Saturday, August 20, 2005

City Spotting: BRUSSELS, the European City of Culture

An international multi-cultural city, Brussels in a nutshell is luxurious, historic, alluring and warm.

Situated in the most central of all locations in Belgium, the city enjoys being the capital of the country, but it is also regarded as the capital of the Flanders region [the Flemish Belgians, the Dutch speaking part in the north].

The CENTRUM

With my hot pot of mussels, a must when in Brussels and foto’s of the amazingly beautiful historic buildings in the “Grand Market Square” [Grand Place/Grote Markt].


Dating back to the 16th century, this square is a MUST SEE when visiting Brussels. They say its the loveliest square in the whole of Europe, if not in the whole world. The ancient mansions like a protective cluster surrounding the square grounds are accented with gold color giving the place an air of opulent ambience.

Tourists flock and hang out here and the cafes offer exorbitant prices than anywhere else in Brussels.

More pictures of Brussels in My EUROPE TRAVEL Photo Album.

LANGUAGE: Moi? Ik?

A tourist directional sign in French and Dutch… er English speaking tourists, sorry, no English!

A noticeable characteristic in the city are the signboards. They are in both “French” and “Dutch”, the country’s 2 official languages. French however is now widely spoken in Brussels; albeit in my opinion, it could be because French is a language spoken and learned by a large majority in Europe, and many immigrants in Brussels come from Africa and the Middle East who learned French in school. Another of my hypothetical reasons is that, unlike the Dutch speakers who are more tolerant linguistically, French speaking people usually insist on speaking French. Right? Ooops, I hope I don’t get a slap there, hehe.

BRUSSELS INSIGNIA

After discovering the Grand Market square, one must try locating Brussels naughty little citizen, the “Manneken Pis” boy. Legend says that in the 16th century [or earlier] there was once a little boy who got lost in the city. His father found him in the corner street; where the Manneken Pis holds its home now; peeing.

The Manneken Pis! A Dutch phrase that means “The statue of the pissing boy” looks like an exact replica of the Sto. Nino of Cebu, Philippines. The only difference is the Sto. Nino is not showing his prized little weapon, lol.


Manneken Pis also endured the centuries of war and looting. He had his own fair share of harrowing incidents, such as of being hidden by Kings and dignitaries, looted by soldiers, and stolen by students.

What many people do not know is that this little naughty boy owns over 600 costumes, which are all currently preserved in the City Museum. The Belgians love dressing him up. Kings and nobles shower him lavishly with gift costumes. He even has a Santa Claus outfit!

MUST INDULGE...

Brussels, Belgium to the outside world is known for its lusty gastronomy. First on the indulge list is none other than the famed and divine Mussels pot [Moules/Mosselen].

Musselsfor an early dinner. They come in different recipe variations. The most popular is mixed with white wine. Well nothing unusual, I could not finish the whole thing even if I want to! Twas too much for my small tummy.

The city is a haven for connoisseurs who love to sit back and partake in the wonderful tastes in life. This is what the Dutch always say about the southerners -- living the Bourgeoisie lifestyle.

Belgian Waffles”. Finger licking good but oh so calorific! I am so ashamed; I finished 2 of these lekkere dingetjes, well in a span of 3 hours.

Arriving in Brussels will greet you with the malodorous smell of hot yummy inviting waffles. Ahhhhhhhh... I just love the smell, so fresh, so refreshing, so I can't wait to bite them now. Our Belgian waffles here in Holland are up to no good; they don’t even come close to these, I don't know why. Hmm, someone need to steal the recipe fast.

Bon-bons and just any “Belgian Chocolate” will do…

A great way of exploring Brussels on foot is trailing the narrow cobble stoned side streets starting from the Grand Market Square, searching for the best epicurean chocolate shop in town. There are many of them so prepare to be exhilarated. Brussels is besieged with chocolatatier shops in every corner and alley. Pay attention to the chocolate figures on the window display though, they can be sometimes funny and atrocious.

Next challenge on the list: Partake in the “Beer” culture of Brussels!

I am not a beer drinker myself, so I felt my I do not have enough warranted skills to do this beer tasting jaunt. I only had a Duvel and a Kriek. Being a wine lover, I preferred the Kriek [raspberry flavored beer], fruity and tasty.

For the unsuspecting tourist, here is a little trivia -- did you know that there are over 350 beer varieties in this little country? This makes Belgium hold the reigning title of having the most number of beer brands in the world. Wow, such beer achievement for such a little country, haha.

A little nice DIVERSION

Just a little bit outside the perimeter of Brussels center lays some of the most gorgeous historical finds for any tourist to experience. A few of them are:

[Upper left]Laeken Castle”, it is the official residence of the Belgian Royal Family located in the northern part of Brussels.

[Upper right]Cathedral of our Lady”, this gothic basilica is currently being restored. It actually resembles a lot like the gothic churches here in Holland.

[Lower left]Brussels Royal Palace” , built in the 18th century, it now serves as the office of the King of Belgium.

[Lower right]The Atom” and the “Royal Park”. The Atom represents Belgium’s 9 provinces.The Royal Park is a nice relaxing place if you want to get away from the hectic city.

EUROPE’S CAPITAL

Brussels of today is the seat of the European Union/European Community and the NATO. Let’s backtrack in time before Brussels became the city of Europe…

During the selection process of identifying where to host the headquarters of the EU/EC, the most attractive options were zeroed in on the BENELUX countries [Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg], mainly because of its central location in Europe. Why not the large influential European countries, you may probably ask? With all due respect on political and egoistic decency, an EU/EC headquarters can never hold its office in the UK, France and Germany. Its just not done, because each of these monsters will beg to differ and fight for it [grins].

The office of the “European Parliament” where everything happens, including screaming throat to throat at another EU member rep. The other foto on the right is the office of the “European Commission”.

The headquarters must take a seat in a neutral ground, in a neutral EU/EC member country right in the center of Europe.

Well, congratulations to Brussels!

PS: The Dutch however blames its previous socio left wing government for driving EU/EC opportunities away.

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