Brussels, Belgium

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The official founding of Brussels is usually considered to be 979.  The town grew rapidly and extended towards the upper town (higher ground) where there is a smaller risk of floods.  In 1225 work began on the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula.  The Grand Place was where Brussels traditionally conducted its business.  In 1407, they began construction of the City Hall at this location and eventually, the square was filled with a variety of Guild Halls representing all of the trades.

Grand Place

In 1695, during the Nine Years’ War, French King Louis XIV sent troops to bombard Brussels with artillery.  Together with the resulting fire, it was the most destructive event in the entire history of Brussels.  Most of the Grand Place was destroyed (with the exception of the City Hall) along with 4,000 buildings.  The Guild Halls were all rebuilt within five years, an impressive accomplishment. Continue reading

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Brussels Murals

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Belgium is known for its comics or cartoons, which are an integral part of Belgian culture.  Comics are strongly rooted in reality and in people’s imagination.  Some of the most well known characters are Tintin and the cowboy Lucky Luke.

Brussels Mural

On buildings around Brussels, artists have painted large murals depicting many of the favorite comic characters.  There are over 50 of these murals that have been cataloged. It’s a little bit of a scavenger hunt to find them.  Sadly, in some cases, “street artists” have felt the need to add their own stupid graffiti, but most of them are unaltered.

Bruges, Belgium

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While visiting the city of Brussels, we took a day tour to the city of Bruges, located west of Brussels near the coast of the North Sea.  Bruges is considered to be one of the best preserved medieval towns in the world and due to its canals, is referred to as the “Venice of the North.”  Bruges is in the Flanders section of Belgium where Dutch is the primary language.

Bruges Canals Continue reading

Cologne, Germany

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Cologne, Germany’s 4th largest city, is located on the mighty Rhine River, historically one of the great rivers of the continent and among the most important arteries of industrial transport in the world.  As one example, while we were here, we saw 5 or 6 river cruise boats anchored in Cologne.  The city was founded and established in the 1st century AD as a Roman settlement.  When Cologne began building its underground transportation system they discovered extensive Roman ruins.  In the year 310 AD under the emperor Constantine I a bridge was built over the Rhine at Cologne.

Cologne Cathedral

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Frankfurt, Germany

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Frankfurt is unlike any other Germany city.  It is a finance and business hub, home to one of the world’s largest stock exchanges as well as the new headquarters for the European Central Bank.  Its airport is the third largest in Europe.  Due to its soaring skyline and the Main River that runs through it, Frankfurt refers to itself as “Main-hatten”.

Mentioned in historical documents as far back as 794 AD, Frankfurt was an important center for the Holy Roman Empire.  With the election of Frederick I in 1152, the city became the customary site of the selection of Emperors and German Kings.  A stock exchange began operating in Frankfurt in 1585.

Frankfurt Römerberg Continue reading