June 23, 2018

A Short Stay In Brussels.

by Steve W

Leaving Paris behind, we took a short train ride to Brussels, the capital of Belgium. We could always tell when the train was passing a small village, as every one of them had a church steeple that could be seen from the train.

Sharing borders with France, Germany and The Netherlands, Belgium uniquely combines aspects of all of these cultures, especially in the languages spoken by its people. Signs are usually in more than one language, making it confusing for someone who doesn't speak or read any of the languages of these countries. Add Flemish, the native language of Belgium, to this mix and it's a wonder anyone understands anyone else.

Our hotel was just a couple of blocks from the Grand Place, the largest market square in the city (and one of the most beautiful in Europe). The site of buildings that go back to the late 17th century, including City Hall and the King's House, as well the headquarters of a number of guilds, the Grand Place is always crowed with tourists. It is lined with shops (many of them selling Belgian chocolate), restaurants and museums. These buildings are Gothic in style, with ornate columns, statues and gold-leaf covered decor, highlighting the splendor of days gone by.

Around the corner from the Grand Palce was the Place d'Espagne, featuring a statue of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

For some reason unknown to me, there is also a statue of Hungarian composer Bela Bartok in the same square.
What's he doing here?
A few blocks from the Grand Place is the Manneken-Pis, a statue of a small boy urinating into a fountain. First created in 1619, it is a symbol of the Belgian sense of humor. The statue is nude, but is often dressed in costume to celebrate a particular event. One source said that during European Prostate Cancer Awareness Day, the the flow of water slows down to a trickle.

Belgium has a long history of children's stories and cartoons, of which the most well known are Tintin and The Smurfs.

Outside the entrance to the Belgian Comic Strip Center
All Tintin, all the time.

Mural on a building.
As in all European cities, there are many old churches. St. Michael's Cathedral was built between 1200 and 1500. St. Nicolas' Church has been rebuilt several times due to battles fought in the area. And the gothic Notre-Dame du Sablon Church (below) retains some of its original stained glass windows.

The Museum District is home to many types of art collections. At the top of the hill overlooking the city is the Place Royale, with a statue of Godfrey de Bouillon, who led the first Crusade.

In this area are the Musical Instrument Museum, the Royal Museums of the Fine Arts of Belgium and a museum dedicated to the art of Rene Magritte and his followers.

The exterior of the Musical Instrument Museum
"The Natural Graces" by Magritte
"The Bad Doctors" by James Ensor
Near the museums is the Place de Petit Sablon, a small park that features a sculpture of two friends, one Catholic and one Protestant, who were beheaded for preaching tolerance during the inquisition.

As mentioned, this part of town overlooks the city below and offers some great views.

Although only in Brussels for a couple of days, we managed to squeeze in a lot of the key sights in the city and had a great time (for proof, see the upcoming post on food in Brussels).

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1 comment >>

  1. Love these photos. Sorry we missed each other in Europe. I’m leaving Bologna today for home. Ciao


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