Best of Summer 2008: Introducing Benelux

Ever wondered if there's just one type of Belgian Waffle? Or wondered where all the water goes when it's raining in Antwerp? If Maatjes Herring really tastes as awful as it does when bought from Swedish supermarkets? Or if all you can buy in a flower shop in Amsterdam is tulips and Cannabis starter kits? Let's find out!

For those of you who don't know, I'm half Belgian (the part craving french fries in mayonnaise, chocolate, beer and other high-calorie stuff). The following text will, of course, be based on my small whereabouts in north-western Belgium and my views will be as subjective as ever. Let's talk food first.

The answer to the first question is No. There are (to my knowledge) two types of waffles. The ones you buy from Belgaufra are from Liège, which is the south-eastern, and French-speaking, part of Belgium. The Liège waffles are good, but of course not as good as the Brussels waffles which are crispier and less sweet. As you might remember from geography lessons, Brussels is in the north-western part of Belgium. You can eat both types of waffles in all good cafés (that I've been to) so try them out on your next (/first) visit to Belgium!

Obviously you need some exercise after eating all those waffles. You could go to any gym if you lack imagination or you could do something entirely different: a walk in the Ruien (read: sewers). Actually I don't recommend going there just after you've eaten, since there's a quite bad smell (you get used to it though). And if you have phobia for rats and/or spiders you should definitely avoid it. If you wonder why they don't just kill off all the rats the answer is simple; fat clogging the rui/sewage system (which was built by Napoleon by the way). The rats eat fat and there's no clogging, voila! The number of rats is of course controlled by poison. The tour takes about three hours, of which one hour is below ground. Afterwards you can go right across the street where you can buy Indiana Jones stuff. For more info, click: http://www.ruihuis.be/

No! Real Maatjes Herring is available from May to July in both Belgium and the Netherlands. It tastes so good I could eat it for the rest of my life. But if you don't like fish you're not going to like this either.

I don't have anything against Amsterdam, but please don't get me started on their coffee shops and their legalized-prostitution-bit. After passing coffee shops with names such as Perfect Paradise and Perfect Extase you start to wonder how they can manage everyday tasks when they are stoned. I always get a bit uncomfortable when high business men start to stuff their pipe with cannabis or when it says Peep Show with big, bright, pink letters and there's a half-naked woman on a giant poster hanging outside. And yes, all you could buy in the flower shop we passed was tulips and Cannabis starter kits – and bonsai trees. And on the other side of the street there was a Christmas shop counting down the days until the next Christmas. Only the bloody Dutch…

Pictures from the top:

Antwerpen "Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedraal" and "Handwerpen" (51°13'17.21 N, 4°23'58.43 E)

Antwerpen "La Place" in the "Stadsfeestzaal" (51°13'03.65" N, 4°24'42.19 E)

Amsterdam "Nemo Metropolis Cinema, VOC Ship" (52°22'21.09 N, 4°54'49.00 E)

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