Days 83 to 103 – 10.8.2016 to 30.08.2016
Brussels (Belgium)

After relaxation for 2 days, we ventured out on the 12th to visit the Flower Carpet Show at the Grand Place in Brussels.

The Grand Place or Grote Markt is the central square of Brussels, surrounded by opulent guildhalls and two larger edifices, the city’s Town Hall, and the Breadhouse building containing the Museum of the City of Brussels. The square a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the most important tourist destination and most memorable landmark in Brussels. It is the historical heart of Brussels and “the most beautiful central square in the world”!

At this square every two years, the Flower Carpet is installed for 1 weekend (Assumption Day) to (re)discover the architectural and cultural heritage jewel.

Around 600,000 begonias are used to offer a rich palette of bright, glimmering colours which can boldly resist the sun’s heat. The creators place them directly onto the cobblestones, without soil. The result? A ephemeral flower scene, that must be seen at least once in your life.

The carpet was 77 m x 24 m composed by about 120 volunteers, with nearly one million begonias to celebrate Japan on account of the 150 years of diplomatic relations and friendship between Belgium and Japan, showcasing nature in japanese tradition with its numerous good luck talismans: flowers, birds, the wind and the moon being symbols of the natural beauty (kacho-fugetsu); koi (japanese carps) represent strength and growth; pine trees and bamboos – signs of good omen with the cherry blossoms.

The first building that we notice upon entering the Grand Place is the striking gothic town hall, which dates back to the 13th century. Its beautiful facade features the famous needle-like crooked spire which is 315 feet in height and is topped by the archangel St. Michael.

Manneken Pis is a famous statue of a little boy peeing in a fountain, representative of the irreverent Belgian humor. The 58 cm big guy on a pedestal is placed at the corner of Stoofstraat and Eikstraat, not far from the Grand Place . It is one of the most famous Belgian and Brussels monuments and a symbol / mascot of the city of Brussels .

The Royal Palace of Brussels is the official palace of the King and Queen of the Belgians in the centre of the nation’s capital Brussels. However it is not used as a royal residence, as the king and his family live in the Royal Palace of Laeken on the outskirts of Brussels. You will always know if the King is in the country when you see the Belgian flag flying on top of the building.

On the 16th August, inspite of it being a rainy day, we went to the The Indian Food Festival, at the Jubelpark in Brussels organised by Indian Confluence, a local non-profit organisation dedicated to showcasing Indian culture and helping improve quality of life in rural India on the 15th and 16th.

Mention India to someone and the first things that will probably spring to mind are its vibrant colours and great cuisine. It’s hardly a surprise that there was so much excitement with people from all cultures and backgrounds were present to taste Indian food.

There were samosas, bhajis, dosas, vadas, curries and vegetarian delights as well as stalls offering typical Indian street food, home-cooked meals and restaurant food. There were a couple of cooking, Ayurveda, yoga workshops. Also traditional Indian dance and music was playing in the background with traditional Bharatanatyam, Khattak, Bhangra and Bollywood dances were performed on stage.

Day 90 – 17.8.2016
Luxembourg

Luxembourg is a landlocked country in western Europe. It is bordered by Belgium to the west and north, Germany to the east, and France to the south. Its capital, Luxembourg City, is, together with Brussels and Strasbourg, one of the three official capitals of the European Union and the seat of the European Court of Justice, the highest juridical instance in the EU. Its culture, people and languages are highly intertwined with its neighbors, making it essentially a mixture of French and Germanic cultures. The repeated invasions by its neighbor countries, especially in World War II, resulted in the country’s strong will for mediation between France and Germany and led to the foundation of the European Union.

Luxembourg has long been a prominent supporter of European political and economic integration. Luxembourg and Belgium in 1921 formed the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union (BLEU) to create an inter-exchangeable currency and a common customs regime. Luxembourg is a member of the Benelux Economic Union and was one of the founding members of the European Economic Community. It also participates in the Schengen Group whose goal is the free movement of citizens among member states.

Vianden Castle was constructed between the 11th and 14th centuries on the foundations of a Roman ‘castellum’ and a Carolingian refuge. It is one of the largest and most beautiful feudal residences of the romanesque and gothic periods in Europe. In 1977 it was restored to its former glory, and now it ranks as a monument of not only regional, but European importance.

Beaufort Castle dating from the 11th century consists of the ruins of the medieval fortress and an adjacent Renaissance château. It is located in Beaufort in eastern Luxembourg.

Ruins of the old castle and the vast underground system of passages and galleries are known as the casemates.The Bock offers a natural fortification, its rocky cliffs tower above the River Alzette which surrounds it on three sides. It was here that Count Siegfried built his Castle of Lucilinburhuc in 963, providing a basis for the development of the town which became Luxembourg. Over the centuries, the Bock and the surrounding defences were reinforced, attacked and rebuilt time and time again as the armies of the Burgundians, Habsburgs, Spaniards, Prussians and French vied for victory over one of Europe’s most strategic strongholds, the Fortress of Luxembourg. Warring did not stop until the Treaty of London was signed in 1867, calling for the demolition of the fortifications.

Notre-Dame Cathedral is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Luxembourg City, in southern Luxembourg. It was originally a Jesuit church, and its cornerstone was laid in 1613. It is the only cathedral in Luxembourg.

At the end of the 18th century, the church received the miraculous image of the Maria Consolatrix Afflictorum, the patron saint of both the city and the nation. Around 50 years later, the church was consecrated as the Church of Our Lady and in 1870, it was elevated by Pope Pius IX to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. The cathedral was expanded and enlarged from 1935 to 1938.

The Pétrusse is a river that flows through the country of Luxembourg and mainly in the capital of Luxembourg . The river has several source streams that originate near Dippach, merge and then form the Pétrusse. Then the river flows Bertrange to culminate after 12 kilometers in the Alzette in the suburb of Grund. The name of the river does not refer to Peter, but comes from the Latin word Petra what Stone means. In 1933 the river was channeled , but recently the last 50 meters of the river returned to its original state. In the section where the river is located is a deep valley with two famous bridges: the Passerelle and the Adolphe Bridge . These bridges are called the Old and the New Bridge.

The Monument of Remembrance usually known by the nickname of the Gëlle Fra ‘Golden Lady’, is a war memorial situated in Constitution Square, in the Ville Haute quarter of central Luxembourg City. It is dedicated to the thousands of Luxembourgers who volunteered for service in the armed forces of the Allied Powers during both World Wars and the Korean War. It is a 21-metre-tall granite obelisk monument. Atop of the obelisk stands a gilded bronze statue of a lady, representing Nike, goddess of victory, or “Queen of Freedom” holding out a laurel wreath as if placing it upon the head of the nation. At the foot of the obelisk are two ungilded bronze figures, representing those Luxembourgish soldiers that volunteered to serve for France; one lies at the base of the statue, having died in service of his country, whilst the other sits, mourning his dead compatriot.

The Grand Duchess Charlotte Bridge is a road bridge in Luxembourg City, also known as the Red Bridge on account of its distinctive red paintwork. It is the main route connecting the city centre, Ville Haute, to Kirchberg, the site of the city’s European Union institutions. The bridge was opened in October 1966. It is named after Charlotte, the then Grand Duchess.

Among the historic monuments, the Goethe Memorial on the Bock promontory in the Montée de Clausen has been erected in the year 1935 .

Among the famous statues in Luxembourg, the the 2.75-metre high bronze statue of Grand Duchess Charlotte on Clairefontaine Square was inaugurated in the presence of the Grand Ducal family on 29th April 1990.

Trinity Church also known as the Protestant Church, has been used since 1817 for Protestant services in the city of Luxembourg. It is located on Rue de la Congrégation in the old town.

Luxembourg City is the seat of several institutions of the European Union, including the European Court of Justice, the European Commission, the secretariat of the European Parliament, the European Court of Auditors and the European Investment Bank. The majority of these institutions are located in the Kirchberg quarter, in the northeast of the city.

We then drove back to Brussels after a nice day at Luxembourg.

