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Blauwbrug in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

My summer travel destination was chosen mainly for the fact that it promised to hold many, many, many bridges. And man, did it deliver!

Blauwbrug, Amsterdam, NetherlandsAmsterdam was, of course, never going to disappoint me, the fangirl of water, of rivers and canals, and of bridges. I’m afraid my Bridges on Sundays series will contain Amsterdam pictures for a long long time to come. Bear with me. I’m starting you off with one of the prettiest though.

The Blauwbrug, or Blue Bridge, is a late 19th century architectural marvel across the Amstel river. It is thus not one of the many canal bridges. The Amstel river is much wider than the average Amsterdam gracht, and thus allows for a more elaborate bridge structure. Elegant looking young business people were crossing the Blauwbrug in the drizzling rain. In its majestic grandeur the bridge differed from the more laid-back, relaxed and proverbial liberal side of the Dutch capital. I took to its beauty nonetheless. Especially since, when standing on it, you had the next gorgeous bridge in eyesight. But I’ll leave more on the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) for another day.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

Footbridge in Malbork, Poland

I have lost count of the times I’ve been to Gdansk. Yet I had only once been to Malbork, the favourite tourist day trip from my beloved city and home to the largest castle of the Order of the Teutonic Knights. My visit there was in 1993 with my family and I had hardly any memory of it. The more thrilled I was that during my last stay in Gdansk I got to visit it again. And this picture alone shows why it was worth it.

Footbridge, Malbork, PolandThe wooden footbridge crossing the river Nogat swings slightly when you cross it. But I had to get to the other side to enjoy the view of the bridge AND the castle all in one. Have you noticed how it is all red brick stone? You know I’d love it. Even with a cloudy sky I think the bright red of the castle contrasts so beautiful against the grey, and the dark colour of the bridge is so intense in its reflection in the Nogat’s steady, calm flow. Malbork Castle is an impressive place looking to intimidate the attacker – but looking at it from across the bridge today, it is mostly peaceful and pretty.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

Rainbow in Porto, Portugal

I had originally thought that this week I would be forced to present you a second shot of a bridge I already wrote about. But then I found something very pretty in my archive. Rainbow, Porto, PortugalThis was taken last November at the Atlantic in Porto in Portugal. When the breakwater comes crushing onto the pier, rainbows are thrown into the air, and they look just like bridges into the sky. We all know that fairytales promise miracles at the end of the rainbow – gold, love, fortune. To me they are above all a reminder of childhood wonderment. I cannot help but smile when I see a rainbow – and why is that? I am old enough to know that the magic of it just physics. But who cares about that when they look so pretty – coming about seemingly out of thin air in their colourful beauty. If nothing else, they are a momentary, fleeting bridge into the future, if only into the next moment. And who knows what magic that next moment of our lives will entail?

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

Outrageous – Leipzig’s Monument to the Battle of the Nations

There are places in Germany I am dying to see. I love discovering my own country, and there is more than enough to see that I haven’t seen yet, or that I haven’t seen enough of. Leipzig had for a long time been one of the places I felt a strange pull toward, and when I went there for the first time in September for a conference, I knew that it was a city that I would keep coming back to. If only for the famous Monument to the Battle of the Nations, which I hadn’t managed to see.

When my three girlfriends from grad school and I decided that our annual meet-up would be held in Leipzig this year, I claimed a visit to the Monument at once. I mean, who wouldn’t want to visit a place with such an impressive name? Especially being the history geek that I am. So my girls and I left our pretty airbnb apartment one morning for a nice one hour walk from the centre to the site.

Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, GermanyI realize most non-Germans won’t have heard of the place, so let me give you some background. The Völkerschlachtdenkmal on the outskirts of Leipzig commemorates the Battle of the Nations which was fought in 1813 by Prussians, Austrians, Swedes and Russians against Napoleon. The very abridge version of history is that after the French revlution, Napoleon went a bit ahead of himself and started to try and conquer all of Europe. In the Battle of the Nations, he was beaten and in 1814 forced into exile on Elba. There was a comeback and another battle, at Waterloo, that broke his power for good in 1815. After this Europe was re-organized in the Congress of Vienna.

