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March Madness Belgian Style

March has definitely flown by for the CIEE BCC program in Brussels. March has been THE month for excursions on the program.

We started things off right with an excursion to Binche, a small town in Wallonia. Wallonia is the southern region of Belgium where French is the primary language. The town Binche plays host to a special type of Carnaval recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage event.

Gilles stache

Binche’s carnval is a spectacle of chaos, oranges and color. The synopsis is pretty simple – all the men in the town dress up in bulbous, ostrich-feather adorned costumes, turning themselves into Gilles. Once gussied up, they parade around the streets in a staccato type walk, keeping time to the accompanying tattoo of snare drums. While winding their way down the town’s cobbled streets toward the Grand Place, the Gilles throw gifts of blood oranges into the crowd. This goes on all day until nighttime, when the Gilles finally reach the Grand Place. There, they dance around bonfires until the wee hours of the morning.

Carnaval carnage

We also mixed in a visit to the European Investment Bank with some sight seeing in Luxembourg. After a day exploring one of Europe’s smallest countries, everyone wandered around a Belgian chateau before digging into a hearty meal of boar stew – a regional specialty of Belgium’s Namur province!

Students enjoying the sights of Luxembourg with one of our tour guides...


And as if that wasn’t enough, we threw in a trip to The Hague in the Netherlands to see international justice in action at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. After a briefing by a legal prosecutor for the court, we were able to sit in on a General Tolimir’s trial. Happily, it was a great day to sit in on the trial as General Tolimir was representing himself and cross-examining a UN Commander involved in bombings around Sarajevo. It was an impressive back-and-forth for all parties involved in the trial.  And after the trial, we were able to lighten the mood after an intense morning by sampling fresh raw herring and stroopwafels!

Right before the fresh herring...



And down the hatch!


And this isn't even everything!  Stay tuned for further details about the other events of Belgian March Madness!


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Belgium is so beautiful in spring and people are so friendly. I'm little envy))

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