My trip to Belgium was a bit exceptional in so many ways, especially because I was travelling alone for the first time. Or let’s put this in different words: of course I have been travelling alone before, as I have been living abroad a few times, but it was the very first time I was taking a holiday trip to a different country without a travel companion. There are some positive sides when travelling alone, for example the advantage of deciding yourself what you want to see or do, but personally I rather travel with a friend than without one.
I had also other first time experiences during my trip, like couchsurfing from a surfer’s point of view. A few times I have been hosting other surfers, but this time it was my turn to sleep on a stranger’s couch. The experience was extremely interesting, partially also very weird. But the best feature of couchsurfing is the review of other users. Based on the given reviews it very easy to draw a conclusion whether you should accept a couch invitation or not. The two absolute positives of my first couchsurfing trip are:
1) Diana and Ceres, two lovely Brazilian girls who, as a total surprise for me, were surfing with the same host at the same time as I did in Antwerp (and I have to mention the girls had even cooked a dinner ready by the time I arrived to the flat). We spent such a nice evening together, first having a city tour by foot guided by our host Gijs and after just between us girls in a pub tasting some Belgian beers.
2) The appreciation of my own home increased about 250 % after spending two nights in strangers’ houses. My very own lovely little house in Rauma now feels like a luxury villa to me, even if I didn’t remember to vacuum every single week. Even the shared flat of 6 people where I currently live in Düsseldorf now feels like a little paradise.
Before taking my trip I was asking locals and people who had visited Belgium before, what I should do/see/drink/eat when I go there. The answer was unanimous: french fries, waffles, chocolate and beer.
My opinion of french fries (which are apparently, despite the name, originally from Belgium) and waffles I can abridge into one sentence: not that amazing (no offence, Belgians, the reason is to follow). French fries I think tasted exactly the same as anywhere else and a waffle with chocolate sauce was way too sweet for me. But I guess my opinion is strongly affected by the fact that both dishes are such I wouldn’t normally eat. So a heavy user might have actually loved them. And I have to admit it’s possible that I bought mine from a wrong place. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts that I am travelling on a low budget, this holiday ended up as the absolute culmination of budget travel – I think all the costs, including food and travel costs, stayed below 50 euros. So I can’t really expect a gourmet dinner for that money, can I? 🙂
About the beer, on the other hand, I totally agree with local people: the best beer I’ve ever tasted. And remember, especially all Finns, that when you are looking at the menu, before you start complaining you thought the price level would be lower, the Belgian beer is at least twice as strong by the level of alcohol than Finnish (or any normal) beer. But this local treat I highly recommend to taste even if you didn’t normally like beer. And as a tip for your trip: whichever Belgian city you are heading to, there is probably a brewery where they organize guided brewery tours. These tours you can easily include even on a low budget as the average price for the tour is around 5 euros – including tasting. I personally regret the fact I didn’t go for one even if I had a chance. Don’t make the same mistake!
Belgian chocolate. I should have tasted several sorts. You can find cute little chocolate boutiques around every corner so it’s not like you would run out of possibilities. And if you really love chocolate, check the museum selection in your destination. At least in Bruges you can visit in a chocolate museum.
What really came as a surprise to me was the popularity of mussels. I always thought mussels are more of a Mediterranean specialty, but in Belgium they are highlighted and advertised in front of every single restaurant. This treat I didn’t taste as I found out when investigating the menus that a mussel dinner is way over a budget traveler’s price limit.
My last tip is a repetition from previous posts but it’s such a big bonus that it’s worth it: train tickets inside Belgium are half price during the weekends, as long as you travel between Friday evening 7.01 PM and Sunday without time limit. There might be some exceptions during bank holidays but you can easily check them here!
It would be nice to share more tips with all the readers planning a trip to Belgium, so if you have any, please share them on the comments section or on Facebook.