Sunday, April 7, 2013


This post is long overdue! I was in Belgium three months ago! I really loved Belgium and hopefully I can go back in the next year. 

Belgium can be summed up in one word: food. I only spent a little over a week there, but I have never eaten so much food in my life! Before I went, I looked up Belgium on Wikitravel and read this, “Belgians like to eat. Belgium is famous for its good cuisine and people like to go to restaurants frequently. Best description for Belgian food would be ‘French food in German quantities’.” Of course I was excited, because I also like to eat, but little did I know how big the quantities would be. I associate three foods with Belgium: chocolate, waffles and fries.

I was visiting a good friend and her husband and their cat. My friend is actually from Russia, but has lived in the US for a long time, so it’s easy to forget that she is not an American. And her husband is Belgian. They live in Gent, and that is where I spent most of my time.

When I first arrived in Belgium, my friends greeted me with a Belgian waffle. I didn’t know this until visiting Belgium, but there are different types of waffles. My favorite kind were the ones from street vendors. They have a caramelized sugar crust on them and are seriously addictive. Before I even knew I would be spending a year in Austria, I had asked my friend’s husband if Belgian waffles were actually good or overrated. When he told me they were amazing, I knew they would be really good. And they were!

I also tried the kind of waffle that comes to mind when I think of “Belgian waffle.” I had it in a restaurant with whipped cream. While it was good, I much prefer the ones you can buy on the street. They are absolutely amazing!

As for fries, they were also amazing. My first meal in Belgium consisted of a “small” portion of fries with mayo and ketchup and onions. I actually prefer fries with mayo now, but as a child, I remember hearing that French people ate that and I thought it was the strangest thing. Little did I know that it’s popular all over Europe, I mean, eating fries with mayo, not just in France! My friend told me that a serving of fries at a fries shop is considered a “hot meal” and Belgians will only eat a hot meal once a day.

My first meal in Belgium. This is a "small."
And the chocolate, oh my, the chocolate! The chocolate is also amazing. I know I need to come up with more adjectives to describe the food, but it’s something that is hard to describe and is better experienced. I visited a chocolate museum in Bruges and according to the museum, the cocoa powder is ground very fine in Belgium, which creates a smoother chocolate. Or something like that. I was in a food coma by that point. My friend and her husband gave me a box of chocolates upon my arrival in Belgium. There are numerous chocolate shops all over Belgium (especially in Bruges!) and you can go and fill a box with as much chocolate as you would like. My friend’s husband’s parents also gave me a box of chocolate on Christmas. I came back with two huge boxes of chocolate. But that is not all! Apparently Belgians like to eat chocolate for breakfast. You can buy chocolate bars that are eaten on bread and butter for breakfast. You can also buy chocolate sprinkles that are eaten in the same way. I thought both combos sounded a little weird, until I tried both. There is also something called chocolate paste or spread. Somewhat like Nutella, but no nuts. I brought back the two boxes of chocolate, the breakfast chocolate bars, the sprinkles and a tub of the chocolate spread. Unfortunately the chocolate spread was confiscated at the airport!

Eating chocolate in Europe has made me realize how bad some American chocolate can be. My Mom had sent me all the ingredients to make peanut butter blossom cookies, including Hershey kisses. I ate a Hershey kiss and while I knew it wasn’t the best chocolate, it was amazing how bad it tasted. Fortunately they still taste OK on the cookies. I made those cookies and took them to a party and it was funny seeing how suspicious everyone was of eating this strange American cookie.

As for the massive quantities of food, well Belgium definitely delivered. Granted, I was there during the holidays, so that might explain the copious amounts of food.

My “stuffed” Christmas

I celebrated Christmas at my friend’s husband’s brother’s house with the whole family. That morning, my friend made a big American style breakfast, so I was full before we even left the house. Before going there, however, we stopped by his aunt and uncle’s house.  There we were served cake, coffee and ice cream. I don’t speak any Dutch/Flemish, so I would smile and nod a lot when people spoke to be in Flemish, which I soon learned really quickly is a bad idea. Because it means you will be given more food.

After eating the cake and ice cream, I was stuffed. We continued on to the brother’s house. There, we had some appetizers. I was stuffed at this point, but was still eating, because I do love food. We were there for a couple of hours and then the second brother brought over the “real” appetizer. I was shocked, because I thought we had been eating appetizers for a couple of hours. The “real” appetizer was seafood mixed with a béchamel sauce that was baked in a shell. Very delicious!

