My original plan was to explore Brussels on day one and journey to nearby Ghent or Bruges on day two. Instead, my body insisted that I sleep all afternoon on day one and Pinterest research convinced me to stay in Brussels on day two. I don't regret either of these decisions.
With only a very light agenda for the day I left my hostel in search of the Rene Magritte Museum. While I found the museum where the painter lived and created many masterpieces, I wasn't allowed any further than the door because the museum did not accept credit cards. I was still pretty happy about seeing the front of the house and the lady was nice enough to give me a free pamphlet of information on the artist I knew nothing about.
On the metro heading towards the Fine Arts Museum featuring Rene Magritte, I read that Magritte was a surrealist painter from Brussels who heavily influenced both art and philosophy in the early 20th century. I knew I was headed in the right direction.
The museum captivated me for several leisurely hours and quickly turned me into a big fan of the artist. Not only did he create dozens of masterpieces, but he challenged the level of philosophical thinking at the time and influenced many other painters such as Salvador Dali.
After emerging myself in WWII history I was equally interested to learn how the war influenced his work, especially while he lived in Brussels with his wife, Georgette. Several of his paintings during this time contained symbols of freedom and hope. He even changed his style to that mimicking an impressionist style with bright colors and lighter themes. Though his desire was to encourage a hurting globe, he was vastly criticized for this work and later returned to his unique surrealism style which gave him his fame.
I thought it was very interesting that he never titled any of his own works. Instead he would invite his friends over for Sunday afternoon sessions where they would inspect his work and create the titles for them. Often the titles do not even match the theme in the composition. Even more intriguing is the fact that Magritte refused to have his paintings interpreted or psychoanalyzed. He said he was searching for the interconnectedness of things; between objects and their meaning and the feelings associated with such. He also said he didn't know the reason for why he painted. I concluded that the artists entire life was a humorous contradiction which he lived boldly.
After gaining a healthy desire to study more on Magritte back at home, I walked out the doors of the museum and strolled around Belgium, gazing at lots of great things until I found myself at the doors of a Chocolate Museum. Here I met a school teacher from Colorado who was watching a free demonstration by a local Choclatier. Together we learned how cocoa beans were harvested, fermented, dried and turned into powder for chocolate. We sampled the raw beans but they were intensely bitter.
The Choclatier explained how chocolate was made—raw cocoa combined with sugar and butter. The more sugar and butter the less healthy but the more sweet, white chocolate being the worst in that it is sugar and butter in the complete absence of cocoa.
Later I walked through the rest of the museum and learned the history of chocolate, which comes from the Mayans and Aztecs who used cocoa beans as currency, medicine and offerings to the gods. They also drank it with chili powder and pepper—a drink that symbolized human blood. Chocolate was also used for a variety of things that it is still used for today such as antioxidant, stimulant, antidepressant and yes, even nutrition.
After eating a Belgium waffle I was completely full and exhausted. I roamed the streets leading back to the hostel and delightfully enjoyed parts of Brussels's Comic Book Strip, which is a trail leading through the city with massive street murals in comic form. This signifies Brussels' history with comic books and comic creators. There was an entire museum for this that I looked upon, but my brain was full of art and chocolate and I simply needed a nap to end a day full of bliss.
Brussels was another location I thoroughly enjoyed. It wasn't too crowded or touristy yet there were thousands of things to occupy my time. I would have loved a few extra days and even a few more to explore the surrounding areas but quickly my trip was coming to an end. I had one more stop, Bonn, and then I would board the great white bird headed west.