When walking up to the monument, one realizes at once that it is supposed to architecturally mirror the immense impact of the battle, which was to remain the greatest battle in history until World War I. The monument was opened in 1913, for the one hundredth anniversary of the battle, which explains its expressionistic style. It looks like a massive mausoleum, or, as my friend pointed out, an ancient temple of the Inka. Everything about it is huge. Materialized outrage.Relief at Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, GermanyThe entrance is guarded by a relief of archangel Michael, and above his head the words „Gott mit uns“, God with us, are chiselled into the stone. To the sides, more elaborate carvings decorate the walls. Eagles, storming fighters, but also the fallen dead can be seen in the decor. Overly stylized, all the figures scream visions of power and victory. It is not exactly pretty. But it is impressive for sure. And that is the sole purpose of this kind of art.

Two of my friends stayed to enjoy the sun, while one of them came with me to enter the monument and climb to its top. Entrance is a whopping 6€ (4€ for students), but I just had to see the insides for myself.

Ruhmeshalle Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, GermanyThe first level you get to inside the monument is the Crypt. Eight guards of the dead stand watch here as the light falls through the glass stained windows and the cupola. The light only emphasises the expressionist character of the statues. They are massive. But when you look up to the next storey, you can already see that yet more outrageous figures await.

Bravery Allegory at Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, Germany


Fertility Allegory at Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, Germany


The second storey is called the Hall of Fame, and the four statues here are 31 feet tall. They represent „Germanic virtues“ – bravery, fertility, sacrifice and faith.

My mum had told me about these, and she always mentioned that what most impressed her were the feet of the statues. When I saw for myself, I understood what she meant. Standing next to one of the statues, even just looking at a foot would make you feel dwarfed, minimized. It was strange for me to not be able to shake the feeling that it was so intentionally done. I did feel dwarfed, but at the same time my intellect wanted to push aside that feeling that was forced upon me. I could feel myself being manipulated into feeling awed.

Foot of Allegory of Sacrifice statue at Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, Germany

Feet of the statue representing Sacrifice. The second, smaller pair of feet belongs to the dead child the figure is cradling in their arms.

The glass stained windows gave the hall a church-like atmosphere. Granted, it was designed as a crypt, but it is still estranging to see battle intertwined with the sacral to this degree. In general the monument has a lot of elements that can later be seen in fascist architecture, which I have always had a weird thing for. It fascinates me how political ideology can be formed in stone, and all of this reminded me greatly of projects the Nazis did later. The common denominator is nationalism, of course. German virtues. German power. I shivered under the cold stone and at the notions that I saw represented here and that, knowing history, would turn out so desperately destructive and horrifying.

Windows at Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, GermanyCloser and closer we got to the cupola which is lined with knights on horses, storming forward. They display ancient Germanic fighters, and the design is supposed to remind of runes from ancient civilizations. I must say it does the job. Yet again it sends a very clear ideological message: The German nation is ancient and traditional, and it has prevailed throughout history. Powerfully so. I think back on how design like this has been used to intimidate people since antiquity. I shiver again.

Cupola at Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, GermanyFrom yet another balcony, the gallery of singers, you look down, and the massive figures look a lot less significant. Again this displays power structures. The more you lift yourself above things, the more empowered you feel. But is that a good thing? Shouldn’t power consist of recognition of other beings – not of decreasing their position?

View from Gallery of Singers at Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, Germany

Fertility is to the left, Faith to the right

Finally when we made it to the top, a view of Leipzig unfolded itself on this beautiful, but hazy Spring day. Looking over the lake in front, the Lake of Tears, symbolizing grief for the approximately 100,000 killed, wounded or missing soldiers of the battle, the modern, thriving and beautiful city shone in the distance. It was a world away.

View from Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, GermanyI am glad I finally got to visit this site. It left me thoughtful, and more aware of how powerfully art can shape thought – visual arts including sculpture and architecture as much as literature or music. It also made me contemplate the concept of manipulation, of inducing awe or fear, and how easily it can be done and abused in the name of any ideology. I can only hope that as human beings, we all strive to be aware of these mechanisms and reflect them carefully before we fall victim to them.