We took a break and then were called back for soup. Another break and then the main entrée, which consisted of three kinds of potatoes, steak and salad. (A note about the salad: I had never eaten a salad like this, but my friend told me it was very Belgian. You take whole pieces of lettuce, tomatoes and I think there was also chicory, but I can’t remember for sure. You put it all on your plate and drizzle mayo on top and then cut it up. Then the dressing covers all of the salad and you have pieces of lettuce and tomato.)

I only ate half a steak because I was so full, but everyone else, except for my friend, ate a full portion of steak. Dessert was served later, but I wasn’t able to eat any, but everyone else did! I finished the night on the couch in a total food coma. I can’t even believe how much food was served and how full I felt.

All of the people I met seemed to have a strategy to get me to eat as much as possible. “Would you like some cake? No? Well then, how about some coffee? Ok, since you’re having coffee, do you want some ice cream with that? No? Well, would you like some cake?” Rinse and repeat. 
As for other interesting experiences and observations, I’ll just list a few.

Spa/Sauna: My friend mentioned a spa in Gent that she and her husband sometimes go to. She said that it was “no clothing” and that there was a women only day, which happened to fall on Christmas Day, so we ended up going on a normal, mixed gender day. When we arrived, the man working the front desk greeted us and told us a little about the spa, including that it was supposed to be a relaxing atmosphere, so you were supposed to be mostly silent in the spa. He told us to put on our towels and he would give us a tour. We went to the dressing room, and in the hallway, which overlooked the cooling off courtyard, I saw a completely naked man leaning over. I knew that everyone inside the spa would be naked, but seeing made me start laughing. I had to have a five-minute giggle fest in the dressing room before I could even enter the main part of the spa. Hey, I’m American and I couldn’t help myself from laughing! I just had to get it out before going inside. Once I got over my giggle fest, I really did enjoy the spa. I couldn’t manage to take a dunk in the super cold water, though!

Window blinds: In Belgium, everyone seems to have these window blinds that completely block out all light. I have never seen them in the US. However, since I saw them in Belgium, I feel like I’ve been seeing them all over Europe. I like to call them “vampire blinds” because they do block out all light. I spent the night in a house in Belgium that has these kinds of blinds and it was so disorienting. I thought it was still dark outside, but had ended up sleeping until noon!

Bruges: I went to Bruges and was not that impressed. Yes, it was beautiful, but there were too many tourists and tourist traps. I find Gent to be just as charming without the massive hordes of people. 

Antwerpen Centraal Station: I didn’t actually visit the town of Antwerp, but hopefully I will on another trip. But I had to change trains in Antwerp and it has the most beautiful train station I’ve ever seen. It’s the kind of train station I imagine when I think of a European train station. 
At the top platform looking down.
Ceiling of the station.
Just beautiful!


Now for some more pictures!

Horse meat at the grocery store. It's the very red meat.
The French coast.

My friend and I on the French coast. My hair does not normally look like this!
Penguin house!

House that looks like a windmill.

Houses in France are very colorful.
Got to meet some donkeys!

And a horse!

Unfortunately, we forgot to bring some snacks for them. The horse showed us how he felt about this by drinking muddy water.
The castle/fortress in Gent.

Houses on the canal in Gent. Apparently, houses in Belgium flood a lot. Even ones not on the canal!
Bruges is pretty cute, but I still prefer Gent.
Only in Europe! This was one statue of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."

Lace map of Bruges.
In Gent.

Yeah, I forgot to mention all the beer. 
Monster stuck in a cannon!

There are great views of Gent from the fortress.

Disclaimer: Any statement I made about Belgian culture, especially the food culture is just from my and my friend’s (who is also not Belgian) observations/experiences. If any Belgians are reading this and don’t agree, I would love to hear your thoughts!


  1. Sounds like an awesome trip!
    I think David did not believe me when I told him that people in Europe eat fries with Mayo. :)
    And I have to say that I miss my European blinds! :)

    1. It's funny, I remember thinking when I was little that eating fries with mayo was weird, but now I love it. Probably even more than eating them with ketchup!

      My friend in Zürich has these vampire blinds and while I still find them a little unsettling, it was nice having them!

  2. What a wonderful time in Belgium :)
    So happy your friends were able to give you an idea what it's like in Belgium.
    The food sounds amazing. Now I crave waffles ;) And fries :D