Introduction to Brussels

It’s not just the capital of the land of chocolate and beer; Brussels is also home to major international political organisations, eye-catching Art Nouveau architecture and over 90 museums. It’s also home to the downright bizarre.

Take the crowds that flocked to the national Botanical Garden to take a big whiff of the Titan Arum, better known as the corpse flower or the world’s smelliest flower, with stench strongly resembling a decomposing animal. Apparently this 8-foot tall flower only floweres 3 times in 5 years and only blooms for 3 days. Will you be lucky to see/smell it on your next visit? Hmm perhaps not.

Something that seems bizarre, but is actually quite normal, are the advertisements, street signs and street names in two languages – Dutch and French. You see, Brussels is a bilingual city. Historically, Belgium was a Dutch-speaking country, but after the Belgium independence in 1830, the country started to speak French. But of course, some still held on to the Dutch language so now you’ll find around 20% speak Dutch and 80% speak French.

Just keep this in mind when you’re looking for attractions. For example the Main Square is called both Grand Place and de Grote Markt – sounds totally different, but it’s the same place. English is also understood by many locals, so no need to worry. Just a note though, language is a bit of divisive issue, so probably not a good topic to chat about it with locals.

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