Have you visited memorials or monuments that reflect an ideology? How did they make you feel? Would you still want to visit the Monument of the Battle of the Nations or did my description put you off?

Photo Hunting in Gdansk

My thing will always be writing. Going somewhere, slowly walking about, trying to take in the space with all my senses and transforming the feeling that I get into words. It is a somewhat sacral act to me. And while I love music and art in general, what I truly am is just a writer.

Yet what would be a more perfect place to elaborate my skills of visual artistry than Gdansk – one of the places that I have tried to capture in words several times, a place I love and cherish, and that I can never get enough of? When I set out with my camera to capture the essence of this true love of mine in photos, I am sure that looking for images that respresent Gdansk to me will open up new perspectives to me and, in turn, inspire my writing anew. And so it does.

Dlugie Pobrzeze, Gdansk, PolandThe crisp winter air is painful in my lungs because it is so cold. Yet I breathe it in deeply as I walk along Dlugie Pobrzeze, the street that lines the Motlawa River, enjoying the crunching sounds the snow makes beneath my feet. The sun is mirrored in the frost and makes everything glisten. I turn right on Mariacka street.

Mariacka, Gdansk, PolandI have always had a thing for this street with its beautiful houses that have strange little front buildings: stairs leading up to terraces from which you enter the houses. I think I have read about their history somewhere, but I forgot what it was. The street is narrow and, now in winter, it is wonderfully secluded and quiet. The way the sun hasn’t reached the street, but only the church that you see in the very end (the largest brick stone church in the world), makes it a more magical little alley, all toned in shadow. Like from a Harry Potter movie.

Details on Mariacka, Gdansk, PolandMaking a turn, there are yet more details to discover. Cast-iron grates. Little pillars. Lanterns screwed onto otherwise unremarkable houses.  Small things that don’t mean anything to your regular by-passer. But I like the way the pillar has that round little nub on top, and I like the leave ornaments moving down from it. I like the grate with its twists and unobtrusive beauty. I like the lantern on the wall, old-fashioned and reminiscent of gas lantern times.Details on Mariacka, Gdansk, PolandLantern, Gdansk, PolandThe turn from Mariacka street has brought me to a little alley that leads right up to the Long Market. This is the core of the old Gdansk. This is where its classic beauty manifests. This is also where it sometimes feels like Disneyland, because after World War II none of this was there anymore. It was all re-made. But I never had the fake feeling here like I had it in Wroclaw or Warsaw. I just think it’s beautiful. It is not my favourite place in the city (we’ll be getting there). But it make my heart wide to stand in sight of the town hall. Town Hall, Gdansk, Poland Looking further up the street, beautiful house borders beautiful house. You’ll find the best Bar Mleczny, Milk Bar, on that street, to the left. It serves delicious Polish food for virtually no money. I love how in this picture I captured the old couple holding hands. I want to walk in a city I love with someone I love, with this natural intimacy on display, when I am that age.  Long Street, Gdansk, Poland Back toward the river, I walk through the Green Gate onto the Green Bridge and turn, and the view that opens up is what makes this my favourite place in Gdansk’s Old Town. View from Green Bridge, Gdansk, Poland But to tell you the truth, I honestly think that if this was all that Gdansk was I wouldn’t love it as much. I would think it too clean, too tidy, too dressed up or perky. I love it because it also has a very different side.

The next day (which you will be able to tell by the weather change in the photos) I go with my friend to Dolne Miasto, a slightly less central, but especially less wealthy part of town. Actually it is just across the Green Bridge and thus very close to the pretty Old Town. But here the streets aren’t well kept and the houses are run down – with few exceptions.

Dolne Miasto, Gdansk, PolandThe houses here have the exact same potential for beauty, but for some reason gentrification doesn’t hit. There is no sensible reason for that, but laws of market seem to work differently in Poland from Germany. Surely the beautiful Kamienice, secession houses, would be renovated and rented out for a LOT of money if this were in Munich, Berlin, or Hamburg.

Dolne Miasto, Gdansk, PolandI adore this picture. It shows the place in all its morbid beauty. The brick stone. The balconies. The way time has gnawed its way into the cold stone. And the woman in the red coat carrying home her groceries on the slippery snowed in sidewalk.

