Danya Carithers is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A marketing major at the University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester.
In this week's post, Danya takes us to Belgium for the weekend.
Last weekend, my roommates and I packed up our bags, put on our heavy coats and headed north to Belgium. Like most study abroad students, we planned to visit Belgium’s largest city, Brussels. However, like I’ve said in past posts everything is a matter of trail and error. One of my roommate’s aunts actually used to live in Belgium and strongly advised us to go to Bruges instead. So after two train rides from Brussels through a fairytale countryside, we found ourselves in Bruges.
I am convinced that Bruges is the real-life Candy Land. All the buildings looked like gingerbread houses and every other shop sold chocolate and waffles. Besides that, it truly felt magical being there, everyone was exceptionally kind and the culture revolved around being comfortable and relaxed.
We kept joking throughout the weekend that the city must have a head interior designer because each house and shop looked like it came right out of an Anthropologie ad. We were also shocked by how environmentally friendly Belgium was as a whole. The vast majority of people rode bikes instead of cars (there were bike parking lots!) and the streets were distinctively spotless.
We stayed at a hostel called Charlie Rockets which was located in the city center. This was my first time staying in a hostel and I was pleasantly surprised. For the cheap price, it was clean, had everything I needed and even served breakfast in the morning.
Our entire trip was practically planned around food. We started our first full day getting breakfast at a cozy café called Jan van Eyck. We had the perfect view of Bruges’ canals while eating parfait and sipping on tea.
After that, we took a boat tour through the canals and saw buildings dated back to the 1300s! What I found particularly interesting was that the tour guide was able to speak in so many languages. In fact, every menu and sign I saw was in at least English, French and German. It was exciting to see a culture that was accepting and adapting to the other cultures around them. Then we walked off our breakfast to a tourist destination called Lake of Love to see swans and read about the medieval legends that took place there.
Soon after that, we were hungry again and grabbed Belgium’s famous frites from a stand. Yes, they are covered in mayo; yes, I was skeptical too; and no, it wasn’t gross. It was actually REALLY good!
We continued to stroll around the city while avoiding getting run over the horse-drawn carriages (no big deal). We each gave into our temptation and bought a fancy box of Belgium chocolates that are too pretty and delicate to actually eat. And just when you thought that I had enough to eat, guess what I did? I got an enormous Belgium waffle. I don’t think I need to say much; the picture speaks for itself.
Although visiting Brussels would have probably been just as amazing, I am so glad we last-minute decided to go to Bruges. Bruges has a unique, comforting charm reflected through both the architecture and people there. It was also small enough that my roommates and I were able to go everywhere (and eat everything) we planned. As Belgian people would say…. Au revoir Belgique, Auf Wiedersehen Belgien, Goodbye Belgium!
Danya's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned!