First day in Brussels, Belgium and there was literally no one else on the streets. All of the shops were closed and it was pouring down rain. This was certainly an interestingly eerie way to start a trip. For a minute, I wondered if some sort of Belgian siesta was going on, but that was obviously the case.
It was actually Assumption Day. Formally, this national holiday is known as the “feast day of the Assumption of Mary,” biblically referencing God’s assumption of the Virgin Mary to heaven. It’s celebrated on August 15th in Belgium and many other parts of Europe and South America.
In Brussels, during the Assumption weekend, a beautiful Flower Carpet is set up right in the middle of Grand Place. It is 77m x 24m and is made of roughly 1 million begonias. This elaborate carpet of flowers and petals takes up nearly the entire Grand Place floor and is only displayed for a few days.
The Flower Carpet is displayed every other year, and each time it has a different theme. 2014’s theme was Turkey, celebrating 50 years of migration from Turkey to Belgium.
We flew in on August 15th, which was coincidentally the first day of the flower carpet display. Considering it’s only out for three days every two years, we were very fortunate to have been there.
The Flower Carpet was something we really just happened upon but it is a very popular tourist attraction. Consequently, there were thousands of people crowding around the constricted walking space in Grand Place. Our efforts to view the carpet and make our way through were constant hindered in efforts to dodge countless cameras and pointy umbrellas. Amusingly, there was also a surprising amount of elderly women frantically shoving their way to the flowers.
In hindsight, this was fairly emblematic of almost all of the touristy sights we would end up visiting. But, nevertheless, we did make it past the dense crowd of aggressive pushing to catch a glimpse of this amazing carpet (nearly free of other people’s phones and cameras). Possibly in attempts to “de-tourist” ourselves, we quickly commenced forth on a relaxing wander about the cobbled back roads of Brussels, delightfully free of pesky cameras and hazardous umbrellas.