Brussels, Belgium : A story of waffles and fossils
by Lena Ilic
Sunday, April 29, 2018
This story consists of two equally important and exciting things: waffles and dinosaurs.
Chocolate, waffles, and pubs
The thing about Brussels that you cannot see on the pictures is that the whole city smells like waffles. On every street, there’s a waffle stand or a chocolate shop (often there is both). Obviously, I have tried waffles and chocolate before, but the ones in Belgium are something truly different. Even store bought ones are amazing (and a little addictive I should add).
Needless to say, we have spent our whole stay in Belgium with waffles in our hands.
So, Brussels is maybe not the best choice of a travel destination if you’re just starting your diet.
Also, there are amazing pubs with an even more amazing selection of beer (also not good if you’re counting your calories). Of course, the iconic Delirium pub is a place you must visit and try one of their world famous Delirium beers. There are four different flavors, each named after a symptom of alcoholism with delirium tremens being the most famous one.
The Royal Museum of Natural history
The beer and the waffles, together with the amazing architecture are more than enough reasons for you to visit this charming city. But for me, visiting a natural history museum and a botanical garden is an absolute must whenever I travel to a new city. Since I was visiting my best friend who was living in Belgium at the time and who is also a dinosaur enthusiast (to put it mildly) one of the most important stops on our visit was the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.
The evolution of the human kind exhibit
I think we have spent the whole afternoon in the museum, although the time passed so quickly. Before you go and lose your mind over giant fossils of extinct reptiles, you can check out an amazing collection of precious stones and minerals and learn about the geological history of our planet.
After that, there is an even cooler exhibit on the evolution of humans. Being an evolutionary biologist, I have read and learned tons of information on the evolution of our species during my university studies, but this exhibit puts things in a whole different perspective. You can walk through the room following hundreds and millions of years of evolutionary change starting with the early ancestors down to our closest relatives Neanderthals and to our own species. Every step in evolution is marked with an interactive digital screen with information about the time period, habitat and body characteristics of the species and also accompanied with a life-sized sculpture of the animal, so you can compare your height and other body measures with the early hominids which is really fun.
So, for some time you get caught up in the workings of how we as a species came to be and you forget that not that far away from there are 9 feet or 2.7-meter tall prehistoric reptiles. Oh, and then you remember and rush out to the huge space where the iguanodons are frozen in time.
The Royal Natural History Museum in Brussels has an impressive collection of dinosaur fossils.
Before we go any further, let’s just do a little dino fact check.
Dinosaurs are a large group of prehistoric reptiles that have roamed the Earth-s strange looking continents from 230 million years ago until a combination of huge meteor hit and climate change has led to their extinction clearing the stage for mammals to rise.
It’s important to emphasize that the awesome marine reptiles like mosasaurs and ichthyosaurs are not dinosaurs, just like the pterodactyls who have dominated the skies during that time.
It’s a common mistake mainly made because they have all lived during similar geological eras and are now extinct, but they are actually three very different groups of reptiles.
So, calling a pterodactyl a dinosaur would be as same as calling a turtle a lizard.
Also quite important, fossils are not actual bones! When a skeleton is being fossilized, it needs a specific set of conditions and soil composition in order to happen. In the lucky case that all the conditions needed in order for fossilization to happen are fulfilled, the bone tissue is gradually being replaced by minerals from the soil, forming a mineral replica of the bones that we can observe.
Okay, that’s enough of book knowledge paleontology; let’s talk about giant fossils in Brussels.
The dinosaur exhibit
In the dino exhibit hall, there is a fossil that even a person who doesn’t like dinosaurs (if such a person exists) would easily recognize, the Tyrannosaurus rex, the short-handed meme-inspiring dino celebrity. Along with a triceratops and a stegosaurus, it’s already quite a show.
But wait, there’s more!
There is a huge room with glass walls and a glass ceiling filled with 30 perfectly preserved iguanodons.
These fossils were found in the late 19th century in a coal mine in Belgium and transferred to the museum afterward, where they still continue to amaze people one hundred and fifty years after their discovery.
As I have mentioned, the iguanodon hall is entirely made of glass, so you can walk around, between and on top of the fossils if you take the stairs to the 1st floor.
I’ve somehow managed to lose all three of my friends that came with me to the museum, but I have joined a group of seven-year-old pupils that were there on a school trip with their teacher.
Since my French is very bad I did not manage to understand much of what they were saying, but I understood that we were all equally excited to be there among the dinosaur fossils.
Go to Brussels to see beautiful architecture, meet fun and open-minded people, drink great beer, eat the best waffles and chocolate and walk among dinosaurs.