It’s the crocus vacation. The schools are on February break this week in our neck of the Netherlands, so we piled into the car for a family road trip to Brussels. That’s about a two hour drive door to door, if you can avoid the traffic. We didn’t, but we got there in the end, and were warmly welcomed by old friends just outside of the city in Tervuren.
Tervuren boasts the Hapsburg folly of an unfinished Versailles, an ancient original growth forest, and a frozen fountain animal jazz band sculpture.
Brussels seemed quiet, but that’s probably because it’s pretty much a bureaucratic city and everyone had left for the weekend. Also it was freezing out, so we were some of the only tourists. It was actually a great time to visit if you can trade the crowds for the cold.
We rode the tram from Tervuren through parts of the ancient forest to Brussels center.
If you only have a few days, there are two main things to see in Brussels. One of them is Manneken Pis.
Manneken Pis is pretty much what he sounds like. Sometimes the locals dress him up. We found him in a flash newspaper suit. Look closely, he is peeing.
Even on such a cold day Manneken Pis was mobbed by an adoring crowd. The sculpture, which was once involved with a water fountain, dates to around 1619. It is attributed to Hieronymus Duquesnoy the Elder, and the one here is a duplicate of the original, which currently resides in the Museum of the City of Brussels. Manneken Pis may depict an infant Duke urinating upon enemy troops, or a boy who saved the city from a burning fuse by urinating upon it, or one of several boys who were lost, only to be found urinating.
There is an element of Belgian humor to Menneken Pis, but he is also something of a national hero.
The other thing to see in Brussels is the Grand-Place, or the Main Square.
The Grand-Place encloses the town hall, and The Museum of the City of Brussels. It is grand in the true sense of the word, with beautiful buildings decorated in gold trim. Standing there the opulence of a lost age is suddenly real. And so are the writers. Looking up we discovered two plaques claiming, one in French and one in Dutch, because that is the nature of multi-cultural Brussels, that Victor Hugo lived here. Right in this very house.
The Dutch and the French agree: Victor Hugo lived at number 26.
Things are old here. We stopped to try some beer in a place that probably pre-dates the Mayflower. It was great to warm up with some local brew. We found that each variety must be served in its own particular glass. Some are light, some are heavy, and all are refreshing.
Ancient beer place. Hergé of TinTin fame used to hang out here, too.
The best part about visiting Brussels was seeing old friends. The photos in this blog are the work of one them, Rikke Dakin.
Mary Petiet is a reporter, writer and story teller. Her work is inspired by both her native Cape Cod, where she covers the local farm beat for Edible Cape Cod magazine, and her experiences in The Netherlands. Mary is the author of Minerva’s Owls, (Homebound Publications) finalist in the American Book Fest’s Best Book Awards 2017, religion and spirituality. Minerva’s Owls remembers the divine feminine to reenvision the world. Mary is currently dividing her time between Cape Cod and The Netherlands.