Dolne Miasto is also where there is wasteland left in the middle of the city. Economically that is not good, not smart for the city I am sure. But I like it because it opens up potential as of yet unfulfilled. Once the potential will be fulfilled, this won’t be half as interesting a place anymore. Ironic, I know. But my heart wants what it wants – morbidity and wasteland.


And things are changing already. Walking back towards the Old Town, with a beautiful view onto the towers of Mariacki church and the town hall, there seems to be construction work going on at the Island of Granaries that cuts through the Motlawa River. But now, all snowed in, the place looks as morbid and out of time as the wasteland above. The ruin of the old granary adds to that. Fugitive. Momentary. Perishable. What a strange thing time is, and how sweetly strange it is when it is visible like this.

Island of Granaries, Gdansk, Poland

Bremen – The Key to Heaven

There is a German city rivalry, maybe not as viscious as the one between Cologne and Düsseldorf, but quite profound nonetheless: The one between my hometown Hamburg and it’s fellow Hanseatic city Bremen. I am in a bit of a double bind there because I was born and raised in Hamburg, but my mum is from Bremen, and while Hamburg is unmatched and unrivaled as my home, I do have a soft spot for Bremen as well. If I must take sides in football, I even support their team Werder Bremen (but shh! Don’t tell my dad!).

Bremen coat of arms, Bremen, GermanyThe coat of arms of Bremen shows a key – and it is said to be the key to the gates of heaven. It is in the coat of arms because Saint Peter, who holds the key to heaven, is the patron saint of the Bremen Cathedral. Hamburg’s coat of arms has a gate, they call the city the Gate to the World, and when I was small I heard the story that the Bremen key unlocked the Hamburg gate. Either story works fine by me – Bremen opens the gate to something wonderful, be it heaven or the world. Or just its own beautiful urban scenery.

Market Square, Bremen, GermanyI went to Bremen to see family between Christmas and New Year’s, and I took my most amazing Christmas gift – my new camera, a Sony NEX-3N. I am only just starting to get into photography, and I am not going to give you a professional review of any kind (because I am not nearly knowledgeable enough), but I know that quite a few will be interested in knowing which camera took these pictures. I for my part am insanely happy about the pictures‘ quality and feel like I can now finally support my writing with images that are more than plain visual aids, but an inspiration in themselves. So I set out on my trip to Bremen intent on capturing some beautiful images.

Bremen bag, Bremen, GermanyThe day is mild for the middle of winter, and the sky is overcast as I make my way from the train station to the city centre. Shamefully I must admit that I don’t know Bremen well, so I need to use my phone for orientation, but it isn’t difficult. Once pointed in the right direction, I just let myself drift a little and quickly find the market square with its beautiful cathedral – to me, one of the prettiest churches in Germany – and the town hall in its red brick beauty.

Town Hall, Bremen, Germany

Eastern facade of the Bremen town hall

I love the Northern German market squares. I love market squares in general, but the ones in Nothern Germany are wide and open and not cozy and overloaded with quirky architectural knickknack. I could linger here forever amidst the pretty buildings and do people watching. On I go toward the cathedral.

Cathedral, Bremen, Germany

Bremen Cathedral

There has been a church in this place since 789 A.D.! No, there is no 1 missing in that number. Yes, that is over 1200 years ago. It was wooden then, the first stone construction came about in the 11th century – that is still a really long time ago… My mum had her confirmation here, and I feel a strange deep connection with the church. Maybe it is the blood red net vault, or generally the intense colours of blue and gold against whitewashed walls. Not even the fact that it isn’t a red brick church can turn me against it.

Schnoor, Bremen, GermanyAfter having lingered on the market square for a little while, I make my way toward the Weser River /for what would a Hanseatic City be without the water!), say hi quickly and take a picture of the bridge I find there, which is soon bound to be on my Bridges on Sundays series 🙂 and then I am happy to roam the Schnoor, an amazingly pretty narrow lane in a riverside district by the same name. The word is lower German for „string“, and strings were what used to be made in this area.

