Thursday, October 12, 2017

Choclate bomb in Begium and Holland

Tour diary

26.9-27.9.17. Kolkata (20 10 hrs - IST) -Mumbai-Amsterdam-Brussels (15 00 hrs BST) - Brugges

28.9.17. Brugges

29.9.17. Brugges-Ghent-Brugges

30.9.17. Brugges-Antwerp

01.10.17. Antwerp-Doel-Antwerp


03.10.17. Antwerp-Brussels-Antwerp

04.10.17. Antwerp-Amsterdam

05.10.17. Amsterdam-Gierthoon-Amsterdam

06.10.17. Amsterdam-Zaanse Schans-Merken-Valondam-Amsterdam-Delft-The Hague-Amsterdam

07.10.17. Amsterdam

08.10.-9.10.17. Amsterdam (11 40 hrs)-Delhi- Kolkata


We (Mohua and I) took 9.20 pm Jet Airways flight (from Dum Dum Airport, Kolkata) to reach Rome via Mumbai. Today is Shasthi (Tuesday) of Durga Pujo. I had three consecutive days of sleepless night due to pandal hopping for Durga Pujo. 

We left home at 4 pm and took the Park Circus flyover (via Gariahat flyover) and reached airport really fast.  We reached Mumbai  at around 12 10 am. 


Our next connecting flight is at 2.40 am. When I reached Amsterdam after 8.30 hours - it is 7 am local time. In the airport I saw many souvenirs from Van Gogh museum. Later I learnt that the price is exactly same as you get in the Van Gogh Museum. So you can buy as well from the airport without being ripped off. 

Our next connecting flight of 40 minutes to Brussels is at 1.40 am. It left 20 minutes late at 2 pm by KLM, code sharing partner of Jet Airways, by small airplane - City hopper. I considered myself quite lucky to get the direct flight from Kolkata. The price I paid is only Rs 37,500/-  return fare, per person. Of course I bought the ticket almost a year back! 

There is a train which goes straight to Brugges from airport , but we missed it. So we had to go to South station or Midi (French) or Zuid (flemish) to go to Brugges. Belgian Rail operates trains every 15 min from the airport (Level -1) to Brussels' three main stations.

There are 3 train stations in Brussels - North or Nord or Noord, Central or Centraal and South or Midi or Zuid. The fare is 8 Euro for 20 minutes train ride ! The exchange rate at the moment is 1 Euro = Rs 76 !! My friend Marjolene suggested that I buy a 10 ride RailPass for anywhere in Belgium for 77 Euro. Since we are buying it from Airport, we have to a pay an extra Cess or Diabolo of  5 Euro each i.e. we paid in total 77+10 = 87 Euro for unlimited 10 rides in Belgium for 10 days. 

Whenever you travel we had to write the details of our name, date, destination etc on the same form/Pass.
You don't need to buy two different passes, unlike Kolkata Metro.

Alternatively, Brussels can be reached by train much more cheaply via Zaventem village (dorp) station, which is within easy walking distance from the airport. At € 2.90, the fare is three times cheaper than the ticket from Brussels Airport Station to the city. This is because the expensive Diabolo Surcharge on airport trains does not apply here.

You can also take STIB bus - the buses depart from airport level 0. The ticket price is €4.50 from the vending machine next to the bus stop, or €6.00 on board. You can buy a Discover Brussels Card .

Alternatively the bus tickets sold by De Lijn are not valid on other means of public transport within Brussels. It costs only €3.00 on 

The Norther part of Belgium is called Flanders - they speak Flemish , a dialect of Dutch and Southern part is called Wallonia , they speak French. Dutch speakers may have some difficulty with the Belgian Dutch accent.
Brussels is the only city where the street signs are in Flemish and also French apart from English. Although officially bilingual, the lingua Franca of Brussels is French - although it is in Flanders part. Brussels is the head quarters of EU. It is Bruxelles in French. It is still relatively rare to find written tourist or general information in English, although the situation is improving greatly.

