The fact that I was flying alone into a foreign country on which I knew nobody didn't bother me when I decided to go to Belgium. Landing in Brussels I didn't even know there were 3+ languages, French, Dutch, Flemish spoken in this one country.
The fact that I was alone didn't even sink in as the plane descended from the clouds to reveal the lush green trees covering much of the land that I could see. And it didn't set in either as I checked into my hostel. And I wasn't expecting it to.
From the get go I had planned to stay in Brussels as my base and travel out by train or bus to the surrounding cities should I want to.
The first night I did not meet anyone in my hostel as there was no one there. Instead I walked around my predominantly Turkish area and found a lovely restaurant to have a celebratory dinner. I felt like I needed to mark the journey, why I do not know. I guess it was my first true thing alone? I don't really know but the feeling was there and I was hungry, obviously not thinking right because I forked our about €20 for one meal albeit a delicious meal as you can probably see yourself.
The next day I spent exploring Brussels. I visited Marolles Flea Market thanks to the recommendations of the girls from the Solo Female Travelers group on Facebook.There were many things to be seen from Voodoo masks to old glasses. I even bought a really pretty photo album for one euro. It was a chilly morning so I got a cup of hot chocolate from Chaff located right next to the square.
Following that was a free walking tour. Technically two free walking tours. The first was with a lady who was completely void of any emotion or the ability to change the tone of her voice making all the information she said put our small group to sleep. She then not so politely explained her very first point that essentially, she is expecting to be paid for her service and that her average was about €10-15.
The biggest tourist trap is the idea of a free walking tour and in case you missed the life lesson, nothing is free in life. I had thought that the service was headed by a company and its employees i.e the guides were paid some sort of wage but that was not the case. Although that is not the reason I and one other girl I met bailed on her tour and joined the much more interesting tour group we saw next to us, New Europe ( red umbrellas for anyone going there) a decision we did not regret. And in doing this I had made my first traveling friend in Brussels, who was only up for the day but we still had fun eating Belgian Fries ( not French Fries which you should never call them in Belgium) and getting to know each other. Fritland fries was recommended by our tour guide and they were so delicious and well worth the €3.50 you pay for a cone of fries.
I can't say much for the Brussels night life as I've got to be honest 1) I did not go to any night clubs with anyone as I had no one to go with 2) I didn't spend enough time in Brussels at night to even know where there were night clubs. I visited an Irish Pub with hopes of finding fellow travelers from Ireland and bonding over this fact, oh what a naive child I am. It was of course nothing like that. I heard so many different languages in my short time in this pub but not one word of English or Gaeilge either.
Feeling a little deflated at that and the fact that no one even glance in my direction I left. And that was the first time it truly felt like I had come to Brussels alone and was truly alone. I walked around a bit not wanting to go back to my hostel where I couldn't even tell if anyone else was already checked into our room.
A quick search on Google reminded me that there was one place I wanted to go to though I had saved it for Friday's itinerary. But throwing lists to the wind I quickly pulled up my Google maps and started heading towards what would be the reason I would come to love Brussels and traveling solo. Along the way my battery died but it didn't matter because I found what I was looking for. Tucked in an alley of restaurants with waiters competing to get you inside their respective culinary facilities, easily missed by those looking for it and those who know where it is was Delirium.
If you are ever in Brussels, forget everything you've been told, this is the one place you must go to. The vibe there is undeniable and tangible in how welcoming and enveloping it is. The playlist is SICK ( although I suspect it to be a Spotify playlist) and you'll find people of all ages there like the two Canadians I quickly became friends with. The staff are just as chill and friendly albeit I am somewhat biased after a night of free drinks and great banter with the bar men and management.
That was essentially the only real time I spent in the Brussels night life scene, after the walking tour where I became acquainted with almost all the city has to offer historically and the '8th wonder of the world' according to my tour guide. The rest of the time I returned to the city for quick walks to and from buses and stations, listening to buskers, eating waffles and drinking hot chocolate in cafe's and chilling at Scott's bar.
My last night however was spent in the city eating noodles and watching two Italian buskers as the sun set behind-the-scenes the buildings on the other side. It was relaxing, beautiful and chatting to a long haired slightly stoned angel of a man on the stairs as we watched the men sing and strum guitars and beat Cajun drums. It was not until I decided to go get a waffle before heading to Delirium that I saw that the Grand Palace square building had been lit bright purple, for what reason I do not know but it was beautiful.
I bought my waffle and headed back for a picture of Delirium, not actually going inside because I was too tired at this point and also didn't want to taint the memory of the place. However I have promised myself to go back with friends and let the dream live on then.
It was at this point, walking to my bus station that I started to realize all at once how the streets I'd gotten lost on so many times come together with just a few twists and turns that only someone living there or who'd spent enough time getting lost there would know.
If you're going to Brussels for the history then there's plenty to be seen, for the beauty...I don't know, to me it's a very modernized almost industrialized city and crowded with people not just tourists. Will I go to Brussels again? Yes. It is a city buzzing with life in which I discovered a little bit about myself. I really don't like being alone as much as I thought I did and if walking around the city to avoid my mostly empty hostel room doesn't prove it then I don't know what does. It's also thought me how to be alone and remain confident more than my bedroom has all these years.
Go to Brussels to get lost and meet people and not for the instagram pictures. Do a walking tour, a beer tasting tour if you're into that and try to meet more people, you won't regret it.