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Belgium & The Netherlands

I have been to Belgium for more than I have ever wished for. I now lost count. My trips were mainly for business in nature; and no very welcome.

When you are in Belgium for work, you are mainly stuck in Brussels: easily the dullest, greyest, the most doggie city in Europe. It is actually quite sad that it is supposedly the “capital of Europe.”

It is full of dark grey buildings. Streets are dirty and don’t feel safe at all. Weather is rainier and duller than London.

The main attractions; the square and the peeing boy are disappointing. People seem distant and non-smiling. It is not easy to walk on the streets as a woman without being picked on. And finally the chocolate is too heavy for my taste.

I guess the only thing I like about Brussels is Hercule Poirot and Tin Tin…

Nevertheless, Belgium has its nice attractions as well, such as Bruges. My first visit here was in a cold winter day with my mom when I was still a teenager. Together, we had enjoyed walking around the small town, appreciate the cute buildings, shops, square and the famous Bruges lacework.

My second trip to Bruges was in my early 20s, with a group of friends and colleagues from Turkey. I remember being violently ill due to a problem in my kidney. I had preferred to spend the day in the Brussels hotel room trying to recover but the group insisted that I join them in their day trip to Bruges. When in Bruges, the pain in my kidney got so unbearable that I could not move my legs to walk. So I was rushed to hospital accompanied by one of the group members. I had felt extremely guilty for ruining her trip to Bruges as she spent the entire afternoon with me at the hospital.

I don’t have many positive memories about Belgium. Netherlands is a different story. Again my first trip to Holland was when I was a teenager. This time, my father had to make a trip here for work and my mom and I had accompanied him. I had imagined the country to be a very cold place and its people distant and unfriendly.

The cold wasn’t as bad as I thought and I couldn’t be more wrong about the people. I was totally enchanted by the adorable Dutch houses, canals, cycling lanes and sweets. I have been to Netherlands many times more later on in my life for work during better weather conditions. But unfortunately, I never caught the tulip season.

I had seen most of the country during my first trip there with my parents. We were staying in Utrecth and my mom and I were making day trips to places like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the Hague, Delft and more.

During our explorations, my mom and I were often times shocked by how easily we would come across the infamous drug scene. Once we were approached by someone on the street asking us if we wanted weed. Remember, I was only a teenager walking on the streets of Amsterdam with her mom…

I also recall joining one of my father’s lectures. I was sitting way in the back of the auditorium. One of the students entered the lecture hall from the door in the back where I was sitting. I was horrified by the way she looked. She was behaving erratically. Her face was literally purple and her eyes were almost popping out of their sockets. God only knows what she had taken.

So the Netherlands was a good surprise for me with a lot of nice attractions. But strangely, it is not one of those places I wished to return.

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