Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Here's the thing about Germany that blows my Canadian mind: it shares a border with nine other countries, all easily reachable by train. Nine countries!
Back home, you can drive for days and still be in the same province. Canada's extreme width measures more than 9,300 km, which is more than the distance between between Bonn and Beijing (7,830 km).
That you can jump on a train in Germany and pop out in another country in less time than it takes to drive to the airport and clear security is a novelty that hasn't worn off yet. Two weeks ago, I left Bonn at 6 p.m. and was eating dinner in Brussels two and a half hours later. When I got on the train, people were speaking German and eating sausages. When I got off the train, people were speaking French and eating waffles. It's about as close to teleporting as it gets.
Belgium's historic centre is stunningly beautiful. But I recommend giving the Atomium a miss. Built for Expo '58, the Atomium is one of Brussels' most inexplicably popular tourist attractions. We ended up at the Atomium thanks to a Mountain Equipment Coop employee who, upon learning Brussels was part of our itinerary, imparted some misguided advice: "Duuuuude. You have to go to the Atomium. It's wild."
Sure, the Atomium is interesting to look at from the outside. But don't waste your time lining up or spending money to go inside. There's nothing to see. Most of the pods are closed to the public and if you want to go to the top pod for the panoramic view of Brussels, you have to go all the way back down to the ground floor and cue for the elevator.
Mini Europe, on the other hand, was great. Where else can you travel across Europe in one hour? Where else can you trip and fall and almost bring the Eiffel Tower crashing down with you? The Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate was especially well done.