July 16-17, 2011 -- Only a two hour high-speed train ride from London, the city of Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union so the green spotlight is on the place where lawmakers from the 27 EU member states decide environmental policies for the continent.
Brussels has a clean and efficient mass transit system. The Metro subway and light rail trams will get you to all the tourist destinations. But don't expect the subway doors to open for you, otherwise you will watch your train leave without you or you will miss your stop. The doors slide open by manually pushing a button or pulling a lever. This saves energy and reduces wear and tear on the subway doors.
The escalators are also not automatic. They are motion sensor, meaning they are stopped until someone walks up to the escalator and triggers the motion detection system and the escalator starts moving. This brilliant concept saves energy and reduces wear and tear on the escalators. Here is video of a Brussels escalator.
Biking is another way to get around Brussels. They city's bike sharing system is called Villo! and the stations are all over town. They only take Smart Cards, which are credit cards with an embedded microprocessor chip. Unfortunately, the United States has been slow to adopt this new technology so most American credit cards still use a magnetic strip. Villo! doesn't recognize the old American-style credit cards. Only the new European Smart Cards work, so I could not rent a Villo! bike to ride around Brussels.
Click here for more observations of Brussels on Josh's Travel Blog.
Here are more photos from Brussels. Click here to see the set on Flickr.
Here is video of a Brussels Metro subway train arriving at Gare du Midi - Zuidstation.
From Brussels my next destination was Berlin, with a transfer in Cologne. I took a Deutsche Bahn Intercity-Express train from Brussels North Railway Station to Cologne and then a transfer to Berlin Central Station.
This isn't my DB ICE train, but a Thalys high-speed train that travels from Brussels to Paris, Amsterdam and Cologne.