Even though 2017 is here, there are still some people who have one leg left ”in the past”. I know it might sound stupid, wait, I’ll explain. I mean giving huge value to things that haven’t really found their path to today. And yet still managing to rock the modern time. So they end up living their lives torn between those well-know traditional fairy tales and modern must-have ripped clothes piles. Between working life and working for a life. This is something I felt Brussels is dealing with.
We first met in his very core, since that’s where he decided the train station should be. And that’s where I met the old-fashioned side other Belgium cities have as well. B is like a young, handsome and extremely hard working 26-year-old who even though works in like European parliament would still take a girl on a date in a carriage full of white roses and stuff. You know what I mean?
One of the areas where one can see how B. is a lot of things at the same time is the Grand Place. With a history this rich, you must be stunned. B. talked at least half an hour about all the little components making this up, and that made me realize how important it really is to his being. He also talked about his love for begonias. That explains the beautiful ‘’Flower Carpet’’ that is made in August every two years when million begonias are put together to make beautiful designs.
Of course, City Hall is the most famous landmark of the Grand Place. An interesting and maybe not noticeable on photos kind of information is that the building itself isn’t proportional: the left side is wider than the right one. The reason for this is the fact that there was already a line of buildings on the right and some space for cars to pass needed to be left. At the same time, while making the building itself, due to the lack of money in some periods, the City Hall shows difference in particular components of the building itself. For example, all the windows aren’t really the same (visible when zoomed in).
I was impressed with the effort put in to make all the Guildhalls look so, well, gold. He said each of them had a different owner and all of the owners wanted theirs to look better and most expensive. (Some things never change, do they?) So during the reconstructions, they would try to make it over-the-top every time.
Of course, there is also the Karl Marx’s house where he wrote the base for his ‘’Communist Manifesto’’ back in 1840s despite the fact he was in political asylum in Belgium (after being kicked out of France) and doing anything political work was off-limits. That’s why after relevant people found out he had written the Manifesto he was kicked out of Belgium as well.
Another thing B. is very famous for is the Manneken Pis, which means ‘Little man Pee’ in Dutch. Even though the guide said it was the third most famous sculpture, I wouldn’t really agree, but that’s just me. What we did agree on is people generally expect to see something a bit bigger. However, this little man is only 61 cm tall.
Of course, there are several legends behind the statue, but the most famous one is the one where troops of Duke Godfrey III of Leuven were in a battle and had put their infant lord on a tree in his basket. From there the boy urinated on the troops of the enemy which was such an unexpected move for the enemy that eventually they were beaten. Yes, you read that right. That was my reaction, too. What is more interesting is how the statue is dressed in costumes many times during the year. There’s even as schedule of what the little man is going to wear when. Talk about organization goals! PS. There are two more urinating statues in Brussels, one of a dog and the other of a girl. Don’t ask me why.
Then B. introduced me to the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, a Roman Catholic church. One of those huge, architectural beauties dating from the Middle Age you can just look at and admire. And once you enter, they offer even more admiration material. Like, seriously.
Then we moved on to what used to be the Royal Theatre of the Coin and is the National Opera of Belgium, or the leading opera house in Belgium today. I wish I could remember all the details from the half-an-hour-long talk I’ve listened about its history, but unfortunately I can’t. The only thing I remember is its importance in the revolutions that occurred in Brussels and then later on spread across the country. It was the place everything would start from. I found the square it’s located in another example of B.’s struggles already mentioned: across (and basically everywhere around) it there is a lot of modern design. Once again one could see how diverse this place is.
Of course, there’s the Royal Palace of Brussels, the magnificent palace where the King and the Queen can be found working, since that’s not their residence, but working place. Yes, they have a different palace for relaxing after work. What’s cool about this place is its location. Right in front of it you can find the Brussels Park, the biggest park in the center of Brussels. On the other side of the park you can find the Belgian parliament, which makes this park be ‘between’ the forces of the king and the people.
Another must-see side of B. is the Atomium, a 102 meters high, 18 meters wide building. What some people do not know is each of the spheres is actually an exhibit hall, and the highest one is a restaurant which has a panoramic view of Brussels. There was a Harry Potter exhibition when I was there. Pretty impressive, I have to admit. Was also named Europe’s most bizarre building by CNN.
While wandering around the streets of B., I entered this street with a lot of rainbow flags and this graffiti. When I first looked at it, all I could see was a picture of two people hugging and walking, but then I was introduced to its story. A while ago (I do not remember when exactly) the original picture of two men hugging was drawn. The mayor at the time was against a homosexual graffiti/photo and he demanded it be destroyed, or repainted. However, the painter did not want to repaint it, but rather did as little of a change he could to make one of the male characters look more female: he added earrings and changed some other features on her hair and body. However, to honor the homosexuality and resist the governmental pressure, the people decided to make this street a ‘Gay Street’ filling it with gay bars and other, similar places for homosexuals to hang out at. That’s why there are ‘Rainbow flags’ all over the place. This is the central place for homosexuals to hang out in Brussels today. Even though the difficult past, nowadays gays and lesbians in Belgium have better legal rights and a higher gay self-confidence than in many other countries.
Of course, after hanging out with B. that much, there are a lot more things I’ve seen and learned about him that simply cannot find their place here, because 1- then this would be way too long and 2-he’s a pretty modest one, so he preferred me not writing everything in details. You’ll definitely see that if/when you get the chance to see different sides of him like The Royal Gallery, The Cinquantenaire, all of the European Institutions, or even the random streets, the souvenir shops, etc.
In the end, there’s this other, still extremely beautiful side of B. The darker, but at the same time shinier one..
With cities, just like with everyone else, the more time you spend together, the better you get to know them. Their feelings. Their mood. Themselves. That is why I hope to meet you again, B. I hope we get the chance to hang out again. Until then, take care!