5 More Things You Didn’t Know About Belgium

1. Manneken Pis’ Wardrobe is on Display

IMG_4089 The little peeing boy statuette who has inhabited his corner near La Grand-Place since the 1600s dresses for special occasions.  You can see some of the outfits he’s worn and been gifted at the recently opened museum called GardeRobe MannekenPis.  In 1756 an act was passed and an official “dresser” of the Mannekin Pis was appointed.  The role still exists today to help the little guy change into one of his many suits (his wardrobe consists of almost 1,000 options).  Mannekin Pis has received costumes from every continent on earth and donating one to him is an intense process as it must first be accepted by the College of Mayor and Alderman of the City of Brussels.  Then, comes the exact measurements, a pattern was created in 1945 to help designers create a costume for his urinating pose.

2. See the Original Manneken Pis

IMG_4092Due to the many thefts of the original Manneken Pis to see the one who actually stood in his place from 1619 to 1965 you’ll have to visit the House of the King Museum (in the Grand-Place), which you’ll have free entry to with a ticket from the GardeRobe.

IMG_4078 Getting up close to him in the museum allows you to see the many scars he’s received throughout history.  This statuette has survived the bombardment of King Louis XIV and being kidnapped twice in 1747 and 1817.  An attack on this bronze toddler is like an attack on the entire nation of Belgium as they take much pride in this piece of history.  That being said… the statue’s kidnappers were sentenced to a severe punishment, including hard labor, branding with a hot iron, and being exposed to public view!

3. A Chocolate Trade Show

IMG_4114As Belgium is known to be the chocolate hub of the world it only makes sense that they hold a convention in their Expo center entirely dedicated to these Devine sweets.

IMG_4148 Watching the desserts being made was a treat in itself, the chocolate was so pure and rich that it was impossible to try one from each booth… but we sure did try. There were also chocolate sculptures, chocolate dresses and the most impressive of all was the chocolate 3-D printer.

4. Make Sure it’s Made in Belgium

IMG_4095Speaking of chocolate, if you’re coming to this country as a tourist… make sure you’re getting the GOOD stuff!  Take Brugges for example, it’s one of the most visited medieval cities in the world and home to over 50 chocolate shops.  But not all of those chocolates are actually being made in Belgium… If you see any chocolate that’s prepackaged chances are its being shipped in from somewhere else.  DON’T BE FOOLED!

IMG_4181 Find a shop with chocolatiers at work in the windows or places that have the overpowering smell of fresh chocolate as soon as you walk in, with their truffles and pralines in a display case/ counter.  Some good, local brands that we often stick to are Leonidas, Corné, and Neuhaus.

5. Forests! Forests! FORESTS!

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Some of our avid readers may remember our trip to the Hallerbos during our last stay in Belgium, which truly was magical.  Truth is, this country is full of enchanting forests.  They’re like the ones you envision when you think of the word “forest”: tall old trees, misty air, moss and mushrooms growing on everything.  This time we made a day trip to Arboretum Tervuren (shown above).  If you make it to Brussels, make sure to take some time to get out of the city as there is plenty of preserved natural land nearby.

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