It takes 70 minutes to reach Brugges by "fast train". We reached Brugges at 6.40 pm. From the train station we took a bus to reach Langrei - where our host stay. We met a Nepali lady in the bus. She said there are 900 Nepalis in Brugges. 

Brugges is in the Western side of Belgium. It was a very important port in the 14th Century. It is called Venice of the West. Later the port got silted and importance of the place, diminished. 
The shooting of famous Bollywood (Hindi) cinema took place in Brugges. The city is really exquisite.

After checking in we left for dinner by walk. Our house is near a canal. First we went to Carrefour, to find it is just closed (at 7 pm). So went to the market square to have our dinner in an Italian Restaurant. We had Pizza. There are two rates - for dining in the restaurant (7.5 Euro) and another for take away (5 Euro). It is like Coperto in Italy. We got to know that French Fries is actually Belgian Fries. The US army during second world war heard people speaking in French, in French part of Belgium and having Potato Fry. So they thought it is France and called it French Fries. At the market square we had French Fries from a kiosk at the market square owned by a Nepali. Since the Frites is fried in Beef fat - Mohua opted out of it !  After that we returned back home.

Understand the History

Belgium is a low-lying country on the North Sea coast. Belgium is the heir of several former Medieval powers, previously named Belgae (or Belgica reference to the Roman Empire period).
After the collapse of the Carolingian Empire in the 9th century, the territory that is nowadays Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg, was part of Lotharingia, an ephemeral kingdom soon to be absorbed into the Germanic Empire. 

This is the origin of the Low Countries, a general term that encompasses present-day Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg.The powerful German emperor and Spanish king, Charles V, was born in the Belgian city of Ghent and ruled from Brussels. Many places in Belgium are named after him, including the city of Charleroi .
Belgium was briefly a part of the Napoleonic Empire. After Napoleon's defeat, a large Kingdom of the Netherlands was created, comprising the whole of the Low Countries. However, the religious opposition still remained and the split was aggravated by political differences between Belgian liberals and Dutch aristocrats. Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830 after a short revolution and a war against the Netherlands.
It was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II and has many war graves near the battle zones, most of them are around Ieper (in English archaically rendered as Ypres, with Yperite another name for mustard gas due to intensive use there in the first World War). 
Tensions between the Dutch-speaking Flemings of the north and the French-speaking Walloons of the south have led in recent years to constitutional amendments granting these regions formal recognition and autonomy.

Belgium consists of three federal regions, listed from North to South:

FlandersThe northern, Dutch-speaking region of the country. It includes well known cities like Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges. 

Brussels : The bilingual capital region of the country and headquarters of the EU.

Wallonia : The southern, French-speaking region, incorporating a small German speaking region in the east near the German border. The Walloon provinces are (from west to east): Hainaut, Walloon Brabant, Namur, Liège and Luxembourg.

Perhaps the most popular of the Belgian cities is Bruges. Much of the excellent architecture that arose during the towns Golden Age, roughly the 14th century, remains intact and the old centre is a valued UNESCO World Heritage Site. Among its most prominent landmarks is the 13th century belfry, where the carillonneur still rings the bells on a daily basis. With countless other noteworthy monuments, Bruges is a highly popular destination and get a bit overcrowded during holidays.


Perhaps the most popular of the Belgian cities is Bruges. Much of the excellent architecture that arose during the towns Golden Age, roughly the 14th century, remains intact and the old centre is a valued UNESCO World Heritage Site. Among its most prominent landmarks is the 13th century belfry or Bell Tower. With countless other noteworthy monuments, Bruges is a highly popular destination.

Today we decided to see Bruges. We went to a Pakistani shop to buy SIM card. There I met person from Mauritius - who knows Hindi. They told me to go to a Nepail's shop to buy SIM card. There was a Pakistani in the Nepalis shop. We just wanted to buy just data. He said for that you have to pay 10 Euro. Actually he was trying to cheat us. The Pakistani helped us to buy a SIM for 5 Euro with data only option (after telling the Nepali you can buy a SIM for only 5 Euro). The SIM card itself costs 5 Euro. So in total I paid 10 (5+5) Euro (650 MB data). Lot of time was wasted in the process.

