‘Wonders of Europe’-Part 3: Onward to beautiful Brussels and classical Amsterdam

Write Comment     |     E-Mail To a Friend     |     Facebook     |     Twitter     |     Print
By Dr. Eugene DSouza, Moodubelle
Bellevision Media Network

Udupi, 18 Aug 2013: On the fifth day of the ‘Wonders of Europe’  Tour, we started early in the morning to proceed to the next country on our itinerary-Belgium whose  capital, Brussels was our destination.  After invoking “Ganapati Bappa Morya….’ the usual invocation before the bus would move, we were on the road towards Brussels, and the distance to be covered was 304 kilometers.


Every morning, after the invocation, as the bus would start, our Tour Manager, Kunal Gorekar , after the customary ‘good morning’ would ask, ‘Mandali, all your valuables are secured ?’ and all of us would reply loudly ‘yes’.  Throughout the tour, Kunal had been very particular about reminding the tourists the need to take care of their respective passports, cash and other valuables. The tour company-Kesari had provided to each of the tourists a pouch with arrangements to keep the passport and cash. Every tourist was expected to  put the string of the pouch around his or her  neck and tuck the pouch inside their dress.  This was essential as Kunal had pointed out that there had been instances of passports and cash being stolen in European countries. Once a tourist loses his or her passport,  the  troubles that the tourist has to undergo to get in touch with the  Indian embassy in that country and get travelling papers done so that he or she can travel back to India cutting short the tour are too many and stressful.


As we left the city of Paris, the bus moved through the rural French terrain. The rural topography in northern European countries, especially France, Belgium and Holland is mostly plain and full of greenery. On both sides of the roads we could see vast agricultural land that is being fully cultivated with verities of crops such as barley, potatoes, sugar beets, wheat, and assorted fruits and vegetables. We also could see cattle grazing in flocks at different places. Stock farming or livestock production dominates Belgian agriculture. It accounts for 65 percent of the nation’s farms. A variety of livestock is raised, including beef, veal, poultry, lamb, pork, and turkey. There is also a significant dairy industry and Belgium also produces a variety of specialty cheeses.



As the distance between Paris and Brussels was considerably lengthy, Kunal arranged the programme of self introduction of each and every tourist which we had not done earlier due to the tight schedule of the tour till then. It was quite interesting part of our journey towards Brussels. Each and every tourist narrated in brief his or her family background, profession, hobbies and interests. As the exercise was going on I turned my camera towards the glass window of the bus and tried to click pictures of the rural landscape in France and Belgium. In many places I could see clusters of typical houses and churches with tall spires with crosses on the top, one such structure in each of the settlements. This was the usual scene that I came across in rural Europe.



As we entered the Brussels city, once again the artistic and ornate buildings were a common sight. It was lunch-time when we reached Brussels. After having lunch in an Indian restaurant we proceeded to the centre of Brussels known as ‘The Grand Place’.


The Grand Place, with its ornate baroque and gothic guild houses is one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. It was built as a merchants market in the 13th century. It is surrounded by guildhalls, the city’s Town Hall, and the Bread house.


The first building that one notices upon entering the Grand Place is the striking gothic Town Hall, which dates back to the 13th century. Its beautiful facade features the famous needle-like crooked spire which is 315 feet in height and is topped by the archangel St. Michael.


The origin of the Grand Place in particular and that of Brussels in general can be traced back to the 10th century when Charles, Duke of Lower Lorraine constructed a fort on Saint Grey Island, the furthest inland point at which the Senne river was still navigable. By the end of the 11th century, an open-air marketplace was set up on a dried-up marshland near the fort that was surrounded by sandbanks. At the beginning of the 13th century, three indoor markets were built on the northern edge of the Grand Place; a meat market, a bread market and a cloth market.


The Grand Place was practically destroyed by a strong French army in August 1695. The square was rebuilt in the following four years by the city’s guilds. In the late 18th century, revolutionaries sacked the Grand Place, destroying statues of nobility and symbols of Christianity. In the late 19th century, Mayor of Brussels Charles Buls had the Grand Place returned to its former splendour by reconstructing or restoring the existing  buildings.


The Grand Place continued to serve as a market until November 19, 1959, and it is still called the Great Market or Grote Markt in Dutch. Neighbouring streets still reflect the area’s origins, named after the sellers of butter, cheese, herring, coal and so on. The Grand Place was named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1998.


