|An Orange Excursion||
Snow...lots of it...now in a previous post, many a people thought I was "gek" for running perilously through a snowy laden forest that I had A) Never been to that was B) well below freezing and C) doing it all in shoes that have seen probably one to many kilometers. However, the next day, after my rendezvous with the Foret de Soignes, it decided to snow...a lot...and seeing that my legs were shot, I decided to walk it, that slow, idyllic pace that I abhor. But, to take pictures it was a pristine day with wonderful, blankets of snow and slow and fishtailing Belgian drivers (ever see a SmartCar do probably 45mph on icy bricks? Well I did...and it somehow works actually). The city was a mess. Buses couldn't make it up hills, trams got stuck, many a people couldn't even travel by train due to flying ice, and the city showed the people's inability to use modern transportation. People....were....everywhere! I actually had to wait in line to get my Wittamer warme chocolade. But, as always, it was completely worth it, and was actually stopped by a couple that interrogated as to where I bought the small cup of liquid heaven. it comes in one of those little paper coffee cups, but they stick a bright pink straw through the hole in the cover, I suppose so I can use even less energy to drink the molten chocolate, and therefore can feel even more guilty about it.
With people coming out of the woodwork, slipping, falling, sledding, coffee hugging, and asking me to take their picture in Grote Markt, I felt that in order to feel my feet again and see at least some of the cool Brussels museums, I felt it was wise to see two. The first one was completely on the history of Brussels. Pretty much a soap opera: Brussels gets rich and sleeps with other Belgian cities, upsets the French neighbors who then knock everything down, then Brussels then goes in and out of a mid-life crisis where it erects beautiful gothic spires and Art Nouveau buildings and gold decorated guild house, and then stick dumpy, concrete slabbed buildings in between just to let some of the depression go that it can't find its inner love (some where between Flanders and Wallonia). But, the best part was the Manneken Pis collection, the beloved little public-urinating fountain that is the heart of this city. And yes, he does have an entire floor dedicated to his wardrobe. The people take their statuary extremely seriously...
So, a little trip up the road, and then there is one of those Art Nouveau pretties that sprout up here and there (remember it's a mid-life crisis). In the Old Building its probably one of the coolest museums I've ever visited. It is called MIM, the "Musical Instruments Museum," where one can see pianos older than most European countries and can get a glimpse of what I thought were completely superfluous horn attachments to a perfectly okay trumpet, or maybe baritone, er maybe it was actually some type of flute sometime....Luckily they give you a little black box so that your ears can practically sample everything. Harpsichords, weird Indian guitar things, African string instruments that look like you could easily bake something in them, an Italian thing that looks like someone looked at a bottom opener and said, "I could do something with that...", bag pipes that look like what bag pipes should look like, German oboes in snake form, and my favorite, the glass piano, invented by our own, Ben Franklin. And are you aware that they had record players in the 1880s? No? Well apparently they did, and looked like they could easily cut through 2 X 4 s and help you make a shelf.
When you think of Belgium, what do you think of? Diamonds? Riling linguistic hatred? the BE in BENELUX? The home of Stella Artois? (yea all you hipsters that want to drink some "fancy-spanish beer" it's brewed in Leuven, a wonderful little town in east of Brussels, not your sultry seaside resort in Spain). It's really all about the only thing that I've subsisted off of for two weeks now. Yes, in their most renowned park, sandwiched right in between the Belgian Parliament and the Koninglijke Paleis is Brusselsepark/Parc du Bruxelles (why is that X there, I really don't get it). And in that park there is art. And of that art there are depictions. And these depictions, in the middle of the park in between the two most important political buildings in the rijkdom are exactly what they say they are. These are the things that make up Belgium, that without them, Belgium may just be Luxembourg, or be Belgium just without good taste.
Yes, indeed, CHOCOLATE + BEER + FRIETEN + BRUSSELS SPROUTS = BELGIUM (and I wouldn't want it any other way, because what other country can you go to that the national "things" they are known for can all be utilized at one meal?) So Belgium, I say to you Proost/Sante!