Britnee JohnstonTHE CHARM OF BELGIUM Britnee Johnston August 31 Belgium, Round the World Trip, Travel After spending a sleepless night in the Oslo Airport, I took an early morning flight to the quaint country of Belgium where I met up with my friends Rachel, Emily and Brendan, who just arrived from the United States. They were jet lagged and I was tired, but we pushed through to explore Brussels on our first day. We started walking in the rain and fought the crowds to catch a glance of Manneken Pis, the small bronze statue of a nude boy peeing into a fountain. Although the statue was the city’s main attraction, I was quickly distracted by the smells around me instead. Out of the corner of my eye I saw puffs of steam coming out of shop fronts into the damp air on the street. The source of the rising hot steam was freshly made waffles. The fluffy waffles had crisp edges of crystallized sugar and were covered with toppings like strawberries and cream. Next to the waffles were chocolate shops with large chunks of chocolate on wooden spoons that were dipped in a cup of hot milk. If waffles and chocolate didn’t smell good enough, add to it 700,000 begonia flowers. All the roads outside the sweet shops led to the Grand Palace of Brussels where a large floral display, called Flower Carpet, filled the main square. It is displayed every two years for only a weekend with hundreds of thousands of colorful begonias set in an intricate design. It was at this point I was convinced that Brussels was the best smelling city I’ve ever been in. The charm of Belgium didn’t end with Brussels and its sweet smells. Just an hour outside of Brussels was the beautiful town of Bruges that we visited on our second day. We were instantly transported into a fairy tale of terraced homes overlooking a canal, with dogs and cats sunbathing on the window ledges. On the cobblestone roads, darling men and women casually rode their bicycles as horse-drawn carriages charged by much faster. We couldn’t believe that this seemingly perfect town existed, like a classic Disney film come to life. After our day trip to Bruges, we were sure to have another waffle when we returned to Brussels. Our last evening in the city, it was then that we discovered the secret to the Belgian Waffle–leave off the toppings! The waffle tasted best on its own. Also, when we had previously ordered the toppings, the waffle shop would give a tiny plastic fork that was too weak to cut into the waffle. It was far easier to eat it in our hand as a plain waffle while we walked. Although Belgium is a small country that is often overshadowed by neighbors like France and Germany, it is a charming place that shouldn’t be missed. We took two full days in Belgium and could’ve easily spent more time exploring the cities. The only thing I regretted about our visit was that I didn’t eat enough waffles while there.