After Kunal pointed out the spot where we should meet after certain time, we spanned out in smaller groups to explore the Grand Place as well as its surroundings. We walked towards iconic famous small statue of a little boy peeing in a fountain also known as the ‘Manneken Pis Statue’. It is situated on the corner of Rue de L’Etuve and  Rue des Grands Carmes since 1619. Over time it has become a tradition for visiting heads of state to donate miniature versions of their national costume for the little naked boy.


The 61 centimeters tall bronze statue was made in 1619 by Brussels sculptor Hieronimus Duquesnoy the Elder.  The figure has been repeatedly stolen as a result of which the authorities thought it prudent to display a copy of the statue since 1965. The original is kept at the Maison du Roi (House of Kings) on the Grand Place.


There are several legends behind this statue, but the most famous is the one about Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. In 1142, the troops of this two-year-old lord were battling against the troops of his enemies. The troops put the infant lord in a basket and hung the basket from the branch of a tree to encourage them to fight. From there, the boy urinated on the troops of the enemies who eventually lost the battle.


According to another story, usually told to the tourists, a wealthy merchant who was on a visit to the city with his family, found his beloved little son missing. The merchant hastily formed a search party that searched all corners of the city until the boy was found happily urinating in a small garden. The merchant got a fountain built as a gift of gratitude to the locals who helped out during the search of the boy.


On certain occasions, the statue of the little boy is hooked up to a keg of beer and cups would be filled up with the beer flowing from the statue and given to the people who pass by.


As we walked back to the Grand Place, we could see shops selling souvenirs of the little peeing boy, assortment of chocolates and varieties of articles to attract the tourists.


One sight that attracted my attention was that a number of tourists were moving their hands over the statue of a person in a sleeping position by the side of a building. I went closer to find out why people were doing so. The statue in the horizontal position is that of Everard t’Serclaes, a Brussels nobleman who drove the Flemish Count Louis II from Brussels in 1356. It represents the dying t’Serclaes. There is a belief among locals that the statue of Everard ’t Serclaes brings luck and grants the wishes of all who touch it. Many tourists touch or rather rub the statue, particularly the arm, because legend has it that rubbing the arm will ensure one’s return to Brussels.



After spending considerable time at the Grand Place during which some of our tourist friends purchased chocolates to be taken back home, we proceeded to view another landmark of Brussels-the Atomium.


The Atomium was erected  in 1958 for the Brussels World’s Fair held in Heysel. It was designed by André Waterkeyn to be a replica of a single unit of iron crystal blown up 165 billion times. The interiors are designed by architects André and Jean Polak, The height of the Atomium is 102 meters, each sphere is 18 meters in diameter, about the size of a large apartment. There are 9 spheres all together connected by tubes. The spheres are wrapped in stainless steel. Atomium is the symbol of the city and it provides a panoramic view of Brussels and its surroundings. The 9 spheres that make up the “atom” are linked by escalators. The Atomium hosts a museum and is also a venue for special events.


The Atomium is surrounded by a huge garden that is well-maintained with flower-beds and smooth lawns. I came across a bridal couple getting their pictures clicked with the Atomium in the background.



Having completed the sightseeing in Brussels, we had  dinner in an Indian restaurant and then proceeded to Thon Hotel Brussels  Airport for spending the night before leaving for Amsterdam, the capital of Netherlands also known as Holland.


Next morning, from Brussels we proceeded towards Netherlands in which our first destination of sightseeing was Madurodam at a distance of 173 kilometers from Brussels which took around three hours to cover the distance with a halt in between at a gas station which is mandatory as the Coach Captain had to be given certain amount of rest and the tourists had to use the wash-room.


As we reached the Madurodam complex, by the side of the main entrance, a model of a young boy blocking the leak in a wall attracted my attention and reminded me of a story that I had heard when I was young.


It is believed that a large part of the Netherlands used to be under the sea and the sea has been held back by dykes and a large part of the country lies below the sea level. According to a Dutch legend, there was once a small boy who was passing by a dyke on his way to school and noticed a slight leak as the sea trickled in through a small hole. Knowing that he would be in trouble if he was to be late for the school, the boy pocked his finger into the hole and so stopped the flow of the sea-water. Sometime later a passerby saw him and went to get help. This came in the form of other men who were able to conduct repairs on the dyke and seal up the leak.


This story is told to children to teach that if they act quickly and in time, even they with their limited strength and resources can prevent  disasters. The fact that the Little Dutch Boy used his finger to stop the flow of water is used as an illustration of self-sacrifice.


