1) They drive on the other side of the road. This should be ingrained in my brain by now but I spent 20 minutes waiting on the wrong side of the road the other day while watching 2 buses pass on the other side before realising I should have been on one of them.
2) My confusion is understandable however as some of the driving is rather suspect. I have seen some pretty close encounters that were not obviously due to speeding. I wasn’t sure what was causing all the accidents-waiting-to-happen but someone summed it up perfectly by saying the driving here is complete chaos because of all the different nationalities. Belgium doesn’t know what its rules are so everyone sticks to the rules from their own country.
3) The rules they do have seem bizarre as well… top of the Bulletin news this morning: “A driver was fined for parking on the avenue de la Toison d’Or because he parked on the left (in Brussels) and paid on the right (in Saint-Giles). It’s reportedly a common occurrence. Saint-Giles turns a blind eye to those who make the mistake. Brussels doesn’t.”
4) Three more things I’ve sussed about the transport: digital signs with the time till the next bus arrives are inside the top of bus stops if there isn’t a screen outside; if nobody is using an escalator they start moving when you step on them (make sure you step on one with a green arrow, or you end up tripping over backwards and embarrassing yourself) and you can see how many journeys are left on the mobib card when you scan it on the machine. Little old country-bumpkin me is slowly getting used to city life!
5) The Grand Place is really beautiful when it is lit up at night. Although it occurred to me the other day that only in Belgium would the main building be longer on the left hand side compared to the right hand side – I wonder why?
6) There are 2 main ways to offend people living in Flanders: firstly by speaking French to them and secondly by referring to Flemish as Dutch.
7) It is possible to know exactly where you are and yet not have a clue at the same time. Walk to street you’ve been to several times then get out map to see where to go next. Street not on map. That’s strange. Oh you’re using the map given by VUB where all the street names are in Dutch but the street signs are all in French. You either laugh or you cry if you are running late.
8) I don’t know if this is the case but maybe our brains are wired to remember names of people only in the languages we know. I find it so much harder here to remember people’s names as many of them I’ve never heard before!
9) Last Thursday was a “Sounds and Lights of Unity” event which celebrated the 25th anniversary of German reunification. It was a sound, light and video show at the triumphal arch in Parc du Cinquantenaire. There was an 8 minute video that was about the division of Europe, German reunification, the peaceful revolution in Eastern Europe and the process of European integration.
10) There is a market at Place Flagey every Saturday and Sunday morning. If the Gare du Midi market is purely functional, this one is the opposite. There are lots of stores selling luxury items, organic food and even a honey stall.
11) An Anglican church in Brussels is nothing like an Anglican church in the UK. Holy Trinity Brussels has over 40 nationalities and I heard it being translated into 4 languages. Their band was from a church in the south which speaks Spanish and French, the sermon was in English and the minister was Dutch.
12) The sun made a rare appearance this week! We spent most of the day by the Ixelles ponds relaxing.