Sunday, March 13, 2011

Liege (Leechge)

Liège style waffleImage via Wikipedia

Friday I got to spend the afternoon in Liege: home of Jupiler Beer (Belgian lifeblood), heavenly waffles, and an infamously heavy Belgian accent (turn Liege from lee-edge to leechge). Unlike Tournai, Liege also actually has 'mountains'. Towards the end of the two-hour train ride I could look out the window and ogle trees covering craggy hills that had been blasted for the train to pass. I saw a chateau perched among the trees too---made me think of a story book. It did my heart good to see some open space and nature. I met Eva, a vet student who just finished up her internship with Marianne, in the recently redone station. When I remarked on the size of the swooping building, Eva explained that Liege is in the middle of reconstructing that particular quarter and trying to renovate its character---it's become run-down and is known to be a bit dangerous (but better than Charleroi). So there was quite a bit of construction going on.
On our way to a friend's kot (Belgicism for a student's housing. They don't really have dorms here, so it's often an apartment shared with other students) for a barbecue we passed Jupile---home of Jupiler Beer. The mountains of beer cases were quite impressive. There were also several cases at the barbecue. The other vet students were very welcoming, and I really enjoyed the relaxed ambiance (they were relatively calm that day). Eva explained to me that vet students are notorious for their partying, even if it's a moderately difficult field of study. So I got a taste of the student culture as well, albeit a very mild version. Along with baguettes, sausages, and bacon, grilled camembert was also featured. The whole box was put on the grill, and then we opened it up and dipped pieces of baguette in the gooey center. Divine.

After some goofing around and visiting, Eva and I took our leave to go walk around Liege and see the sights. Our first stop was the Carré---4 teensy streets that make a square who are completely devoted to cafés(and thus, young people!) It was quite peculiar to see students hanging out in the middle of a street as if it were a school hallway. We then took a stroll through the Cathedral. It was smaller than the one in Tournai, but was incredibly detailed, more colorful, and in great condition. Beeyootiful. We walked around for a while, staring at the painted ceiling and marveling at the intricate stained glass windows. Afterwards we participated in an essential Liegois tradition---waffles! And good golly, they were good. Liege waffles are my favorite of the two types of Belgian Waffles. They are heavier, and more like a cake. They're a smaller square, with clumps of sugar in the dough. You eat them with chocolate, cinnamon, or just sugar, hot, in hand. While we munched we walked. We saw chanchés (sp?), a traditional Leigois doll decoration, in store windows and in a life-size sculpture. As Eva is from Kain here at Tournai, she didn't know all of the history and stories behind things, but she was able to show me the highlights and give me a pretty good idea of the life of a student in Liege. We saw the bull statue who's a city symbol, as well as the Perron, a monument. Not sure to who or what, but we saw it! We also saw the famous stairs of Liege---Mon Martre is nothing compared to these babies. Happily we did not need to go up or down them. The palace of Justice was also quite impressive. Later Eva also showed me around the campus of the university, specifically the veterinarian section. The campus is separated from the town, up on a hill. It was surprisingly spaced out and forested; it felt a lot like some American universities. The facilities were large and new, well equipped to deal with the 1800 or so vet students and the resident animals. There isn't much in the way of sports or intramural activities, though. There is a sports center for the students, and there's a few football tournaments. Very different campus life than in the US. Students don't really mix between branches, and mild hazings are important for bonding and getting to know people. Even so they have fun between kots that can be compared to dorm life on a much smaller scale, with parties, pranks, etc. It was cool to get an idea of what a Belgian university looks like.
So I had a wonderful afternoon with Eva. I noticed that Liege seems to be much more modern and spacious than Tournai, which surprised me. Every time I see a new area of Belgium I have to adjust my idea of the country, and hopefully it's getting more and more complete as I go!
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