This legend originates from the American writer Mary Mapes Dodge and is in fact not a real myth, although many people believe it is. She published this story in ’Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates’ in 1865. The Little Dutch Boy is a very popular myth in the United States and other countries, but is not well known in the Netherlands and has probably been imported there by American tourists.


As we entered the Madurodam complex, Kunal got the tickets endorsed and passed on to each of us with a leaflet consisting of the explanation of the Madurodam.


Being a unique miniature park, Madurodam has been one of the most significant tourist attractions in the district of the Hague in Holland. It comprises of perfect 1:25 scale model replicas of famous Dutch castles, public buildings, large industrial projects, canals, roads, railway network, ports, oil-rigs, airport, etc. located at various places in Holland. The park was opened in 1952 and has been visited by millions of tourists since then.


Madurodam is divided into three theme areas: The City Centre, Water World and Innovation Island. In the City Center one can find beautiful buildings of the old cities of Holland. Water-land tells the story of ‘water as friend and foe’ and Innovation Island represents Holland as a source of inspiration for the world.



It is interesting to note that Madurodam was named after George Maduro, a Jewish law student from Curaçao who fought the Nazi occupation forces as a member of the Dutch Resistance and died at Dachau concentration camp in 1945 because of typhus shortly before it was liberated. In 1946, George Maduro was posthumously awarded the Military Order of William I, the highest and oldest military decoration in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, for the valor he had demonstrated in the Battle of the Netherlands against the German troops. His parents, Joshua and Rebecca Maduro, a couple of Sephardic Jewish descent donated the funds necessary for the Madurodam project.


Having gone through the entire Madurodam park and clicking as many pictures as possible of the miniature classical buildings and  other spots of interest including a giant wooden shoe, we settled in the restaurant for a cup of coffee. Next, we headed towards Amsterdam, the capital city of Netherlands.  On the way we had lunch in the form of burger in the roadside outlet of MacDonald’s.


Amsterdam is situated at a distance of around 61 kilometers from Madurodam. As the bus neared the city, we could see the canals with varying sizes of vessels moving in these canals. We even crossed the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. As we entered the city the buildings in classical mould could be seen on both sides of the roads.


With more than one million inhabitants in its urban area, Amsterdam is the country’s largest city and its financial, cultural, and creative centre. Amsterdam is also known as ‘Venice of the North’, because of its lovely canals that criss-cross the city, its impressive architecture and more than 1,500 bridges.


Amsterdam’s origin can be traced to a small fishing village in the late 12th century. The village gradually grew into a township and eventually became one of the most important trading centers in the world during the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century. The city’s small mediaeval centre rapidly expanded and the Canal Belt neighbourhoods were constructed. While Amsterdam is considered as the capital of the Netherlands, the seat of the government is situated at the Hague.


After alighting from the bus our next task was to experience the canal cruise. We waited in the small park flanked by the road on one side and the canal on the other as  our Tour Manager, Kunal rushed to one of the Canal Cruise offices to endorse the tickets.


The surrounding area presented a beautiful sight. We came across many local people using bicycles. Separate lanes are being set aside for the bikers. Right from London to Paris, Brussels and even in Amsterdam, I had seen  many bicycle stands where those who wanted to use bicycles for shorter distances could hire them by inserting coins in the coin slots. It seems that most of the European countries encourage their citizens to use bicycles in order to reduce pollution and traffic congestion and also keep the people healthy as cycling involves a lot of exercise.


Bunches of beautiful flowers on both sides of the small bridge across the canal attracted my attention. I moved towards the bridge and clicked few pictures along with bicycles parked by its side. We also came across the exterior of one of the famous beer companies of Holland-Heineken.


Boats of different types were moving in the canal up and down in which holiday makers were seen enjoying the ride. One can rent a pedal boat and have good leg-exercise with sightseeing. But there are plenty of other options if one is looking for a more relaxing ride. For example, there are boats that can accommodate up to 6 persons, powered completely by electricity. The majority of boats available for rent  are shorter than 15 meters with maximum speed of 20 kph and they do not require a special driving license. There were also larger cruises carrying larger groups.



As Kunal arrived with the endorsed tickets,  we proceeded to the departure point from where we boarded the Canal Cruise. Canal cruises are one of Amsterdam’s most popular attractions. For tourists like us visiting Amsterdam for the first time, it was an excellent introduction to the city’s many sights. As the cruise moved forward .we could see small flat-roofed house-like structures which are being used for residence as well as shops and restaurants.


