This weekend, I traveled to Brussels, Belgium with a group of eight other girls from my program. We left Bologna early on Friday evening. But spent Friday morning learning about the massacre/terrorist attack that occurred at the Bologna Centrale train station on August 2nd, 1980.
We set off to have a great adventure in Brussels, hoping to travel to Bruges on Saturday, and enjoy as many Belgian beers as we could throughout the weekend. And we started Friday night with exactly that. Allie, Megan and I had arrived in Brussels later than our friends, so the three of us headed out to dinner and to find a bar afterwards.
Successfully arriving at Delirium Tremens, one of the most popular bars in the center of Brussels, we grabbed our first beers in Belgium! This bar was incredible; there were about 50+ beers on tap, and three different floors to explore. We ventured down to the bottom floor, which had some great music for dancing, and started chatting with some people.
At this point I had somehow managed to connect to wifi in the packed bar, and it was around 11:15pm when I got a message from my mom informing of the attacks in Paris. I didn’t know what to do in that moment. It was so strange learning that news. What really hit me hard was that I had JUST learned, that morning, about a terrorist attack that occurred in Bologna only 35 years ago.
Of course I let Megan and Allie know, and we returned pretty quickly to our Airbnb. Allie immediately contacted her friend in Paris to make sure she was safe. We stayed up for several hours discussing our thoughts, feelings, concerns, and looking for more news on the situation. Also knowing that we were only about an hour away from Paris kept us on edge.
Saturday morning, our big group sat together and tried to figure out plans for the day. We ended up nixing the decision to visit Bruges, deciding that we would rather stay in the center of Brussels and avoid taking the train. So we started our day with some coffee and waffles (of course!), then spent the early afternoon exploring and doing some souvenir shopping. We even found a chocolate shop that did a tour/presentation on making chocolate.
After lunch, we headed to our Airbnb to rest for a bit. Here’s where I should probably mention that our group of nine was staying in the “Festive Flat”. Our apartment for the weekend was actually a renovated bar, believe it or not! There was a full bar set-up, and stairs leading down to what used to be the underground club converted into a bedroom, of sorts. While the renovated bar wasn’t the biggest space, we all had a fun time, there were wines and beers stocked up (cheaper than buying them elsewhere!), and enjoyed the atmosphere of the Airbnb.
During our afternoon pause, we heard some more news. This time it was a lot more relevant to us. There had been several police raids earlier in the day in Brussels, and arrests made, which were in relation to the Paris attacks. Now we were definitely on edge. I didn’t know what to do. I was worried that something might happen near us, but I also thought about how the raids led to arrests and how we might be okay.
I wanted to enjoy my weekend in Brussels, but it was proving to be tough. As a group, we decided to head out in the early evening for a few more souvenirs and to grab some dinner. But around 6pm, we split into to two groups, some people heading back to the Airbnb and the rest of us deciding to grab some drinks close by. We tried to stay positive, and make the most of our time left in Brussels.
We were back at our apartment by 10pm, and all nine of us just spent the rest of the night talking and enjoying each other’s company. After a tumultuous weekend, it was nice to just relax. The next morning, we all grabbed some waffles for breakfast. Allie, Megan, and I walked into the Grand Platz while everyone else headed to the airport since we had a later flight. However, we ended up decided we didn’t want to hang around doing nothing, and made our way to the airport several hours before our flight.
Throughout the weekend, I got to enjoy several different kinds of beers out of numerous beers produced in Belgium, ate many waffles, and had some great discussions with my friends. While this was a heavy weekend, it was also extremely eye-opening to be in the midst of it. I’m glad I went with the group of girls that I did, we were all responsible and highly aware of our surroundings, and didn’t ignore the events occurring near us.
Yesterday also marked the countdown of my last month in Bologna. I won’t be traveling out of the country, but I will be going on a few more weekend explorations within Italy. So far, studying abroad has been the most incredible, shocking, overwhelming, and informative experience.
I’m curious to see how the last few weeks play out, but I’ll be keeping a higher awareness level throughout and coming home with many new perspectives.
Until next time, grazie per leggendo! xx