Monday, November 1, 2010

Brussels, Belgium

Brussels, along with Flanders and Wallonia, is one of the three federal regions in Belgium.

It is the country's capital and home to the European Union and NATO. It's the largest city in the country with 1.8 million inhabitants and it is over 1,000 years old. It's a sister city of both Prague and Atlanta. I'm from Atlanta and never knew that one.

The medieval Grand Place is the city's central square and one of the most beautiful in Europe.

 In the center is the Gothic town hall and it is surrounded by 300-year old guildhalls. The Grand Place is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Not far from here is Manneken Pis which is one of the city's main landmarks. It's a bronze statue of a little boy peeing into a fountain. I always thought it would be bigger but I was surprised to see just how small it is. When I went, it was in beachwear and sporting a surfboard.

The Royal Palace is the official palace of the King of the Belgians but it is not used as a royal residence.

The Atomium was built for the 1958 World's Fair. At 103 meters (338 feet) tall, its nine steel spheres forms the unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.

The 30 hectare (~74 acre) Parc du Cinquantenaire was commissioned by King Leopold II to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence.

The triumphal arch was built in 1905 at the 75th anniversary of independence.

The National Basilica of the Sacred Heart was inspired by the Sacré Cœur in Paris. Construction was interrupted by both world wars and wasn't completed until 1969. It is the 5th largest church in the world and the largest Art Deco edifice ever built.

In the European Quarter is where most of the buildings belonging to the EU are located. There is a tour available during the week, but I was there on Saturday and everything was closed. Maybe next time. With so many international organizations in Brussels one would expect a large foreign population. But I was surprised that there is such a huge Arab community. At least 20-30% of the city is Muslim.

I really enjoyed my time in Belgium. Lots of great buildings, parks, monuments and museums.


Of course, it's hard not to enjoy a country known for waffles, fries, mussels, beer and chocolate.

The story goes that when the American soldiers arrived in Belgium they came across Belgian fries but assumed the soldiers eating them were French.
Today, they are normally served in a paper cone with mayonnaise or with one of another ten different sauces.

1 comment:

  1. Brussels is also home to a fountain of a little girl peeing as well as a statue of a dog peeing -- all in the same general area.