The cruise moved from  a narrow canal to open sea and on the other side we could view the cluster of buildings on the edge of the sea. From a distance we saw a large ship-like building which is a hotel. After moving in the cruise for nearly 45 minutes we alighted by the side of a Chinese restaurant and walked for around half an hour and reached the semi-circle city center with the Central Station at its apex. This   is the most visited part of Amsterdam. On the way we came across a number of classical buildings including the church of St. Nicholas.


After waiting for some time, our bus arrived at the spot which took us all the way back to Brussels. On the way I was lucky enough to get clear view of the giant wind-mills, the legendary symbol of rural Holland and click few pictures.


After having dinner we moved back to the same hotel in Brussels and waited for the next morning to proceed  to Cologne in Germany.


Also Read


Part 1 : ’Wonders of Europe’ - London in a Day


Part 2 : Memorable Tour Through Historic Paris and Enchanting Disneyland 



Comments on this Article
Daniel, Switzerland Tue, September-3-2013, 1:01
Benedict Noronha, Udupi Tue, August-20-2013, 9:30
I find no words toexplain the splendid work of the author and photographer. so I endorse the views compliments and appreciation expressed y the great Alphonse. Philip, ronald and others in these columns . Great work is my conclusion. Belle vision and the viewers are made rich by the series of articles. I enjoyed them.
Alphonse Mendonsa, Pangla Tue, August-20-2013, 11:21
Once again Dr. Eugene, you have proved as the master narrator. The pics speaks of volumes of history of Europe and the wonderful buildings, incidents that took place, The grand place...thanks for your patience explaining in details all the wonders of the Europe. Please continue sharing more on this travelogue.
Ronald Sabi, Moodubelle Tue, August-20-2013, 9:36
The Netherlands is my favorite country in Europe having been there 8 times. I always enjoyed Leiden, Noordwjk and Amsterdam. In summer due to late sunset, I like their outdoor pubs and restaurants. I do join Philip in appreciating European peoples honesty, integrity and hard work, Clean surroundings and usable toilets every where. They keep fit by using bicycles and pollution free surrounding. In India many feel riding a bicycle to reach from Point A to B is below dignity. Wonderful write up by Dr. Eugene, explaining the history of several centuries, thousands of canals built 4 centuries ago and boat houses which govt permitted due to lack of accommodation, these house boats have power, drinking water, telephone and sewage connections. Every 5 to 10 years they need to be dry docked for maintenance.
Philip Mudartha, Mumbai Tue, August-20-2013, 3:15
I congratulate the author on his painstaking work that has resulted in near post-card quality photo imprints. It is not an easy task, specially for me since my focus is taking in the beauty and order of it all, and savor the moment for myself and by myself and fix it in my mind. Having extensively traveled in this region and elsewhere in Europe, with its rich history and heritage, I have to say that it is practically impossible for anyone to recall details. But the underlying theme of Europe is how it transformed itself from a torn within, fighting ever, feudal and poor agrarian society into a modern, peaceful, free, democratic, tolerant, contented and thriving community with its diversified economy. In this process lasting values such as honesty, hard work, discipline, uprightness and justice were passed on from generations..These pictures tell that story pf what human potential can achieve if they stayed focused on noble values and act.
Celine, Madanthyar Mon, August-19-2013, 4:27
Lovely pictures Bavoji, thanks ....waiting for the next travelogue...
Roshan DSouza, Dubai/ Udupi Sun, August-18-2013, 10:29
Thank you Dr. Eugene for your fantastic photography and write up. While reading I feel that i am standing in front of these beautiful monuments. Waiting to read your next part of the travelogue.
Write your Comments on this Article
Your Name
Native Place / Place of Residence
Your E-mail
Your Comment   You have characters left.
Security Validation
Enter the characters in the image above
Disclaimer: Kindly do not post any abusive, defamatory, infringing, obscene, indecent, discriminatory or unlawful material or SPAM. BelleVision.com reserves the right to block/ remove without notice any content received from users.
GTI MarigoldGTI Marigold
Anil Studio
Badminton Sports AcademyBadminton Sports Academy

Now open at Al Qusais

Veez Konkani IllustratedVEEZ Konkani

Weekly e-Magazine

New State Bank of India, Customer Service Point
Cool House ConstructionCool House Construction
Uzvaad FortnightlyUzvaad Fortnightly

Call : 91 9482810148

Your ad Here
Power Care
Ryan Intl Mangaluru
Ryan International
pearl printing

Konkani Literature World