Schnoor, Bremen, GermanyToday the small houses that line the tiny alleyway house souvenire shops and coffee places, and tourists are all around. I still like the cobble stone and the occasional half timber, and all the details you can spot on the facades.

Schnoor, Bremen, Germany Schnoor, Bremen, Germany

The Schnoor is a place for those who want to discover small, random trifle; little things that might escape someone else’s eye, like decorations or inscriptions or grown over reliefs on house walls. It also invites for getting lost in the little aisles and walkways of the quarter, and to dream yourself away to hundreds of years ago when fishermen would live here, in close proximity of the river, and it would smell of salt water and fish and harbour.

Schnoor, Bremen, GermanyMy time for discovering and photo hunting in Bremen is all too limited, but by the time I must leave to get to my family meet up, the sun has emerged and flooded the city with slightly golden bright winter light. I take another picture of the market square, of the townhall bathed in sunshine.

Town Hall, Bremen, GermanyThe way the shadows creep uopn the building, claiming it, while the sun still triumphs over them and makes the red bricks shine colourfully, looks so beautiful to me. The line between shadow and light – between evil and good? sad and happy? mournful and hopeful? – is so clear cut, so nicely absolute, radical, no grey zone, nothing that is hard to grasp or define. Life is much more complex than that. But beauty, very often, is plain and simple. It is just there. All around.

Ponte da Arrábida in Porto, Portugal

Only recently did I remember that I had been saving some more pictures from Porto to share with you on a rainy day. It now turns out it is a snowy day – Berlin’s streets are covered in mud, the parks are white, it is too cold and slippery to go to work by bike and the sky is generally grey or white. Time to dream ourselves away to sunny November Portugal.

Ponte, da Arrabida, Porto, PortugalPonte da Arrábida may not be as majestic as Ponte Luiz I in its old fashioned grandeur, but it is a mighty and impressive bridge. Of course, it stretches across the River Douro as well, connecting Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. Reading up on the bridge, by the way, I learned the term „arch bridge“ (self-explanatory, I guess) – never a bad idea to brush up on your architecture vocab.

I took this picture on our way to the Ocean from the city center, looking back into the mouth of the river, to the seclusion of the inland, in anticipation of the untamed, endless surge of the Atlantic I was to see just a little later. I enjoyed that about Porto very much – the immediate proximity of nature and culture, of the wilderness of the sea and the civilized city. It was a city that bridged gaps indeed.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

Bizarre in Brussels – Random Findings

Last week, I let you in on how Brussels swept me away with its enchanting architecture and the beauty of some of its main landmarks, the Grand Place and the Cathedral. Today I want to show you another side of the Belgian capital. One thing that all the guide books point out about Belgium is that it is a bit weird – in the good sense of the word. It is that sense for the grotesque, absurde, bizarre that makes Belgium what it is. The most cited example for this is Manneken Pis – the statue of the little boy peeing that is perceived as the iconic symbol for Belgium: small, weird, and leaving you with a slight sense of „WTF?“ While I get that he’s funny, I thought there were a lot of things going on in Brussels that displayed the same thing, but did it with less of a hype around them, which is much more supportive to the nature of the sentiment itself.

It started when I was walking along Rue d’Arenberg, in the very city center, and came across this very cool sign:

Cinema Noca, Brussels, Belgium

Cinema Nova is Brussels‘ downtown non-profit cinema

Looking at it, I felt directly transported into a Tim Burton film. The different figures looked so alive, so full of character, and yet the cinema behind it did not seem to be very prominent or chic. The internet tells me it is a non-profit place, so I would expect a certain level of hipsterdom to be included, but who cares about that when it is so lovingly done. I felt like standing there and having quiet conversations with those little people in the sign for hours, finding out if they carried the character that they displayed on the outside and turning them into a children’s book. I didn’t, but really just because it was so cold that day.

I also fell in love with this dress:

Window shopping, Brussels, Belgium

Window Shopping in Saint Gilles – thanks to Jenny and Luise who let me know that the label’s name means „But where is the sun?“ I guess that is a question that has some validity in Brussels.

