"Over Dere," is not an Easy Trip!!!
The Bone had been going back and forth to Europe for the past year; Ron makes many trips for GM and Family; Mike is a big traveler as well. Still it doesn't matter how experienced you are a "Red-eye" from Detroit to Amsterdam, then on to Brussels is a helluva way to start a trip. Boney, got a few hours of shut eye, Ron dozed, poor Mike was wide awake for the whole dang thing.
Landing in Amsterdam was a bit of a challenge; the Boys needed to not dawdle, get through Customs and cross the very large Schiphol Airport to make the Brussels Air flight to the home of the European Union Brussels! Which they did barely in time to jump on the flight. Landing in Brussels, the Boys sprouted out of the plane ready for ,,,,,,,,, well they hadn't really figured out what to do, so with a half day to spend, since the main course was World War 1, they started with a Napoleon desert!!! Brussels ironically is only 20 minutes way from Waterloo. Which isn't not really ironic. Belgium at the time was not Belgium and a muddy area of Europe where warring parties loved to meet, greet, and then beat the crap out of each other.
Where the Heck are we going?!
There are clearly language issues between French and English, the Boys had all sorts of troubles with the navigator in the French Renault Picasso (with a confidence building fire extinguisher !), which tended to change its mind more that a French school girl! "Go this way", no you stupid Americain's to go that way! It was worse than a bad Robin Williams take on the French. Ultimately, the Boys abandoned the useless tool in favor of our friend Mr. Google. So onward the Boys googled the back roads to Waterloo to see where Napoleon was creamed!
"Ain't no Mountain High Enough!"
There are two main exhibits at Waterloo the brand new underground Battlefield Visitor Centre and the Lions Mound. The Lions mound was built between 1820 and 1825 to commemorate the victory, but it has always been controversial as it significantly altered the battlefield in its construction. It does however, offer excellent views over the battlefield on a good day, but does tend to make the battlefield appear flat, which is far from true.
There are signs that state that the climb should however, only be attempted by someone who is relatively fit, as it has 226 steep steps up to the viewing platform, since it was read by three guys with no sleep, the climb seemed to make sense!!!
"We Made It !!!"
The Boys enthusiasm on climbing the stairs was much less at the end of then at the beginning, but the view and vista were amazing, You could see how the Battle played out that afternoon, June 18, 1815 where the forces of the French Empire under the leadership of Michael Ney and Napoleon Bonaparte were defeated by the Seventh Coalition and a Prussian Army, which was commanded by Gebhard Von Blucher. The forces were also defeated by an Anglo-Allied Army commanded by the Duke of Wellington.
Heck of a Chessboard
The Battle of Waterloo puts an end to the rule of Napoleon as the emperor of France. It had also marked the end of the hundred days of Napoleon from exile return.
The battle was regarded as an influential battle of all time marking the Bonaparte’s last and Waterloo Campaign. When Napoleon was returned to power in 1815, plenty of states had opposed his comeback. Since then, the Seventh Coalition was formed and armies began to mobilize. There are two huge forces assembled near the northeast border of France. These forces were under the command of Blucher and Wellington. Napoleon had planned to attack the said forces before they can unite with the other members of the Coalition in coordination of France invasion. The three-day engagement of the Waterloo Campaign happened in the Battle of Waterloo on June 16-19, 1815.
The Battle of Waterloo was quoted by Wellingtons as the “nearest run thing you ever saw in your life”. Until noon of June 18, 1815, Napoleon delayed granting of the battle to let the ground get dry. The army of Wellington had positioned across the Brussels Road along the Mont St Jean escarpment. Repeated attacks by French take place along the road until evening but the army remained standing. The army of Prussians arrived in full force and eventually broke through the right border of Napoleon. During the breakage of the Prussians army towards Napoleon’s border, the British made a counter-attacked, which drove the French army in chaos from the field. The forces of the Seventh Coalition have successfully entered France and reinstate Louis XVIII to the French throne. Napoleon resigned from the throne and surrender to the British government. In 1821, he was exiled to die at Saint Helena.
The irony is that Belgium was formed from Dutch states and French States as a buffer between the Netherlands and France, would in less than 100 years now pit the French and English against England erstwhile allies the Germans (Prussians) outside the gates of Fort Loncin!
After checking out the battlefield the Boys realized it was a simply delightful day in the sun and decided to doze for a few on a bench by the Lions Mound all, to no good effect. Losing a nights sleep is simply lost sand then check out the fantastic new underground Visitor Centre adjacent to the Lions Mound. The 3D film is actually pretty good and is highly recommended. Mike, Ron, and Bone checked out the only complete skeleton uncovered at Waterloo (named by yours truly as Private Friedrich Brandt 2nd Line Battalion King’s German Legion).
