Thursday, April 23, 2015

Beer Tourism FTW!

Today is my last full day in Belgium, and then back home for a month before going to the Netherlands for a workshop and then some research.  The interviewing was kind of thin on this visit--just didn't snowball as much as I would have liked.  This did let me finish my grading, and then I went out to enjoy a bit of Brussels before I went home.

The last time I was here was for interviewing folks at NATO so I stayed on the outskirts of town.  The time before that?  Just a pit stop on the way to Afghanistan.  The time before that?  When I was a college student and Brussels was my last stop after seven weeks in London and four weeks railing it through West Europe.

In those days and many times since, my tourist strategy was to pick out a few key spots I wanted to see and then walk between them so that I could see much of the city (plus metros/subways intimidated me--how to pay and all that).  Today, the target was a brewery/museum, and I saw much along the way.

What did I learn?
  • That it is not good to be stuck behind a French tour in a brewery--very long explanations require me to wait, and I am not patient.
  • That the brewery is still very much in the family as the person telling us about the place is the great granddaughter of the founder.
  • That Lambic beers are not my thing--at least those that are classic/purest.  Trappist stuff is more my taste.
  • The idea of spontaneous fermentation is surprisingly new to me.  I should have heard of it before since this is how we got all of our booze before the 1800s apparently.  
  • I learned all week that Brussels (and NATO) is at a higher level of alert due to foiled terrorist attack.  I saw pairs (and more) of Belgian army soldiers around town, guarding various places. In many cases, I had no clue about the targets they were protecting.  At the Belgian Jewish Museum, it was easier to figure out since they had an attack just last year that killed two people there.   
And as always, I love my job.  The tourism is accidental byproduct of doing the research and being invited to conferences.  I got to have very interesting conversations with Canadians I see rarely, with German scholars, policy makers and media folks, and with Canadian and American folks working at NATO either as part of their national delegations or on the International Staff.  This did lead to an outburst of NATO related blogging as the week forced me to think about stuff and worry.

The good news is that the worries were assuaged by much wonderful beer and food.  If only the ISIS folks could sit down and chat over a beer and frites....

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