I would never wear this (apart from the fact that I probably couldn’t, even if I wanted to!), but I thought it was so individual and fun – and I am not a fashion victim. To tell you the truth, if anyone described an item of clothing to me as „fun“ I wouldn’t know what they meant. But this dress – and the ones to the side – were equally pretty and fun. I felt about the fashion at „Mais il est ou le soleil“ that, like many things in Brussels, it didn’t take itself too seriously while still keeping up a high standard.

Something a little more prone to show up in guide books, also very Belgian and a tad funky were the comic strip pictures randomly strewn about walls in the city.

CIMG0911 CIMG0912 I especially loved the one with the pillar. Very self-referential to draw an edifice on an edifice. The cultural studies nerd inside of me must have come out when I noticed this. In general those little pictures just added something cheerful to the sometimes stern and grey urbanity (because inspite of the architectural beauty I raved about last week, Brussels also has some seriously ugly corners – all part of the absurd mix that makes the place what it is!).

And what do you do in a place like this if you want to have a nice view over the city? No mountains close by (welcome to Northern Europe!). Not really a tower to climb either. Those two options would be too conventional anyway. No, in Brussels, you take the elevater to the tenth floor, that is the roof top, of Parking 58, a run down and dirty car park in the city center, close to the Metro station de Brouckere and just behind Place Saint-Catherine.

View from Parking 58, Brussels, Belgium

View from Parking 58 onto the Cathedral

View from Parking 58, Brussels, Belgium

View from Parking 58 onto Grand Place and the town hall

It is a bit strange to go up in the elevator that feels like it belonged in a museum and might just stop at any second – but the views are stunning indeed.

A place that absolutely amazed me – and in which I thought the amiable randomness of Brussels culminated – was the Flea Market at Jeu de Balle.

Jeu de Balle Flea Market, Brussels, Belgium

Jeu de Balle Flea Market which is on every day – beautiful chaos!

Berlin prides itself in having a flea market culture – but compared to this, Berlin’s markets are commercialized, capitalist shopping malls. Now this was a true flea market. I half expected to leave carrying those little parasites with me. It would have fit. There was anything and everything to buy at the stands, mostly old useless crap, but put together it felt like the entire world was spread out on those carpets and put itself on display in infinite beauty.

Jeu de Balle Flea Market, Brussels, Belgium

Who wouldn’t want a rusty yet charming candelabra like this in their flat? I adore it!

Jeu de Balle Flea Market, Brussels, Belgium

Look at those porcellaine ladies seductively, nay, lasciviously flinging their legs…

My last discovery was at the Christmas Market at Place Saint Catherine. My friend Stan had told me to go to see the carousel. To be honest I nearly skipped it. How interesting could that be? Turns out very! It wasn’t just any weird ride. It was a beautiful old-fashioned carousel with carefully created creatures on it, purposefully looking a bit morbid and run down, but ever so enchanting, with a beautiful nostalgic quality. Even the music that it played transported me about a hundred years back in time, and watching the children ride it with such enthusiasm and pure joy was a true gift on that cold winter day.

Brussels was definitely wonderfully weird in addition to being pleasingly pretty. It had so many surprises ready for me, and I loved its slight randomness and the quirky little things that were to discover everywhere. I am sure there must be tons more of them. I have a feeling that this wasn’t my last trip to Belgium.

Did Belgium surprise you with anything bizarre, wacky, absurd or funny? Have you made random discoveries like mine in any other place? Tell us about it in the comments!

Bridge at Klein Kasteeltje in Brussels, Belgium

This is the first time I really went out of my way in a city to see a bridge – I have gone to cities specifically for the purpose of seeing a bridge (Visegrad, most notably!), but I haven’t made a huge effort inside of a city I went to anyway. Bridges usually just came to me – but not this one. After all, Brussels is not at all centered around water.  1 Belgien - BrüsselBut there is the Charleroi-Brussels Canal, and  it does have a few bridges. There is one a bit to the South of this one that looks exactly the same. I can’t find either of them to have a name, but I very much like the view across the canal into the red brick Klein Kasteeltje. If I understand the Dutch wikipedia article on it correctly, this used to be a casern, then was a jail for prisoners of war after World War II, and today is a home for asylum seekers – what a crazed history for a building.

