After another weekend trip in Brussels, I think I can safely say that I would never want to live there. Which isn’t to say that it has nothing to offer — we had a great time! But I prefer living in a smaller city with a little more charm.
Here’s an example of what I mean. We took a walk from our hotel over to the Cinquantenaire Park. The weather was a bit dreary, but I was curious to see some of the buildings there. As I walked up to the Great Mosque of Brussels, I saw on the plaque what it used to look like:
Now it looks like this:
I mean, really? It seems like everywhere you turn in Brussels, you see run down buildings and a lack of coherent design. As our friend said, it looks like an empire in decay. Or a not-so-well-planned attempt at an empire.
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t like Brussels at all, so let me gush a bit (and hopefully calm the nerves of the fans of Brussels who I just offended). I obviously stuffed myself with chocolate, nibbled on waffles, tried moules marinières, and gobbled down fries with four different sauces. (No beer on this trip, but we can easily hop over into Belgium any time to stock up on good beer.)
On Sunday, I got up and took a walk around the city by myself. I started in Brussels Park, wandering from the Belgian Federal Parliament building to the Royal Palace at the other end. I read that the park’s design was influenced by masonic symbols, which makes for an interesting layout.
From there I wandered back toward the hotel, past the US embassy and the Statue of Europe, which was mostly hidden behind a construction fence. I also stopped at the EU Parliament building, because I am a nerd. (Actually, I wandered all around the European Quarter to see the buildings. They reminded me of this hilarious blog by an EU interpreter.)
I was surprised to find out that there is a piece of the Berlin wall just outside the EU Parliament building. I saw the wall when I visited Berlin in high school, but I didn’t expect to see a piece here.
I also strolled through the nearby Leopold Park, which has a beautiful lake. It would be a lovely place to spend an afternoon on a warm, sunny day. And then it was back to the hotel to collect my husband and our friend so we could get lunch.
But perhaps the best part of the trip came last. Before heading home, my husband and I went to a milonga. I wore a new dress (sleeveless and short — milongas are warm enough for me to dress like spring) and happened to see several leaders I knew. I also met another excellent leader for the first time. There is something magical about encountering someone who hears and feels the music just like you do, so that following takes no thought or energy, just movement.
Despite everything I saw over the weekend, that tango feeling is the piece of Brussels that I truly carried home with me.