By Jessica DeLoach
Today we had the privilege to be toured around the city by a native Belgian professor named Stefaan. As an introduction to this new place, rich in history, we were escorted along the cobblestone streets by this Belgian history professor, taking in centuries of war, nobility, architecture and religion. With each stop on our walking tour, we gained a new insight into the past and learned about the rulers that presided over the nation during specific centuries.
Our tour commenced outside a museum featuring writing and the literary past of this multicultural nation, which Belgium held refuge for writers like Victor Hugo and Karl Marx. Due to the nation’s liberal constitution many writers fled to Brussels so that they could create and publish their masterpieces without being held back by governmental laws from their home country.
In addition to the literary past, Brussels has a rich history of rulers, injustice and accolades across time periods. Being once ruled by Burgundian, German, French, Dutch and Spanish leaders, many part of the architecture and key buildings of Brussels scream of different architectural preferences, within the city market square in lower, or the “poorer” Brussels, three were homes built by the bourgeois housing the many different trades of the day. From butchers, to bakers to candlestick makers, each guild had their own special location on the city market and there was even a mall created nearby that held the birth of Belgium chocolate, within the Neuhaus pharmacy.
From the history of Belgian waffles to Belgian chocolate to Belgian beer, we learned of the vast emphasis that Belgians place drinking and dining. The nation has perfected the culinary arts and it shows with each meal that we have experienced. From fresh health food to Vietnamese/Thai specialties to Irish pubs, Brussels serves as a mecca for food and drink. The nation is truly a melting pot of cultures from the rich historical and cultural past; from the royalty mentioned before, to the Moroccan immigrants to the laborers from the Congo, to the Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim religions, Brussels mirrors the US with the variety of cultural and religious beliefs that are featured and accepted within the nations boundaries.
Over the next two weeks, I am excited to learn more about this nation full of history. The walking tour of the city was a wonderful kickoff to the varying cultures Brussels and the country of Belgium have to offer. I look forward to diving deeper into the differing communication styles and potential cultural opportunities and setbacks the nation may face due to the milieu of people living within the Brussels walls.