We had some Euros left over from our foreign holiday from a couple of years ago so I decided to use them up on a brief trip of a couple of days in Brussels capital of Belgium. I say I decided as I was the most eager from our family to make this trip. I had visited many years ago and had fond memories not least because my godmother used to live there.
So we took the Eurostar the day after the great storm put our watches forward and arrived in Brussels.
My “must see” was the Atomium which is north of the city centre quite close to the Heysel football stadium (it’s the same Metro station). Judging by the number of photos I took I think it was my favourite place – at least from the outside! I think it fair to say that the rest of the family were largely underwhelmed and I could see why. Built with optimism in the late 1950’s the exhibition space had a clunky feel to it. I found that I was more interested the structure of the building – intended to resemble 9 iron atoms in a crystal layout – with its reflections of the surroundings and of itself. The contents felt dated even though the theme was ‘innovation’.
Nearby was “Mini Europe” which delighted the rest of the family but it just wound me up. It was a park consisting of various models of famous buildings and locations chosen to represent all the countries of the European Union. The other two delighted in the work and enjoyed finding things out about Europe. The models were as good as anywhere else and the booklet was very informative. School children could profit from spending a morning there. I took a couple of photos but the first page in the information booklet put me out of sorts. You see, it said that Brussels is the capital of Europe.
Now, I like Brussels, and Belgium generally. On a spectrum between Euro-skeptics and Euro-enthusiasts I am somewhere in the middle, perhaps more pro than anti. However, Brussels is the capital of Belgium just as London is the capital of the UK. OK so the European Parliament is in Brussels (see below) but sovereignty still resides with the constituent countries of the EU. The result was that I looked at this “fun” park through a lens of mistrust that was not entirely fair. It was noticeable that not all countries were treated equally – I half expected the original six members of the Treaty of Rome to feature prominently. Actually the larger countries with the larger populations had more space so it seemed relatively fair. I realise I was being petty and took it in my stride when I accepted that there was no intention to give a balanced view about the merits of the EU – controversies were for elsewhere. The park was about explaining and celebrating the European Union; and that it did quite well .
Naturally we visited the Grand Place and enjoyed Belgian waffles (there are two basic types), frites (the Belgians are said to have invented them, not the French) and chocolate.
Other places included the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, the Comic strip museum, the Natural History Museum (science) and a view of the European Parliament. Unfortunately our last day was spoilt because we didn’t realise that it was a National Public holiday (nor had our travel agent realised this) which meant we didn’t see the Smurfs nor did we visit the Magrite Museum.
I wouldn’t mind going again but there are other cities and countries to visit first.