Then I bought some wonderful Salami from Carefour shop 2 Euro for 150 gms or approx 13.5 Euro / Kg i.e. Rs 1100 per Kg, which is less than some brands charging in Kolkata. We also bought some nice Foccacia bread along with that. We also bought some waffle and some Chocolate (by weight - at around 12 Euro per Kg). There are some shops which are selling only Chocolates.We bought truffle and white chocolates (like Toblerone). Cheaper ones cost 12 Euro per kg.

Throughout the centuries, Belgium has built an excellent reputation for the art of chocolate making. It all started in the 17th century in Ghent. Today, Belgium has more than 2000 chocolateries. We find the first signs of chocolate trading in Belgium in 1635 in Ghent when the abbot of Baudeloo Abbey bought chocolate. Chocolate making was then mostly a sideline of pharmacists who sold it as a tonic. From the early 20th century, the country was able to import large quantities of cocoa from its African colony, the Belgian Congo. The Praline is an invention of the Belgian chocolate industry, as is the ballotin, a kind of packaging associated with high-quality chocolate that was designed by Louise Agostini, the wife of Jean Neuhau Jr., in 1915.

I bought waffles from Carrefoure. Belgium is a waffle country. There are so many shops selling only waffle. There are generally two types of waffle - soft and crispy. You can see wonderful lace work all around Bruges. Lace is famous in Venice too. The Lace probably came from Venice to Bruges. However there are not too many ice cream shops unlike Italy. But there are many tea and coffee shops. Italian food is very famous here. You can find lot of molluscs too.

There are french fries shop all over the place. Typically French Fries or Frites cost 2.5- 3 Euro , but you have to buy dip separately. They cost around 1 Euro. The most popular dip is mayonnaise.

We started the day with the customary canal tour (@7 Euro) along with 20-24 people. In Canal tour you get to see some places where you cannot go walking. Actually you can cover almost everything by walk. It is only 30 minutes tour.

Then we went to the Belfry or Bell Tower. The shooting of PK took place here (where in the movie a show of Amitabh Bachchan was taking place) in the market square. You have to Climb the 366 steps to go to the top of the 83-metre high Bell tower. Since hardly anybody is going to the top, we did not go to the top by paying 8 Euro.We walked for some time in the square and went to the Town Hall.

From their we went to Groeninge Museum. it enjoys an international reputation for its rich collections of Flemish Primitives (and Renaissance works) by artists from the region. This museum no doubt holds the crème de la crème of oil painting from the Middle Ages, including canvasses from the likes of Jan Van Eyck and Hans Memling that depict medieval Bruges while maintaining a realistic approach. Van Eyck’s The Madonna with Canon van der Paele or Gerard David’s The Judgement of Cambyses is famous. The term primitive is misnomer. It is not primitive by any stretch of imagination.During Bruges’ Golden Age, the 15th century, the fine arts prevailed. In the wake of the prestigious Burgundian dynasty, the great Flemish Primitives made a name for themselves. The world-renowned artist Jan Van Eyck, Hans Memling are part of Flemish Primitive or Netherlandish painting belonging to that era, with a distinctive style during 15th and 16th Century. The recurring theme of the painting is not religious.Another museum nearby is Saint John’s Hospital Meuseum. It has nothing to do with hospital . But it was closed. There are some "primitive paintings" over there also.Just across the street is Church of our lady. Michelangelo’s world famous ‘Madonna and Child’ can be found in the Church of Our Lady. It came here his lifetime. This was also closed too.

Then we visited Arentshuis museum. The top floor is devoted to the work of the versatile Bruges-born British artist, Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956). His work belonged to many different schools: social realism, Vienna Secession, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and modernism. He painted with oils, tempera, and watercolours.

Most of the allies are cobble stone road. Cycling is a common mode of transport here. we did not see so much cycling in Italy. After the tour we went back home. We met a lady called Ilsa, who has been to Kolkata. She learnt Vipissana Yoga in Kolkata. Mohua cooked Egg Curry for them and taught them how to do it.


Today we left for University town Ghent.

Chronological order