Don and Donna arrived just in time for one of our favorite Belgium pastimes, a parade.
This was a special parade, the unveiling of a new outfit on the Manneken-Pis.
With a theme of the Italian Carnival.
It was very exciting for us as we have never experienced the unveiling of a new costume. There is no rhyme or reason as to when they are changed. We were also not aware that so much hoopla was involved.
We started in the Grande Place at the beer festival. We gave Don a small glass since he was still trying to get over his jet-lag.
We marched through the streets with the carnival...
....to the corner where the Manneken Pis lives. He was covered...awaiting his big unveiling.
Ta-da! They even had his "pisser" working so that is sprayed the crowd. How funny!
It was crazy that so many people were there for this event!
D had to work several days during their visit so the three of us checked out our local sites. We visited the Atomium, which was build int 1958 for the world's fair. It is 334.6 ft high and the spheres measure a diameter of 59 ft, weighing 2400 tons.
Elevators run in the tubes so you can travel from sphere to sphere, each housing special exhibits. One of them is set up for children to spend the night.
On a clear day, like the day we visited, you can get some beautiful views of Brussels.
One day we rented a car and drove to Ypers to visit WWI's famous Flanders Field. In the center of Ypers is an excellent museum called "In Flanders Field". We also went to the largest British Cemetery, Tyne Cot where 11,908 graves are registered.
The city of Ypers was completely destroyed during the battles of WWI, but has since been built back to it's original state. It is now a pretty little Belgian town with a great history and a great ice cream parlor.
The Poland Trip
Donna has always dreamed of visiting Poland as both of her parents are Polish. So we purchased four tickets on Wizz air and off we went!
Our first stop was Krakow, were we explored the castle
and the historical old town. We also jumped right into some good ole Polish food; pierogis, bigos, smalec (double fried lard served on bread), sauerkraut, beet soup, all delicious!
We planned to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, the German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp so we watched Schindler's list before we left and visited his factory in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow.
The factory was under construction with a new museum to open next year so we really did not see much. We did visit a Synagogue where D&D had a father-son chat wearing a yamaka.
This part of town is being revitalized and they have many shops and trendy cafes. For lunch we ate at a place that offered 36 types of pierogis - now that is my kind of a restaurant!
We stayed at a very sweet hotel with only six rooms. D and I had stayed there when we visited Krakow in the spring. Donna is trying to decide what to have for breakfast.
As with all our trips, we found lots of time for eating and drinking. In fact, we came up with a logo for our visitors - Travel with D&D........You will not learn much, but you will eat well!
Our visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau was certainly memorable. 1.1 million people (90% jews) were killed here from 1940-1944. We had a private guide and all I can say is we all walked away completely drained. I am going to just share the photos with you. No explanation is needed.
Photos inside the buildings were not allowed. Which is probably goods as this was the most disturbing site. In January of 1945, much of the camp was destroyed, but all buildings shown are original.
I opted for black and white as I felt it would better represent the mood. We also took color photos and a few are posted in the album.
It is hard to believe that something so horrific could take place in the world. Let's just hope no one ever has to experience such a devastation again.
Part two of Poland - a happier journey
We continued our visit with a 2 hour drive to Zakopane, the mountain resort area of Poland. This area is very well know for their quaint wooden houses
and wooden churches.
Here is a photo of our hotel. We thought our hotel looked like a mushroom.
It was very pretty inside and in a very good location. They spoke only a few words of English when we checked in.
We found a very fun restaurant that we went to both nights we were there. Touristy, but we really enjoyed the music, the food, the dancing (no, not us dancing). Look closely, we are in a sled!
And kudos to Don for discovering the wonderful warm beer, a specialty of the area. Even I, the non-beer lover ordered a glass the second night.
The next day it was too cloudy to see the mountains so we drove across the border into Slovakia. A first for all of us.
We were surprised how colorful many of the little towns were.
When we were driving throughout Poland people sold cheese and mushrooms on the side of the road. The cheese is called Oscypek and it is a very salty smoked cheese made of sheep's milk. It was good.
We also stopped to buy mushrooms from an elderly women who did not speak any english. Look how beautiful those mushrooms are.
D and I pointed to a basket and held up what was equivalent to $3.00.
She dumped a big bowl of oyster mushrooms in a bag. She kept patting my arm saying dziekujwe , dziekujwe (thank you).
We think we got a good deal, but by her reaction, we think she felt like she got the deal. I asked to take her photo and she giggled and touched her babushkas (scarf), so I guessed that meant okay. It was a priceless moment. We fried them in butter and ate with our chicken dinner the night we got back to Brussels. Yummy!
Now, the highlight of our trip - taking Donna to the hometown were her grandfather was from, Kamienica.
It was a small town, but we found the cutest restaurant to eat and quite large given how small the town was. We cried (happy tears) and laughed all within the hour. Don even danced to the polish music.
It was a very touching day for all of us, but especially for Donna. We ended the night and our Polish trip drinking Vodka. A perfect time.
We had one day of rest and laundry and off we went to Brugge, one of the prettiest towns in Belgium. A picture-perfect day.
Brugge is known for it's beautiful lace where women still do tatting.
It was a relaxing day where we enjoyed a nice lunch and leisurely boat ride through the canals.
Sunday was Don's birthday and Car-Free Sunday in Brussels so we knew we would have a fun day. There are lots of events that take place around the city on this day.
After a relaxing breakfast with eggs and grits, we headed to the city center to get Don a special Brussels B-day cake.......waffles with ice cream!!!
He looks pretty happy. Onto the Grande Place where another beer festival was being held. These Belgians do love their beer and their parades!
d & d
and in Brussels you also have to eat chocolate on your birthday. Well really you eat chocolate everyday!
I'll end this Blog with my very favorite photo, taken in the park just down the street from our apartment. We had a GREAT visit and look forward to next year when they come again.
There are a few more photos in the Don and Donna album just click on the link in the upper right of the first page. And....just an FYI - Donna officially has the title of visiting us the most in Brussels - this was her third visit!