Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Brussels. The Atomium.

Riding down an escalator inside the Atomium.  He was perfectly centered for me to take the shot!

W

hen we arrived at the train station at Heysel, rain was gently falling. Z was taking full charge of getting us to the Atomium, so I just followed his steps.  With each step I took, the rain came down harder.  In a matter of minutes, I had stopped walking, reached into my backpack for my rain poncho and had draped it fully over me, my backpack and my camera.  I looked liked a giant blueberry.  Not in the least bit attractive looking.

With the rain falling, I picked up my pace though I swear the faster I walked, the harder it poured.  I did, however, stop to take a few photos.  Taking  photos in the rain is not a good idea as it's not worth damaging my lens to capture a few images but I am quick on the shutter so I snapped fast. You can see the raindrops on the photos!


Thankfully, it wasn't a long walk.  I managed to even convince Z to pose for the obligatory photo.


By the time we made it inside the entrance, I was a soaking mess.  The blueberry poncho did its thing to keep me dry but unfortunately, my shoes were not able to keep my socks and feet dry.

The Atomium is associated with Mini-Europe, another tourist attraction that happens to be located pretty much right next door to the Atomium.  You can buy an entry ticket for the Atomium and Mini-Europe separately or you can buy a combined ticket.  Since this was Z's day to set the itinerary, I let him make the call on what type of ticket we should get.  He opted for the combined.  When I said this to the man behind the counter, he was a bit surprised....at first, asking me whether or not I knew that Mini-Europe was an outdoor park.  I know what he was thinking.  It's raining cats and dogs outside.  Why would you want to go?  But, it's Z's day so we're going with it.  Z reminds me of Bro....neither is bothered by rain.  So combo ticket it was.  Z fell under the student category and luckily, he had his ID to prove it.  Even so, it was 21.20 euro for his ticket and 23.60 euro for mine.  As I handed over the money, I thought this better be worth it!

With our entry tickets in hand, we followed the path that led us to an elevator.  Today, there were virtually no people visiting the Atomium so Z and I were the only riders.  As we zoomed up to the top level, I decided to quickly snap a photo and take a video.



Our elevator ride took us straight up to the top level.  I paused for a few minutes, in front of the sign, to just have a look at how this structure is laid out.  Pretty unusual, I must admit.


At the top, we had a 360 degree view of the surround area which included downtown Brussels.  Plaques highlighted the locations of landmarks but given how little we've seen of the city so far, they weren't of much value to us.



Nonetheless, we could still take in the view which included a bird's eye look at Mini-Europe.



On the next floor up was the Atomium's restaurant.  I convince Z to go up and have a drink.  What the heck?  This will probably be our one and only visit here so let's enjoy the place.

I also convinced Z to have a glass of beer.  Belgium is world renown for beer.  You can't come here and not have at least one glass.  With the waitress providing recommendations, Z settled for a Liefmans Kriek and I ordered a cup of mint tea.


Z's glass of Liefmans Kriek

The Liefman's Kriek turned out to be a very fruity tasting beer.  I enjoyed a sip and Z the entire glass.  I also enjoyed my pot of mint tea which was actually real leaves of mint steeped in hot water.  I was glad to not be served bagged tea!

The total tab came to 11.60 euro.  Not exactly cheap for a drink break but it was worth it for the view and to show Z that sometimes what's enjoyable on a trip is just relaxing.  You don't always have to be on the move....this bit of advice coming of someone who just learned to slow down and smell the roses when I'm traveling.

After our break, we checked out the exhibit galleries which are located in each of the globes that make up the structure.

We took the elevator back down to the first floor and from there, the escalator to the first globe.


The first exhibit gallery provides an introduction to the Atomium, which was built to be the main pavilion and attraction for the World's Fair, held in Brussels in 1958.  The name is a mashup of atom and aluminum and the very unique structure most certainly lives up to its name.  It was also designed to be different, new and modern and most certainly it was that for 1958.  I think its still modern in 2015.   The galleries have a very space like, industrial feel to them - there are no white, flat walls.  Displays are mounted wherever possible.

The globes are large enough to be multilevel and the levels are connected by stairs. 
The first gallery we entered also displayed some Atomium related memorabilia from the World's Fair. 


There was even a write up on the women who were hired as attendants to work at the Atomium during the World's Fair.  Of course, they were all very attractive and I am sure they were deliberately selected for their looks.


Some of the globes were connected via stairs - you're basically ascending up through a connector.  I love the architecture of them - very cool. 


In other cases, it was an escalator ride up.  You still get that tunnel feel thanks to the curved ceiling.


Port holes offered a glimpse outside.  On this one escalator ride, I could see another globe.


One of the exhibit galleries focused on how animals see light.  According to one display, this is how bees see people.  That little blue blog in each of the hexagons is me. 


I'm actually looking up at a camera, taking a photo :-)



The *This is how fish see you* display.

On another level light, there was a video running on a large, curved screen.  Z and I sat down to watch.  Unfortunately, there was no text or voice to explain what it was all about so I left as clueless as I had arrived.


  
On the way up to the next globe, there were posters on the wall with sentences talking about the impact of light on nature and human lives.  I read a few as I walked up the stairs.  I have to admit, I'm still not sure what it's all about.



What goes up must come down so once we reached the last exhibited, the stairs only headed downwards.

In front of Z is a large playroom for kids.  Why do they get to have all the fun?

On Level 6, there was another very nice viewpoint.  It was kind of cool peering out between globes and connectors.  


There wasn't a whole lot to see inside the Atomium but for me, a person who really does really enjoy museums much, it was just right.  Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed my visit to the place and I think Z did as well.


Mercifully, by the time we were ready to leave the Atomium, it had stopped raining.  The clouds were still gray and heavy so it would once again rain down on us but for the moment, we were good to go!  Mini-Europe, see you in a few minutes!