The Boys took a leisurely tour, in fact a little to leisurely, since all three almost fell asleep in the Museum ! Having laid a great historical base with Waterloo Mike, Ron, and Bone thought they had better lay a base in their bellies!!! and decided to head into Brussels.
Which was a lot harder than expected. Boney had walked by the Marriott Brussels dozens of times, but never drove it, and especially while the roads around it where all under constructions so it only took 20 minutes to get from Waterloo to downtown, then another 20 to figure out how to get to the build the Boys could see!!
"Yoo Hoo!,,, EU !"
The Boys checked and immediately headed out to check out the EU Capital Brussels!!! Brussels is a weird mix of Flemish, French, and assorted nationalities since it is the Capital of the European Union. Wandering around, Bone had have Mike and Ron check out one of his favorite post drinkin' spots Georgette Frites!!!
Chowing on Belgian Frites !!!
The Belgians dear reader are not the healthiest of eaters, they are well known for Waffles, Chocolate, and Fries (or Frites), or coronary delights as they are known! Belgians eat their frites preferably with their fingers or with small plastic forks; it is typical to serve them with a dollop of sauce.
You can visit any town or city in Belgium and order frites, which may be served in a paper cone to be enjoyed while exploring the city. Tasting this famed dish is definitely a must for tourists! Belgian frites are almost always served with a sauce, which vary from more traditional favorites such as ketchup and mustard to more interesting concoctions like andalouse, samurai and joppieaus. But don’t forget that the topping most Belgians prefer is mayonnaise! Being the Midwestern Americans that they are, Bone took Mike and Ron to one of his favorite, a little outdoor place called Georgette's, where the Boys split a paper cone of double-cooked fries with some spicy Ketchup and thoroughly enjoyed them!
"Beltin' the Belgians!!!
Sated with fries, Ron, Mike and Bone hadda sample the local belgian beers. Julius Caesar wrote more than 2000 years ago that the "Belgae" were the bravest under the Gauls. He defeated them, so he must have been braver. Although beer was the beverage of choice for the common people in the Roman empire, Julius was surprised to learn that those Gauls were drinking such high quantities of a more potent version. During 400 years the influence of the Roman-culture was so strong that not only the wine-making made its way up to the North but also the Celtic languages of the Gauls were gradually replaced by a "Roman" language which is the origin of French.
A beloved back-alley Brussels Brew Pub
In the next centuries, for more than 1000 years, when the average temperatures were higher than today, wine was also cultivated in what is now Belgium. In several of the Belgian Beers, you still can enjoy the influence of the wine-making: the spontaneous fermented lambics (Cherish, ...), the aging in wine-casks (Petrus Old Brown, ...), the refermentation in the bottles (Piraat, Hommel Ale, ...) and the brewing styles of the Catholic Abbeys (Augustijn, Bornem ...). The Boys stood in an alley enjoying the "fruits" of the Belgae's brew-mastery when they noticed a peeing baby!!!
"ERR , Gender Equity?!?"
What the Boys were standing next to is Jeanneke Pis, which is a modern fountain and statue in Brussels, which was intended to form a counterpoint to the city's Manneken Pis, south of the Grand Place. It was commissioned by Denis-Adrien Debouvrie in 1985 and erected in 1987. The half-metre-high bronze statue depicts a little girl with her hair in short pigtails, squatting and urinating on a blue-grey limestone base. It is located on the east side of the Impasse de la Fidélité / Getrouwheidsgang (Fidelity Alley), a narrow cul-de-sac some 30 metres long leading northwards off the restaurant-packed Rue des Bouchers alley that the Boys were drinking in!
Havin' a Grand Time in the Grand Place!
The Grand Place (pronounced graund plas); or Grote Markt is the central square of Brussels. It is surrounded by opulent guildhalls and two larger edifices, the city's Town Hall, and the Breadhouse building containing the Museum of the City of Brussels. The square is the most important tourist destination and most memorable landmark in Brussels and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Steak Frites au Poivre !
Fries do not a meal make ! While the fries at Georgette's were awesome, the belgian beers and the walking worked up a mighty appetite in the Meechegan meanderers! It just so happened that one of the Bone's favorite Belgian/French (not Flemish) Restaurants was right in the middle of the Grand Place! All three ordered Steak Frites au Poivre (green peppercorn sauce) with an amazing honey-drizzled, warm goat-cheese salad, all washed down a few rounds of highly potent Duval's The meal re-set the Boys to Central European Time and set them up for desert in front of the most famous statues in Belgium.
The World Famous Mannekin Pis!!!
So when a tourist goes to Paris, all the tourist shops have little Toure Eiffel, in London it is a Big Ben, in New York, its the Statue of Liberty, in Brussels, it is a peeing baby! It is the best-known symbol of the people of Brussels. It also embodies their sense of humour (called zwanze in the Brussels' dialect) and their independence of mind.
