I showed up in Brussels, fresh off the high speed train from London to a very unfiltered city. It was Belgian Independence day and fireworks lit up the sky above a shady street carnival. Going out that night revealed clubs that felt like they could be straight from the prohibition era, turntables spinning and everyone making the most of the little room they had to dance their hearts out. A local pointed me to a dark and sweaty dance party, DJs spinning electronic and funk far past when I left at 4am. I liked it here. Daytime proved that there was a bit of a tourist scene, a massive square lined with sparkly spired facades was the epicenter of it, as well as the unimpressive “manneken pis” fountain, a small bronze statue of a little boy peeing, the original dating back to the 14th century. The two foot high statue is somehow one of the most famous in the world, and was definitely the Belgian mecca for tourists. I preferred the dark beer cellars, learning about the history of Trappist monks and their nice deed of turning undrinkable water into delicious dubbels, tripels and quads. I made a day trip to the quaint old City of Bruges and another to Antwerp on my way out of the country and on to the Netherlands.
In Amsterdam, after dropping off my bags at my hostel, a repurposed sleeper train which was actually quite cozy, I met up with my friend Lindsay from my time sailing. She was living in the city still working marketing for the Infinity’s mission and likely driving the theoretical ship on the sending the boat’s message. I found Amsterdam proper to be extremely touristy; as such I had no interest in smoking marijuana in a cafe for the sake of checking the box. I did however absolutely love the bike culture, and partook by renting a bike and cycling out to a huge art museum with a massive van Gogh collection in the middle of a national park. The scenery on the ride to and from the museum actually felt like I was in the middle of one of Vincent’s landscapes. I made sure to make a stop in Gouda for the weekly Cheese festival, because when in Gouda… I also took a train out to Utrecht, a very likeable “Amsterdam Jr” that I explored both by foot and by kayak. I then spent a solid 24 hours at the museums of Amsterdam, loving the more classical collections but most impressed by the Banksy exhibit at the museum of contemporary art. For those unfamiliar with Banksy, he’s known for his street art, which simply yet creatively poses societal questions to the passerby. There I was also introduced to Icy and Sot, two street artists from Iran currently in exile from their country, a risk they willingly took in order to exhibit in New York. Makes you feel thankful for the freedom to follow your passions without fear of reprimand or arrest. On the way back to the train hostel, I followed the sound of music pumping to find myself in the middle of the Amsterdam pride fest, DJ’s playing to a huge crowd dancing in the middle of a park. I liked this side of Amsterdam, I just had to leave the city center to find it.
From the Kroller-Muller Museum
From the Rijksmuseum
Pride and an underground nightclub
And with that, I was off to my next destination, and over the course of two long train train rides I found myself in Copenhagen Denmark! Compared to the pace of both Brussels and Amsterdam, Copenhagen was a chilled city that was instantly likable. I joined a walking tour which gave me background and bearings to the city, and introduced me to my favorite new place, Christiania! It was a self created, governed and run artist community separate from the rest of Denmark. The next day I went for a sightseeing run around the city, making sure to see H. C. Andersen’s “the Little Mermaid” statue, then after climbing up a tower with an external spiral stairway to the top – terrifying – I met up with my new friends from the walking tour to grab food and drinks at the super cool outdoor market with somewhere between 50 and 100 food vendors, set on an abandoned military barracks and conveniently located behind the Mikkeller brewery. We sat in communal chairs by the river with our food choices and watched the sun set, both on the day and on my short but sweet stay in Denmark.