On my way around Brussels I have slowly made my way towards the canal. I am in no hurry, I’ve got time on my hands, and while it is cold, it is a beautiful day. So many people are out and about frequenting the Christmas Market, and I have time to linger and look at all the things I happen to find noticeable – the comic strips drawn on house walls, or the glass stained windows of churches, or the bilingual street signs. I have enough peace and time and quiet for thoughts to surface that are completely random. That is what travel does to you, and I notice once more that lonesome strolls taken in foreign cities are vital for my well-being.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

A Belgian Revelation – Brussels‘ Architecture

Brussels came to me as a shock. Why is that? Because I didn’t expect anything. Certainly not anything outstandingly beautiful. But boy, was I wrong! I must admit that this part of Central Western Europe is a bit of a mystery to me. Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are blind spots on my map so far. Brussels thus had all the more of a chance to sweep me off my feet, and it took it.

Panoramic View, Brussels, Belgium

View from Parking 58 in Brussels. An amazing 360 degrees round view completely for free!

Being in town for work, I didn’t have an infinite amount of time on my hands; but it was more than I have had in a while. Not only did I discover an unknown place, I also spent some much needed quality me-time. I didn’t have an agenda, but I just walked through the streets lined with beautiful buildings and took in what I came across. It did help that my first night in town I met up with friends who had couchsurfed with me in Berlin a while back and who gave me much appreciated insiders‘ advice.

Apart from the food (the waffles, the chocolate, the fries and the geuze beer were seriously amazing!), it was most definitely the architecture that had me quietly rejoice on my walks through the city. The first place I went to was Grand Place, or Grote Markt in Dutch, and I swear, my heart skipped a beat as I emerged from one of the small alleyways around it to find myself surrounded by sublimity.

Town Hall, Brussels, Belgium

The Brussels Town Hall – so delicate with its ornaments, and can you believe it is around 600 years old?

Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium

Grand Place doesn’t just have the big and memorable buildings, but every single small house in it is amazing! No wonder it’s a UNESCO world heritage sight!

Unfortunately, my first day in Brussels was so cold that I couldn’t spend as much time in Grand Place as I would have liked. Instead I went for some hot chocolate and a waffle (heaven!) before I made my way to the Cathedral. I don’t know France very well, but I felt that the Cathedral was proof of closer proximity to it. I spent about an hour inside marvelling at the glass stained windows and watching art students draw the pillars and ornamental details – and again, if it wasn’t for the cold, I would have lingered much longer at the square in front of it that so majestically led up to the church.

Cathedral, Brussels, Belgium

Brussels Cathedral

After the cool stillness and the white of the cathedral, the houses that could be found in any random street were all the more so colourful and enchanting! Be they combining white and red brick stone to an elegant whole or be they keeping their rough exterior resembling granaries, with jutties, counterforts and beautiful doors and windows. I could not get enough of it.

Brussels, Belgium Brussels, BelgiumOne of the most interesting corners was in the Marollen quarter where there are five tiny streets lined with social housing that are architecturally remarkable. I wish they built stuff like this in Berlin instead of lining up the gazillionth house full of lofts that no normal person can pay rent for. The flats had large balconies and the small streets they were lining were quiet and peaceful.

Marollen, Brussels, BelgiumWhat I like most, however, is the sheer infinite number of beautiful small buildings in the streets outside of the city center. Very often they are in Art Nouveau style and display pretty little ornament or an unexpected glass stained window in their staircase. They come in all shapes and sizes, and they are everywhere, not just in the touristy streets around Grand Place where the crowds gather and take fries to go. As I stroll through those residential areas that are filled with these absolute gems, it is easy to imagine living here. Granted the areas that have them feel quite gentrified, but what can I say, I am not immune to hipsterdom.

Brussels, Belgium

As is the case so often, places are easiest to like when you don’t expect to find anything amazing in them. Brussels was unexpectedly easy on the eyes. I think it may be the most underrated city I have visited in Western Europe.

Have you been to Brussels? What did you think when you first saw it? What is your favourite architectural gem you discovered there?

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