Enroute to Brussels on Eurail, my friend was mighty disappointed that the view outside the train wasn’t as pretty as they showed in DDLJ. For the uninitiated, DDLJ is a Bollywood blockbuster starring Shahrukh, Kajol and a cow. After much deliberation, the blog name for my friend will be Simran. So when I realized Simran was actually in Europe for the DDLJ experience, (people have weird reasons to travel…some travel to buy magnets and some to sing ‘Tujhe dekha to yeh jaana sanam’) I knew for a fact that I had better recreate Amrish Puri quickly or deal with huge sighs of disappointment through out the trip.
‘What yaa, the stations don’t look like the ones in the movie,’ she sulked.
If I could get my hands on that Chopra fella, I’m demanding a freaking explanation. Why Europe? Why Eurail? Why make such movies available to all and sundry? Can't wait to get my Sound of Music revenge in Salzburg.
Anyway, Brussels was very tiny. If we had actually moved from the two blocks we kept wandering in and out of for the fear of getting lost, we might have felt the city was enormous. The Grand Place square was incredible. Since we just stumbled into it, we were struck by its beautiful cathedral and gothic buildings. Many roads just end in such open squares all through Europe. But none compared to the grandiose of this particular one. It’s lovelier by the night. Coffee shops and restaurants line this square. A local artist painting, kids playing, a concert in progress, a tourist taking the 56th picture (not me, I stopped at 52) didn’t mar the beauty of this place. Waded through the tourists to check out this little peeing kid, Manneken Pis (name doesn't leave much for imagination) and that's exactly what we saw..a bronze kid peeing away to glory. I am sure tourists avoid buying his statue as we saw loads of them in the stores. We also saw a bronze dog peeing on the road. Belgians must surely come to India and see the real thing!
Brussels is also known for its cartoonists like Herge of the Tintin fame. So there are many murals/cartoons throughout the city giving the historic city an element of fun.
And like every cool traveler, we did a very cool thing. Ate at an Indian restaurant that sent magnetic forces towards us the first day. We decided to eat in a local joint and got cheese and more cheese into our blood stream. How much chocolates and waffles can a man eat…same as a woman. By the second day, we succumbed to the smell of aaloo baingan. Those restaurant people did have some sense of humor. The samosas had brussel sprouts as filling. Try this at home by all means, but not when I am invited. Thank you very much.
Big Ben in Belgium (not as big)
We took a train to Mini Europe. Now this place had always caught my fancy in pictures. Whenever someone showed me photos of walking among tiny scaled models of the Big Ben and Eiffel tower, I was quite enthralled. I didn’t mention to Simran and her hubby (chalo, let’s call him Narsim, who was a kabab-mein-haddi during our initial travel..so much for Shahrukh Khan bouncing towards us) that I had seen these pictures when I was a kid. So they played along and accompanied my excited self to this theme park called Mini Europe. I can’t tell you how I escaped strangalization by this suddenly turned violent couple. The park was at its cheesy best. I could have strangled myself…but put a brave front to ward off any more disgusted stares. ‘Wow, look at this…miniature Grand Palace Sqaure.’ I think that was when all of us developed allergic reactions towards the Grand Palace Square and decided to stay away from it for the rest of the day.
‘Let’s buy lace.’ Simran declared out of sudden fascination for procuring items that a certain place was famous for.
‘What?! That granny stuff? No way are we buying lace.’ Narsim simmered.
‘Why not’, I asked. ’They’d look lovely as head rests on your couch so that when I come to your house with my head full of Parachute oil, it wont stain the backrest of the aforementioned sofa. Also you could use lace to cover your telephone and TV when they are not in use.’
‘If you are buying lace, then I am buying a pipe and placing it over the TV.’ Narsim protested.
‘Pipe? Like PVC pipe?’
‘No, a smoking pipe.’
‘That might actually go with our décor. Forget the lace. Let’s buy a pipe. Is it famous here?’
So while this couple sorted out their differences over pipes and lace, I bought knives. It might come handy to slit throats in case it became necessary.