A really really late post on Brussels

So this post is super late. Sorry. Work and life really caught up with me. This one is covering the end of the season and my short time in Brussels. Some of the material is dated but oh well. I hope next time I travel I’ll be better about updating everything. Now to the post:

Ciao from Brussels,

It is always weird for me to hear Italian spoken anywhere else but Italy, I know Italians travel but never do I hear them in the US, it is always in other European cities. Last year it was Dublin, this time Brussels. It is truly amazing the connectivity of our world and how insular the U.S. and its citizens can be.

The end of the season caught up with me hard, maybe having something to do with the 4 trenches I had open or the total station I learned how to us or the help I wanted to give to everyone. What ever it was, I’m now 4 days out from school meetings and am sitting here wondering where the hell did my summer go? (actually it is the end of September now and I wonder if summer was just a dream)

The end is always the hardest part of every season. I have to explain what I did to my friends, families and peers. If I try to explain the truth I usually get glazed eyes. I mean there is only so many ways to talk about picking up sherds of pottery and fragments of tiles. If I truncate my experience I feel unfulfilled but my audience is more attentive. In the end it is hard to explain what it is I spend my summer doing unless you have done it yourself.  It is an unique and amazing experience to spend any time digging in the field.

Here is one example of how easy it is to share experience with other archaeologists. Jax joined the excavation this summer to help with the GIS this summer. She dug is Belize for several times before coming to Italy. One night her and I spent the better part of the evening trading stories about breaking our bodies in the field. I can’t remember most of the stories but we instantly understood and empathized with each other and became good friends during the dig.

Total non sequitur here but it is no secret that I love beer and that was part of the reason I came to Brussels this summer. There is a huge and vibrant beer culture in the city (duh). I think it is part of the reason I enjoyed it so much, there was just so much to try. My first night in town I went to Delirium cafe to enjoy the local beer and atmosphere. Oh Delirium makes such wonderful and different beer. While there I exited into the alley to enjoy the cool night air. It was while drinking a Tremens that I encountered a giant Brit with an amazing beard. He noticed mine and said in 3 months time I could have a beard as awesome as his if i just trimmed. He then bear hugged me and we took a picture together. Well looks like I have a fall goal now (and it is going well so far). The next night I went out to dinner at another local pub, Brasserie du Lombard, at which I was able to sample more beer like Leopold 7, Bastogne Pale Ale and Triple Karmeliet. All were amazing.

But fear not, I didn’t just drink my way through Brussels, although I easily could have done so. No I also walked all over town seeing the EU Parliament building, the Royal Art and Military Museum, town hall, manneken pis, and the royal palace. It was a really walkable city (well and I would rather walk in a city than drive). I really wish I had more time in the city and the country but alas it is the end of dig season and school will be starting soon (and at the time of posting we are in week 7-oops).

Some final thoughts: The more one travels the more one finds that everything is the same. On my last night in Brussels, well really in Europe for the next 10 months I had the pleasure of dinning next to two native Belgians. (At least I assume from their French which sounded more gutteral a distinction according to the DK guide from French French). Even if they are French it doesn’t matter, what matters is I understood large parts of their conversation with out knowing more than Latin, Italian, and 3 weeks of 6th grade French. Why you might ask? Cause of body language and the fact that humans are all the same. 3 young ladies in lbd ( little black dresses) walked in and those two women were all agast and then seemed to imply that the girls were going out for a fun night and that they were very pretty. I understood all of this without knowing a word of what they said. It is because I’ve traveled a lot and try to pay attention to human emotions and gestures. I find this a super valuable skill to gather while spending time here on Earth (and soon maybe Mars).


This summer was a truly amazing and packed summer. I was so tired and exhausted by the end of it but I don’t think I would really trade it for even an hour more sleep. Being apart of 2 amazing dig teams and involved in some ground breaking work was wonderful. I enjoyed the people I met and the time I shared with them. Finishing this post almost 2 months late just stirred the emotional pot and now I wish I were back there with them. Well until I leave the country again, ciao ciao, prossimo anno!


About handyatmurlo

I am a Latin teacher at Regis Jesuit High School. I earned my MA at CU Boulder and my BA at UMass Amherst. I have spent my summers working in Italy as an archaeologist at three different sites. One I have worked at for 10 years at Poggio Civitate at Vescovado di Murlo. I have worked at the Villa of Maxentius in Rome for 2 years, before the project ended. I also spent 2 summers at the FSU excavations in Cosa.
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