Belgium (2/3) Brussels, Belgium

Belgium (2/3) Brussels, Belgium

Revisiting 2014 Series: What is the Revisiting Series?

mapofbelgiumPhoto Credit: wiki

When I think about Belgium I can’t help but feel a strange sense of admiration. For some reason this small strange nation stands as one of my absolute favorite places to visit. Whether it be the kindness of the local people or the delicious Bicky Burgers, when I think about where I want to travel again, Belgium instantly comes to mind. Brussels in particular has stood out in memory. With the recent headlines that have come forth condemning the area I can’t help but feel my first blog focused on revisiting my 2014 travels should be about this wonderful city. When one looks at tragedy, one cannot help but feel tremendous sympathy and worry when it takes place in a location filled with family and friend. And when one looks to see that that tragedy is not unique to the areas which we know well, but to the cities of the world that empathy is easily spread. The point of travel, in my opinion, is to interact with other humans, and although I have not had the chance to visit Turkey or Afghanistan my heart goes out to those nations in the same way that it goes out to my close friends living in Brussels. It’s at a time like this that I think it is important to highlight the beauty of these nations and reiterate that life goes on, and these nations, cultures, and people still live.

When arriving in Brussels the first thing one notices when walking down the streets is that you will constantly hear a different language on every street corner. That is because the Brussels-Capital Region is officially bilingual. Although the city has been historically Dutch-speaking there was a shift in the late 19th century toward French. But Brussels is not limited to Dutch and French. While walking down the streets in Brussels it’s common to hear languages such as Flemish (especially because the city is enclosed in the Flemish region of Belgium) German, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Swahili and many other sub-Saharan African languages. Because Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union it’s not uncommon to hear any European language while here. Road signs, street signs, and many advertisements are shown in multiple languages. And as explained in more detail in my last Belgium post, the government’s role in maintaining its three national languages helps to support this multilingual life style.

So because 2014 Cynthia was also the worst photographer in Europe I’m going to use pictures from Wikipedia alongside my own to help properly showcase the beauty that is Belgium.

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Photo Credit: Me

Speaking of Belgian Royalty let’s start with the Royal Palace of Brussels also known as the Palais Royal de Bruxelles (French), the Koninklijk Paleis van Brussel (Dutch), and the Königlicher Palast von Brüssel (German). When you look at a map it’s located at the center of the city of Belgium which makes sense because it is also the King and Queen of the Belgians official palace (although they do not reside there). The current King of Belgium, King Phillippe has served as the official head of state since 2013. Since Belgium gained its independence in 1830 there have been seven monarchs. Because the monarchs do not live in the palace its main purpose is to serve as a location for the king to “exercise his prerogatives as Head of State.”

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Many of the people I talk to have a very limited knowledge of Belgium. Besides the nation’s history of colonialism, its use of mayo on French fries and its limited roles in the globes, world wars I would argue that if someone knows a historical landmark in Belgium they probably know about the statue of a small man peeing. Manneken Pis is Dutch for “Little Man Pee” is a bronze statue of a naked little boy urinating into a fountain. Standing at only 61cm or about 2 feet the statue it’s also rather easy to steal. The current statue is from 1965 and the original resides at the Maison du Roi/Broodhuis on the Grand Place. There are a few legends that come from this statue, but the most famous is about the Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. In 1142 there was a two year old who was battling against the troops of the Berthouts, the lords of Grimbergen. The troops of this toddler wanted encouragement and thus put him in a basket and hung it from a tree over the battle. The child then proceeded to urinate on the troops of Berthouts and the two years’ troops won the battle.

I also would include my own picture of Manneken Pis but you can barely see him behind me and Edward because he is so tiny.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

One of my other favorite parts of the state’s tradition is that it is consistently dressed up according to a published website on the railing above the fountain. I’ve included a few of my favorite pictures below. Because the statue is so famous there are multiple replicas around the world. There is even one located in Japan that is peeing on a train platform instead of into a fountain.

b32.jpgPhoto Credit: Edward

If you are looking for a nice location to sit and simply take in the city one of my favorite locations was Parc de Bruxelles. Part of the film, the Danish Girl, was filmed here as well. Although the park is rather simple, I still really enjoyed walking through it. I also was there in the mid fall so many of the trees have been already bare. I imagine if you are ever visiting Brussels in the summer or spring time the park is even more exciting and lively.

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Photo Credit: Me

The Parlamentarium (European Parliament) is the visitor’s’ center of the European Parliament and is located in the Parliament’s Espace Leopold Complex in Brussels. The panorama above is me spinning around at the center of it. It took about 6 years of build and cost about 21 million euros. Although we did not do the personal multimedia guide it is on my bucket list for when I come back to Brussels. All the content in the parlamentarium is available in all 24 of the official EU Languages. The western view of the area is shown below.

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Photo Credit: Wiki
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Photo Credit: Wiki

The Grand Place, also known as the Grote Markt, is the central square of Brussels. It has many aspects to it that make it stand out. For one there is the open guildhalls, the citiy’s Town Hall and the Breadhouse which contains the Museum of the City of Brussels. The area is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Although the picture above shows a flower carpet on the market square, it’s normally clear and filled with people (I picked the picture to really showcase the buildings). The million colorful bogonias were showcased in 2008 in the town square but it also appeared in 2010. The Flower Carpet is offered on and off every other year. 2016 is will be its 20th occurrence.

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Photo Credit: Me

The Town Hall of the City of Brussels is a component of the Grand Place. This gothic building was constructed in the Middle Ages. The façade is decorated with statues of nobles, saints, and other symbols of Belgian culture and history. Some have been replaces with reproductions in order to keep the original intact. Many of the original statues are in the city museum in the “Kings House” across the Grand Place. Here is a clearer picture of the building.

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Photo Credit: Wiki
b18 Photo Credit: Me

St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral (Cathedrale St-Michel et Ste-Gudule) is also a gorgeous place to visit. This Roman Catholic Church was built in the 9th century and maintained. If you are interested in architecture you will definitely enjoy the cathedrals striking spires depicted below.

wiki5Photo Credit: Wiki

Not Depicted but were visited:
Jardin du Petit Sablon
Skate Park
Guildhouses
Different Neighborhoods

Bucket List for Next Time:
Atomium
Mini-Europe
Parc du Cinquantenaire
Do the PMG at the EU parliament
Church of our Blessed Lady Sabon

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