The Science Museum in Brussels

A few months ago, I started my Must see list in Belgium and the Science Museum is one of the item on this list. I’ve been to most museums in Brussels, but this one didn’t get a chance until now. I wasn’t sure what to expect, cause you never know how much care, mind and investment was put¬†in such a museum. You could have an old boring building with items and rooms that haven’t been updated in decades.

Well, the Science Museum is a weird combination. You have rooms with displays that look like they have been put in place 20 years ago and very modern ones that have probably been completed a year ago. I must admit I quite enjoyed my time there and spent a good afternoon. Mind you, if you have kids, you can actually spend an entire day there, as there’s enough to see and do.

There are different galleries to enjoy, but my favorite was the dino one. The exhibited items are pretty cool and you learn a thing or two. So, I really think it’s a good experience booth for the geeks, as well as for the more practical minds ūüôā

Check out their website  for more details. Also, you can go for free on the first Wednesday of each month, from 1pm onwards.

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Beautiful Prague – a photographer’s heaven and hell

I absolutely loved Prague! I’ve heard great stuff about it, but I was really surprised when we got three. It’s a fantastic city, I felt as if I was walking through a museum. Every building has beautiful¬†architecture, every corner has something amazing to look at and admire. I would have to say that as a photographer you go nuts there.

The city has a jazzy vibe, with cafes¬†everywhere¬†and very inviting restaurants. There are plenty of things to see and places to go, but I think that it’s also perfect just for a week-end. We went in March and it was great as there weren’t so many tourists. Surprisingly, the weather was great and we could really explore the city.

We spent there about two days there and I felt that it was enough. We walked around the old center and even took some little streets. All the buildings are very well maintained and clean and it feels very safe and chilled out. I really enjoyed the fact that you have little cool cafes and jazz bars everywhere.

In the first day in the¬†evening¬†we went for a two hour boat ride on the river Vltava. We had a three course meal and enjoyed a bossanova live concert. Quite groovy and fun! It’s a great opportunity to see the city by night and struggle to take night pictures ūüôā

It’s also encouraging to know that it’s¬†affordable and¬†much cheaper that Western Europe, so that’s an extra bonus point.

If you just have a day or two in Prague I suggest this:

  • The Astronomical Clock
  • The Prague Castle
  • St. Vitus Cathedral
  • The Petrin Hill for a great view of the city
  • Charles Bridge
  • The Dancing House
  • The Old New Synagogue right in the center
  • Take a boat trip, have a Czech beer and enjoy the view

I really¬†recommend¬†it and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. They have good food, friendly people, beautiful architecture and decent beer.

Food delights in Belgium

Whether you come to Belgium for just some days, months or literally moving here make sure you have the food that makes this country famous.

Belgium is not known for its spectacular or very elegant cuisine, but it surely is tasty and down to earth. So, what is special about Belgium?

Main dishes  Рthere is a number of Belgian specialties that you can choose from.

  • Belgian fries: Say what you will, but don’y say French fries. History has¬†plaid¬†a trick on Belgium and today we all call the fried patatos – French fries. Anyway, I can guarantee you that this is the place for best fries you’ve ever had. It’s a must. Also try a crazy sauces with them like tartare or andalouse.
  • Moules-frites (Mussels & fries): Although they are very popular in France as well. Belgium has a great take on them. Don’t hesitate tasting them here.
  • Vol-au-vent¬†(Koninginnehapjes, nl.): expect a small round¬†case of puff pastry that is filled with a white mushroom sauce and chicken. I think this one is the most unsurprising and accessible dish.
  • Carbonade (Stoofvlees, nl.):¬†a traditional¬†sweet-sour beef¬†& onion stew cooked¬†with dark beer. It’s usually served with fries.
  • Endives: Belgians love them and they eat them raw or cooked. I’d say that the most popular dish is baked endives rapped in bacon and cheese. I’m not a big fan as I find them too bitter, but they have a¬†high nutritional value.
  • Boudin Blanc & Boudin Noir: Blood sausages. The Boudain blanc is a¬†white sausage made of pork without the blood. The Boudain noir is a¬†dark sausage also made with pork, but blood is added. Not my favorite at all, but you¬†should¬†go for it.
  • Filet Americain:¬†is the most surprising one. It’s actually raw beef with several ingredients. For some reason, Belgians love it, but ¬†I must admit it’s not for¬†everyone. I prefer raw fish ūüôā
  • Waterzooi: Originating from Ghent, it’s a soup with chicken or fish, eggs, cream and veggies.

Sweet – on the menus you will find quite a few choices of dessert, but don’t be confused they are mostly French. So, if you really want to have something local, try a waffle (gauffre in French). There are 2 types: Li√©geoise and the Brussels one.¬†The Brussels waffle has a rectangular shape with a golden brown color. You can eat it just with sugar or you can try it with whipped cream, fruits or chocolate. The Li√®ge waffle is¬†much sweeter and denser. This one is also the most popular one.

Left - Brussels waffle & Right - Liege   Source: http://www.ottsworld.com/

Left – Brussels waffle & Right – Liege
Source: http://www.ottsworld.com/

Next, they have a special biscuit made with loads with cinnamon, speculoos. So, for the cinnamon lovers, this is quite a treat.

Last, but not least, the Belgian chocolate, the beautiful chocolate. This is the place for the best chocolate in the world. Even if you just past by, make sure you try some good Belgian chocolate. You will definitely see chocolate with different eyes.

