.

Frites!
Frites!

I stayed in the park too long to get to see any other bits, which were set up down a couple other streets nearby. The park normally has a fence around, except for a few entrances. This isn’t a problem until there’s a billion people all in and around the park. I was planning to head out before the start of the parade, or more accurately, an HOUR before it was to start. What I didn’t know is that the royal family goes down the parade route roughly 45 minutes before the parade, so everyone was lined up well before I was planning to head out.

I didn’t try to fight my way to see the royalty, just seemed like a lot of work. I went back into the park and grabbed a sangria (yeah, sangria was available, for 3 euro, sweet deal). Luckily I’ve been toting my book around a lot. Grabbed a seat on some grass. I did get to see the Police band come right by me.

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The parade was listed as a military parade, which I didn’t really get. I mean, think of the 4th of July parades. There’s all sorts of things, but there’s military in there too most of the time. So I figured that’s what they meant. Nope. Just military (not that I was super close). Troops and vehicles. The cool part was they did a couple different fly overs. I wasn’t situated in the best spot to see them, but it was a couple different military planes and helicopters.

I had been slightly amused to see American military at the displays in the park, but I guess we have military everywhere right?

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Anyways, I finally managed to get out of the park, to the metro and back to my hostel. I had plans of heading back to watch the fireworks, but those didn’t pan out once I realized how nice it was to not be surrounded by tons of people.

I did however get to break into the cuberdons I bought at the park. They are a national candy, of which a specific flavor is the normal, but they make all kinds of flavors. The national flavor isn’t really some thing I can describe except to say it’s good (unlike the Danish candy flavor). The pictures are of a passion flavored cuberdon (passion fruit). It is entirely soft, but the outer coating is a thicker candy than the middle, and a bit less sticky. I think the pictures might do a better job than I can. I lucked out when buying them that the woman spoke English, but she couldn’t even explain it, and just gave me one to try. I would love to figure out how to make them.

Cuberdons

I tried to not devour them all in one day. Off to bed as the next day was a travel day! Off to Brugge!

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