Manneken Pis, meaning "Little man Pee" in Dutch) is a landmark small bronze sculpture (about 3 feet tall) in Brussels, is a little boy peeing into a fountain's basin. It was designed by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the Elder and put in its current place in 1618 or 1619. The earliest mention of the existence of Manneken Pis can be found in an administrative text, dating from 1451–1452, about the water lines supplying the fountains of Brussels. From the beginning, the fountain played an essential role in the distribution of drinking water. It stood on a column and poured water into a double rectangular basin of stone. The only representations of this first statue can be found, very schematically, in a painting by Denis Van Alsloot, representing the Brussels' Ommegang of 1615 and in a preparatory drawing to this painting. The first statue was replaced by a new bronze version, commissioned in 1619. This bronze statue, on the corner of Rue de l'Étuve and Rue des Grands Carmes, was made by Brussels' sculptor Hieronimus Duquesnoy the Elder (1570–1641), father of Jérôme Duquesnoy the Young and the famous François Duquesnoy. It was probably cast and installed in 1620. During this time, the column supporting the statue and the double rectangular basin collecting water were completely remodeled by Daniel Raessens.
Ron, Bone, Mike and a Little Boy Peeing!
During its history, the statue faced many hazards. It survived undamaged the bombardment of Brussels of 1695 by the French army, but the pipes having been affected, it could not deliver its water for a certain time. A pamphlet published the same year recounts this episode. This text is the oldest attesting that Manneken Pis had become "an object of glory appreciated by all and renowned throughout the world". It is also the first time that it served as a symbol for the people of Brussels. It is also traditionally said that after the bombardment, it was triumphantly placed again on its pedestal.
Manneken Pis experienced similar misadventures in the 20th century. Two attempted thefts occurred in 1955 and 1957. Some accounts say that it has been stolen up to seven times; in January 1963, by students of the Antwerp student association "De Wikings" of the Sint-Ignatius Handelshogeschool (Higher Business Education), now part of the Antwerp University, who "hijacked" the statue for five days before handing it over to the Antwerp authorities. The local and international press covered the story, contributing to the students' collection of funds donated to two orphanages. Things were more serious when it disappeared in 1965; the statue had been broken by the thief and only the feet and ankles remained. In June 1966, the Antwerp magazine De Post received an anonymous phone call, signaling that the body was in the Charleroi Canal. It was found there by divers, sent by the magazine, and was brought back to Brussels, on 27 June. There are several legends behind Manneken Pis, 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 the Berthouts, the lords of Grimbergen, in Ransbeke (now Neder-Over-Heembeek). The troops put the infant lord in a basket and hung the basket in a tree to encourage them. From there, the boy urinated on the troops of the Berthouts, who eventually lost the battle. Another legend states that, in the 14th century, Brussels was under siege by a foreign power. The city had held its ground for some time, so the attackers conceived of a plan to place explosive charges at the city walls. A little boy named Julianske happened to be spying on them, as they were preparing. He urinated on the burning fuse and thus saved the city. There was, at the time (middle of the 15th century, perhaps as early as 1388), a similar statue made of stone. The statue was stolen several times. Another story, often told to tourists, tells of a wealthy merchant who, during a visit to the city with his family, had his beloved young son go missing. The merchant hastily formed a search party, which scoured all corners of the city, until the boy was found happily urinating in a small garden. The merchant, as a gift of gratitude to the locals who helped out during the search, had the fountain built. Another legend tells that a small boy went missing from his mother, when shopping in the centre of the city. The woman, panic-stricken by the loss of her child, called upon everyone she came across, including the mayor of the city. A citywide search began, and when at last the child was found, he was urinating on the corner of a small street. The story was passed down over time and the statue was erected as a tribute to the well-known legend. Another legend tells of the young boy who was awoken by a fire and was able to put out the fire with his urine. In the end, this helped stop the king's castle from burning down. The Boys admired the miterating lad while chowing down on decadent Belgian waffles for desert, slathered with ice cream, chocolate drizzle and ridiculously small plastic forks. After a few pictures, the boys headed back only to be detoured by . . . . . . . . .
A Grand Evening in the Grand Place!
"Irish we had a Guinness? We can!? in Brussels?!?"
One of the cool things about Brussels is that it is the European Capital and since Areland (or Ireland for us 'Mericans!) is in the EU, it should be expected that Irish fare should be found. By sheer happenstance (and prior Bone drunkeness) there is an appropriately named Irish Pub called The Celtic right between the Boys and their Hotel, soon the Guinnesses and Bushmill's were flowing, but not too much, none of the Boys had much sleep on the way over. Besides, Mike, Ron and Bone had a campaign to start the next day, The Over Dere Campaign!!!!