Build a Molecule: How Belgium Welcomed the Nuclear Age

Biggest. Molecule. Ever.

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The Atomium. This one’s right up there with atomic cars, moon bases by 1960, and computers that run the house (at least they got that one right, didn’t they?)

Remember the 1950s, when nuclear power was cool but barely understood? The Atomium was the culmination of the public’s fascination with this relatively new discovery.

Built for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, this massive, shiny amalgamation of giant spheres and tubes symbolized a new technical age of the nuclear variety. In its infancy, nuclear power was seen as the answer to the world’s energy problems. It would even take us to the stars, so it seemed only natural to build a monument to it. As controversial as nuclear power is, one can’t deny how telling the Atomium is of a different time.

Sadly, the Atomium doesn’t seem to get much attention outside of Belgium these days. And since Belgium is a popular spot for foreign backpackers and weekend tourists alike, we couldn’t NOT feature it. The views are spectacular, even if you visit on a bitter cold, cloudy winter day like we did. Then again, how many people can say they’ve been inside–and to the top of–a giant molecule?

There’s a restaurant inside, too.

Atomium’s official website (English version)

All the Way Up

Imagine Scaling a Skyscraper

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When we visited Vancouver (our favorite Canadian city) a few summers ago, we wanted to do something extreme, so we went to Grouse Mountain. It’s not a completely vertical climb to the top, but the abnormally steep, two-mile trail is, in one word, challenging. There’s a reason the trail is called the Grouse Grind. Grouse Mountain itself is a popular ski destination in the winter, although we recommend the ski lifts for that.

Located across the harbor in North Vancouver, the Grind is not Everest, but it’s definitely not the bunny trail, either. It’s actually dangerous (see yellow sign image), so climb at your own risk and please be safe. By the time we got to the top, we were drenched in sweat. Good thing we rode the cable car sky tram back down.

Are you up to it?

Learn more at the official website