Belgian-chocolate-shop

Chocolate Shop in Brussels
Source: http://belgafiles.com/

If you think you know chocolate, if you love chocolate or just want to eat quality chocolate,

then make sure you¬†that you don’t leave Belgium before trying the chocolate.

There are some fancy ones like Pierre Marcolini, Corn√©¬†and¬†Wittamer!¬†Go ahead and taste what chocolate quality is like. If you’re tight on budget then try some Godiva, Neuhaus or¬†Leonidas. No worries, there are chocolatiers at every corner.

I’m just saying, you haven’t lived till you had Belgian pralines!

Bon appetit!

P.S. if you have some time, make sure you visit the Chocolate Museum in Brussels, right next to the Grand Place! You get some free treats and a short history of chocolate

Moving to Belgium? Know some insight…

I’ve lived now for almost 6 years in Belgium as a student for two years and for the rest I’ve been working. During this period, I’ve picked up a few things about Belgium that you might find useful for your stay here. So, enjoy and take it in. I’ve written them in a random order, but they are all precious ūüôā

  • Chocolate, beer and fries!¬†After you have tried some, you will understand that Belgium is kicking some behind at these three! This is the place for best chocolate, best beers and best fries in the world!
  • Bread culture.¬†Belgians love their bread. They are capable to queue for an hour if¬†necessary¬†for their favorite¬†loaf¬†of bread.
  • Sandwiches for lunch! As they love bread, don’t be surprised if you see Belgians have sandwiches for lunch every day. Many of them will just bring their own.
  • Many and good restaurants!¬†They might eat tons of bread, but they also like going out for dinner. So, you’re in luck if you like eating out, cause this country does it right.
  • Don’t buy an expensive umbrella! It rains a lot and so if you’re not into¬†walking¬†around wet, then get an umbrella, but a cheap one. It’s also very windy and that’s a no no for your¬†precious¬†umbrella. After each session of rain, you will see a lot of broken umbrellas in the trash.
  • Registered letters!¬†You can’t solve anything without sending a registered letter. Because it’s recognized as a legal proof, everyone uses them. So, whenever you want to get something done with your landlord, police, work, you name it, just send a registered letter. Trust me!
  • The town hall! (commune-fr., gemeente-nl.) This place will be your nemesis! It’s a very¬†bureaucratic¬†country and sometimes things get complicated. You don’t speak the languages, you’re missing a paper from your file, you don’t have enough pictures or they are just in a bad mood! So, make sure you triple check your file before you apply for anything, have tons of pictures with you at all times and cash!! If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Keep at least one copy of all your documents.¬†For the above reasons (mainly), you need to keep a copy of your documents, proof of payments (if you paid cash), diplomas and any paper that proves everything you’ve done or you didn’t do in Belgium. This will help you tons!
  • Patience is an uber virtue! If you don’t have it, brace yourself or go to another country. It takes time to get your cable, to get your ID, to get a doctor’s appointment. It can take from a few days (almost never) to a few months. No joke!
  • Polyglots!¬†On average, Belgians speak 2 languages. Learning languages here is very common, affordable and accessible. So, take advantage of this.
  • Language will take you places.¬†If you’re in Wallonia, it’s great if you speak French, if you don’t, wish you all the best! If you’re in Brussels, English is just fine! And if you’re in Flanders, use sign language if you have to, but never French. Mostly, they all speak English.
  • Bonus cards for everything! Most stores, pharmacies, supermarkets, etc. have their bonus cards. Every whatever number of points you get a discount, prize, etc. For them, it’s a little price to pay for getting info about what you buy, when, how often and what is your pattern. Clever and simple and buyers are just happy to get something for “free”.
  • Paid in checques (paper tickets) You’ll be surprised how much you will buy with some cheques. So, you have the following:
  1. Cheque repas – meal vouchers (for the numbers of working days to serve you as “money” for lunch. You pay aprox. 1/5 of the sum.¬†
  2. Eco-cheques that can buy you eco products like bike, eco-friendly fridge, eco light bulb, train tickets, etc. You get 250EUR/year. 
  3. Titre-service Рcheques that use to pay for cleaning your house, ironing, getting grocery done. So, for cleaning, for example, you pay 1 cheques/hour. They cost 7.50EUR/each. The beauty of these is that you get 1/3 back from the state.
  4. Training cheques. If you want to study mainly languages in an institution recognized by the state, then you get to pay half of the price. Pretty wicked ūüôā
  • Country of company cars!¬†It is very common to get a car as an employee as part of the salary package.
  • Overwhelming¬†taxes. Belgium is among the most taxed countries in the world. That’s why companies give out cars, cheques, etc. This way, they can give out things that don’t get as much taxed.
  • Cycling: After Holland, Belgium has the most bicycles/capita. It’s¬†national¬†sport, means of¬†transportation¬†for loads of people and country wide loved. If you live in the city and you do most things in the city, it’s interesting to have one too.
  • Comics culture: Belgians pride themselves with having great comics creators and they are considered as their own group in the history of comics. Tintin is Belgian, you know.
  • Art Nouveau; This is the birth place of Art Nouveau. You must take a tour and see all the buildings, it’s¬†splendid.
  • Music festivals: Especially in the summer, there is an¬†overwhelming¬†number of music festival all over the country. You have all kinds of genres and very famous artists coming here. If you’re into music or not, it’s a great opportunity.
  • Belgium is a complex country.¬†I will let this video explain ūüôā

I’m sure I didn’t cover everything, but this should do for now! Enjoy and get ready!

P.S. Also read the post I wrote about Brussels. Some practical info