2010 Fall Sarah Bergstein Temple Rome

Couch Surfing Take Two: Brussels

I couldn’t have asked for a better Couch Surfing experience the first time my friend Matt and I tried it out during a weekend in Florence (Florence Could Not Have Been Stranger).  My sister Jaclyn and I decided to stay in Rome one week past the end of the program, so we knew we wanted to take one last trip.  Though both EasyJet and Ryanair are probably the cheapest flights you’ll ever find, I did wait until the very last-minute to book a flight, so our options were limited.

Brussels is known for its incredible Christmas markets

There just so happened to be a 6 euro flight to Brussels and a 12 euro flight for the return to and from Rome.  There would have to be something seriously wrong with me to pass up this opportunity to fly to the major city and the headquarters of the European Union.  Alltogether with taxes and fees I paid 51 euro for Jaclyn and I to spend our last weekend drinking Belgian beer, eating waffles and chocolate, and enjoying the Christmas markets that I kept hearing were so fabulous.

I was having trouble finding someone for us to Couch Surf with until Friday afternoon (we were set to leave Saturday morning) I received an e-mail back from one of the people I had sent a request to.  Turns out we had a last-minute place to stay that happened to be right outside the city center.  I call it luck, and it seemed as though another great Couch Surfing experience was about to happen and that Jaclyn and I really could enjoy our last weekened abroad.

Brussels (and I suppose even Belgium in general) is known to be a rainy kind of place.  Jaclyn and I were sure to pack our rain boots and coats and plenty of warm clothes to wear for the weekend.  When we arrived Saturday afternoon it was raining like we had prepared for it to be, and it was also really cold.  We had some trouble trying to figure out the train and metro system but eventually we ended up at our Couch Surfing host’s flat.

The view from the kitchen of the incredible flat we stayed at in Brussels

Our host lives in an incredible flat in an adorable part of Brussels.  He moved to Brussels for work from Russia.  His one roommate is from France, and the other from Estonia.  It was neat being welcomed into a flat of three complete strangers, all from very different places, and we all instantly got along (and everyone could speak English!).

Saturday night our host created a Couch Surfing event.  If you’ll remember what I said about Couch Surfing in the post about Florence, it is not just a site where you contact strangers and stay on their couch for free.  It is also a place for you to meet people, go out for coffee, host events for other couch surfers in that area to attend, make new friends, or even just learn “insider” information about a new place.  Couch Surfing truly is quite an incredible thing, and I really recommend it to anyone who has plans of traveling.

So Saturday night our host had an event where a group of about 15 people (all Couch Surfers, living in Brussels, from around the world, but all speaking English) got together at a metro stop where our host brought out these Chinese Flying Lanterns that we all got together and wrote a wish on and then took them to this spot with an incredible view of Brussels, lit them together, and then watched them fly (Example on YouTube)!

Jaclyn and I with one of our Couch Surfing friends and the fabulous dinner we made together

Following that amazing experience we walked all around Brussels through Christmas markets, saw tons of lights, nativity scences, and Christmas light show at the city center, and stopped at a bar for everyone to sit down together and have a drink and get to know one another.

During our weekend with our CS host we mad fabulous dinners together, had great conversation, learned how to Tango (yes, I leanred how to Tango!), were given great maps and directions and advice of places to go, and most importantly, we made three new friends.  There’s something amazing about how Couch Surfing works, but I don’t think I’ve done it enough to figure out quite what it is yet.  I just wish this hadn’t been our last weekend in Europe, otherwise I’d continue the Couch Surfing experience in all the other places I wanted to travel to!

My Couch Surfing host and I after my last Tango lesson.

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