Brussels

2009

Visiting the Capital of the Europe!

Map of the center

I made a short-visit to Brussels in August 2009 during our human-rights project. Well if you do a project for the European Union, you always need to visit Brussels. I was not expecting anything good or bad from this city at the beginning. However, after experiencing it even for a short-time I really impressed from it structure: on one side, there are  buildings of EU institutions in the European Quarter which are tall and hight-tech, on the other side there are amazing historic buildings from 17th century.

Belgium is  famous with its comics history. It has produced classics such as Tintin (Kuifje), Lucky Luke and The Smurfs. You may see these characters on the external-blank walls of the buildings all over the city. Although the city has been given its character by the coexistence of French and Flemish culture, nowadays it is home to nationalities around the world, adding a cosmopolitan flavour to its atmosphere. The city is said to be more than 1000 years old!

Picture 01: La Grand-Place is the heart of the city! It is a remarkably homogeneous body of public and private buildings, dating mainly from the late 17th century. The architecture of the buildings that are surrounding this square  provides a vivid illustration of the level of social and cultural life of the period in this important political and commercial centre. To me, this is one of the most beautiful town squares in Europe! Even the best one! It boasts the country’s best baroque guildhalls, the beautiful Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), museums, pavement cafés, chocolate shops and intimate cellar restaurants – a combination that lures visitors in droves. Hidden at the very core of the old town, it’s revealed as you enter from one of six narrow side alleys (Rue des Harengs is the best) – a discreet positioning that adds charm.Do I need to mention that this place has been  UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 1988)?

Picture 02: Manneken Pis the symbol of the city:  The famous Manneken-Pis remains the emblem of the rebellious spirit of the City of Brussels. When we was giving us a quick city-walk, our friend Phillipe told us that the statue symbolizes a young boy who peed on  a seal of a bomb during the war-time and saved the city. According to the records this statue became so important in the city towards the end of the 17th Century. The ironic part of it was being a survivor of the bombardment of Brussels in 1695. Today it is  a precious good and enjoys a ceaselessly growing glory. His wardrobe counts more than 800 suits. I could see 2 of his cloths during my stay in Brussels; because of the fact that he is taking-off his cloths during the night time!

During my Brussels visit, I stayed in the a Hotel Bloom which was a very chic place. The hotel was next to Botanic Gardens of the city. Therefore every time I walk the old-city center, I was walking over this beautiful garden.

Brussels and its closest surroundings are said to form one of the cities with the most green areas per inhabitant. Indeed you feel this when you walk in the city. In this garden  more than 10,000 plants are arranged according to geographical origin and some of them were so familiar to me. It was nice to see some known plants from my home country in the heart of the Europe.

The garden is one of the richest in the Europe. In this peaceful environment you may sit and rest for a while, watch the sea-birds enjoying in the small lake and see some interesting outdoor exhibitions.

Picture 01: Since the country was famous with its cartoon history, you can see such paintings all over the city. Some of them are very interesting and gives a unique character to the city.

Picture 02: The European Comission building- I think this is also one of the symbols of the city.

Picture 01: This is me in the Mini-Europe and behind me there is the Atomium. The Atomium has become the icon of Brussels after the World Fair in Brussels (Expo 58). The Atomium said to continue to embody its ideas of the future and universality, half a century later. It was first constructed with the concept of “What kind of future do we want for tomorrow? Our happiness depends on what?”.  The renovation of the structure in 2006 said to gave its original brightness back, and the new equipments guarantee its durability. I enjoyed much to discover the symbol of the 1958 Brussels world fair from the inside. We also had lots of fun in the Mini-Europe.

Picture o2: The Cinema Nova was a movie theatre that shows independently produced films and videos. It was interesting to know that the cinema was not a commercial screen, rather a non-profit organization managed by a collective of individuals who work on a volunteer basis.

Picture 01: This was what I liked about this city; on the one side, there was more than 1000 years old historic heritage, on the other developing modern face of the Europe.

Picture 02: It was amazing to spend some time in the Juble Park in a sunny day. There is Arc de Triomphe-Triomfboog behind me.

Picture 01: Saint Micheal Cathderal  is a magnificent cathedral in Gothic style, built between the 13th and 15th centuries. The interior of the cathedral is very beautiful, typical ornamentation of its kind such as stained glass windows and the pulpit, which has been carved from oak.

Picture 02: This was a building in the EU office buildings quarter. I liked the monumental structure of the building with a sculpture in the front.

Picture 01: This was a very exciting spot in the city: the Lion and Eternal Flame. Behind the Lion sculpture, there was a flame which burns all the time. There is also Congress Column next to the lion.

Picture 02: A sculpture on the street. Brussels was full of interesting art objects.

Picture 01: Between April and September the town square and its buildings are illuminated at night to the rythm of classical music.If you like “light show”, you will love this one.

Picture 02t: The city is famous with Mussels. In one of the streets behind the Grand Place, named “Rue des Bouchers”, you may see various of sea-food. If you like to eat them raw-cooked, you will certainly have no problem. However, if you are a Mediterranean like me, make sure that they cook your food! We has such experience in one of the fancy restaurants of the street and it was not fun! (Ok, may be it was little fun!)

Here I like to share my list of favorites things to do in Brussels:

1- Spend some time in the Grand Place- this is the heart of the city, you cannot miss it! Try to catch up the flower carpet season of the Grand Place- unfortunately the year that I was there, they did not make it!

2- Be sure that you see Manneken Pis! This cute little sculpture will welcome you in many cafes and restaurants in the center any how.

3- Have a visit to The Atomium! You shall certainly get inside and experience what it feels like to go up from its escalators.

4- Enjoy in the Mini-Europe. It is really fun. You will see the major monuments of the memberstates of the European Union in miniature (Eiffel tower, Houses of Parliament, Parthenon etc.)

5- Have a walk in the Botanic Gardens. You will love the peaceful and green atmosphere of this place.

6- Have a beer! Belgium is to beer what France is to wine, it is home to one of the greatest beer traditions in the world, and Brussels is a great place to sample some of the vast variety on offer. They may give you a beer menu of over 3000 choices-!

7- Taste Mussles, Chocolate, Waffle and Fries (frites in French and frieten in Flemish)- yes you are in Brussels!

8- It is also interesting to visit the EU quarter of the city.

9- Have a walk in the Brussels park. It is surrounded by the Royal Palace of Brussels, the Belgian parliament. You may find many outdoor activities such as concerts and festivals over there.

10- Have a walk at the Le Parc du Cinquantenaire-Juble park. Definitely check out the Arc de Triomphe-Triomfboog. It is possible to go up to the terrasse above the arch, from where you’ll have a good view of the city.

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