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Tuesday, May 8, 2007


Recently when people around me mention they are going to Brussels they emphasize how boring this city is and how very unappealing their trip would be. I don’t agree with this at all. I find Brussels a very interesting place to be.

I have been in Brussels for the last several days and I have enjoyed it a lot. First, the weather was excellent – sunny with a slight breeze. Then I followed Wiolka’s advise and I went to Mozart Hotel, a nice and very funny place, 50 m. away from La Grande Place. In this hotel everything is kind of fake Mozart style – sofas, chairs, walls but it is not irritating, strangely. And very importantly, there is a strong wi-fi signal in the lobby and this was very important to me knowing that I has important staff to send.

Yesterday, I saw an old friend of mine – Albena – who lives in Brussels with her son and her mother and works for the World Health Organisation. They live in a beautiful part of the city resembling a lot Paris. The evening was great and there was ‘supa topceta’ (a Bulgarian meatball soup) and steak with Bordeaux wine. Then, we all watched the Sarkozy-Royale debate which was absolutely captivating to me. No matter that they both have bouts of demagogy now and again, we have to admit that they are both very high quality politicians.

Today we finished earlier and I had a very long walk in the streets or so it felt to my ailing knee. What is very special about Brussels is that it is the perfect border city between two cultures. One enjoys the frenchness of the cafes and the restaurants as well as some parts of the architecture. However, this elegance is strictly controlled by the more austere Dutch air of some of the architecture and some of the churches. What is different in Brussels is that it doesn’t have an architectural coherence; it is a mixture of French and Dutch, Walloon and Flemish. On top of it, there is this huge European ‘quarter’ that gives it a third dimension.

I have to review the history lessons about the establishment of Belgium and the development of Brussels. It would be interesting to know how the Belgium nation has been formed after the creation of a new country in 1830 following the Napoleonic wars. I also remember that Belgium was often the freer and more liberal neighbour of France. I think Emile Zola spent some time here as well as Verlain and Rimbeaud. This evening I was looking for this pub where they shot at each other and Verlain slightly wounded Rimbeaud. Crazy people. What I found great tonight while wondering in the small winding streets is that there are so many houses that feel kind of really old not and are not fully renovated. They are not run down or dilapidated but they have some patina on them. With a little bit of imagination one goes back to the end of the 19th century or at least to the 1920s when my grandfather - Zaharia - used to stroll those streets for 5 years while studying at the Brussels Technical University. I would like so much to know where exactly he lived as well as other details from these times. It is such a pity that there are no traces from this period of his life: a time completely gone.

I find it also very cool that the city is completely bilingual. Everybody changes Flemish and French just like that. Street names are also in both languages. Hotel Mozart is on the street Marche au Fromage which is Kaasmarkt in Dutch (Cheese Market). In fact there are many streets that bear the names of different markets: coal market, fish market, etc.. I also saw a street called ‘Chair and Pain’ (Flesh and Bread). Isn’t it great? And La Grande Place: despite being such a touristic place it is also a beautiful old square. I read today on one of the main buildings that some of the houses were rebuild in the 19th century replacing buildings that were destroyed in the 1687 bombardment…….

Unfortunately, I could not go to any museum today. I tried to visit the Museum of Instruments following Albena’s advice but I was too late. I would also revisit again the Musee des Beaux Arts where I have been in 1995. I remember it had a great collection of Dutch paintings which I like a lot.

I had another positive experience today. I had to find another hotel as all the rooms were taken in my hotel for tonight. I saw a sign ‘Rooms’ and I entered. The price was suspiciously low. An African man gave me a key for room 22. It turned out to be an excellent spacious room under the roof looking at a beautiful square.

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