10.01.2014 - 12.01.2014
We didn’t have Mussels in Brussels. We did have a lot of Belgium beer, and fries and waffles though.
Our recent trip to Brussels was our second trip to Belgium, first being Bruge. I expected a lot of our second trip. Bruge was such an amazing spot, filled with liveliness and history. Although Brussels was awesome and I learnt a lot more about the fine nation of Belgium, it was not as remarkable as the first.
Brussels is what I imagine Europe will become over the next 20 years, a city filled with beautiful buildings, but a place that is at risk of losing its definite culture and becoming a place that shows the power of globalisation. Brussels, if you are not aware is considered the capital of Europe. This seems odd for Kiwi’s to grasp, that there is a capital of a land mass that contains so many cultures and countries. There is no ‘official’ capital, and no plans to declare one, but Brussels hosts the European Commission, council of the European Union and the seat of the European Parliament. Sounds like a lot of dreary city buildings, and you would be right. There is a distinct city dwelling feel about it. But as I read when I was there, your opinion on Brussels is based on which exit of the North Station you come out of.
First there is the sky scrapper district, shiny buildings, office blocks and office people. The same suit wearing people you will find in any business district. Secondly there is the red light district filled with some very odd looking bars (and people) with window displays of real people not mannequins. Then there is the Turkish and Arab quarter, where you can find anything you want, as long as you are willing to haggle for it. This is where you can find shops filled with men smoking cigars and all of this is in a place filled with beautiful buildings that is almost grasping to retain a hold of its cultural heritage.
Iain and I walked around the city, so we ended up in a lot of interesting places, but Brussels is essentially not a city, but a whole lot of suburbs that contain completely different countries. I am writing this at 4 am so that sentence may not have made sense. Belgium’s population is made up of 15% immigrants. You can be in a suburb that feels like a Congolese village, that backs onto a Vietnamese area. Cross the road and you are in Turkey, then Morocco, then China. It is globalisation as I have never seen it before. I don’t think Brussels has lost its identity because of it, I think it may have made it better. Someone said to me, the only reason to go to Brussels is it has a nice train station, use it. But I think if you want to see a city that is a mini world, Brussels is it. In a very weird and semi-functioning way. I’m not sure if it is worth a visit more than once, but I have a feeling that if any city is going to start wearing skin tight white outfits and live like ‘The Island’ Brussels would be the first to jump at the opportunity. I think I need to spend a little more time in the gym before I’ll look good in one of those.
So Brussels, scratch that one off the world map. Lucky it has good food.