Brussels (continued)

On 27th August, between 12 pm and 4 pm, we visited La Place Sainte Catherine where talented artists from around the world had gathered to paint nude models of all shapes and sizes to promote free artistic expression, body acceptance & human connection through art.

The Slogan displayed there was – Bodypainting Day is not a protest. It’s a celebration! And the theme for this year was “Inner Beauty”.

At the square was the majestically proportioned Church of Sainte-Catherine built in 1850. The interior had a 14th/15th-century figure of a black Madonna and a painting by de Crayer.
A wedding mass was in progress when we entered the Church.

We then walked past the Brussels Stock Exchange which was by decree of Napoleon in 1801. On 22 September 2000, the BSE had merged with Paris Bourse, Lisbon Stock Exchange and the stock exchanges of Amsterdam, to form Euronext N.V., the first pan-European exchange for equities and derivatives, with common trading and clearing of all products, and was renamed Euronext Brussels.

On 28th August, the last weekend at Brussels, it was a nice and sunny day so Lloyd (our son) & Jasminka (our daughter in-law) decided to go on a picnic. We packed food & drinks and drove down to a near by estate known as La Hulpe, some twenty kilometers from the center of Brussels. The estate consists of a castle built in 1842 and a park of 220 hectares, fully accessible to the public. We spent a few hours walking, strolling, relaxing and then returned back home.

On the 30th August, we visited The Atomium – a building 102 m (335 ft) tall originally constructed for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Its nine 18 m (60 ft) diameter stainless steel clad spheres are connected so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. It is now a museum.

The Atomium is in the shape of the body-centred cubic unit cell of an iron crystal, magnified 165 billion times depicting the precise layout of the iron atoms an iron crystal.

We drove past the National Opera of Belgium – Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie – a theatre in Brussels, the name which means Royal Theatre of the Mint, which receives financial support from the federal government of Belgium.

Not too far from Lloyd’s place a regular place for us to walk is a large u-shaped public park called Parc du Cinquantenaire (French) “Park of the Fiftieth Anniversary” (English), “Jubilee Park” (Dutch), commissioned by the Belgian government under the patronage of King Leopold II for the 1880 National Exhibition commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Belgian independence.

The centrepiece triumphal arch erected in 1905 was built in iron, glass and stone, symbolising the economic and industrial performance of Belgium. The surrounding 30-hectare park esplanade are full of picturesque gardens, ponds, waterfalls with place for children of different ages to play. Brussels Metro and the Belliard Tunnel pass underneath the park.

The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History occupies the two northernmost halls of the historic complex in Cinquantenaire Park since 1880. The collection one of the largest in the world includes various types of aircraft, both military and civilian, some dating back to the early twentieth century, while the most recent additions include a F-16 Fighting Falcon and Westland Sea King.

The Temple of Human Passions, a remainder from 1886, and the Great Mosque of Brussels from 1978 are also located in the north-western corner of the park.

The art museum’s dome in the south-western part of the complex is part of the Royal Museums for Art and History. The national collection of artifacts from prehistory to the Merovingian period (751 AD), and a collection of artifacts from the antiquity of the Near East, Egypt, Greece and Rome are displayed. Artifacts from non-European civilisations, such as China, Japan, Korea, pre-Columbian America, and the Islamic world, are also on display. It also contains collection of European decorative arts sculptures, furniture, tapestries, textiles, costumes, old vehicles etc from the Middle Ages to the 20th century.

The Palais Mondial (South Hall), houses the AutoWorld, a vintage car museum with large and varied collection of 350 oldtimers, European and American automobiles from the late 19th century to the 1970s. These include Minervas, a 1928 Bentley, a 1930 Bugatti and a 1930 Cord, and several limousines which belonged to the Belgian royal family.

We then walked to the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula a Roman Catholic church, built of stone from the Gobertange quarry which is located approximately 45 km south-east of the site of the Cathedral. It has two towers, the upper parts of which are arranged in terraces, and the south tower contains a 49- Salvator bell carillon.

On Wednesday 31st August, we had to leave early morning to drive down to Calais for crossing over to UK through the Eurochannel. Woke up Lloyd from his sleep to say bye to him and we left Brussels around 7.00 am.