2 March 2014

Walking through the heart of old Brussels

There are a few things that I hope to do while I am in Brussels but I am making the plan up each day depending on things like the weather and what mood I am in. Having spent Saturday getting here on Sunday I decided to explore the old town at the centre of Brussels.

The plan was no more precise than that and I used my familiar tactic of heading down what looked like the prettiest road whenever I had a decision to make. I did also have a tourist map with me and that highlighted were I could find some impressive buildings, though I was just as interested in the standard local architecture such as this neat row of (I presume) flats.

It did not take long to get to the Grand Market, which is exactly where I wanted to be.The Grand Market is my name for it as the two names for it on my dual language map, i.e. the Belgian flavours of French and Dutch, translate as Grand Place and Big Market.

It is a fairly typical European Market square and it reminded me of Munich and Madrid, among others, and I really like typical European Market squares. That is one reason why I like old European cities so much.

Heading from the Square towards the Manneken Pis, that statue of a boy having a piss, I chanced upon this delightful drawing of Tintin, Captain Haddock and Snowy painted on the sides of a building. Tintin is all over Brussels but this is the best example that I have found yet.

It is also the perfect example of why the best way to explore is on foot and why guide books should only be used as guides and not as instructions.

Brussels is hillier than I expected, (somebody needs to invent a way of showing hills on street maps), and while that meant that some of the walking was harder it also meant that I got some good views across the city.

Later on I explored the area around the Royal Palace. The building was reasonable enough but what caught my eye was the arrangement of hedges in one of the gardens. I like the way that they are in slightly different colours and have been cut to emphasise their differences.

Heading further to the west I cam to the Palace of Justice, a grand building hidden behind a preposterous amount of scaffolding. Next to is was a steep incline that justified a lift down to the lower street level. The lift is in the white metal structure on the left.

I thought about taking the lift and started to walk along the gantry towards it but I was persuaded by the gentle swaying motion to return to solid land and to walk down following the road instead.

The last major sight of the day was the Cathedral which was on the top of a slight hill only a couple of hundred metres from my hotel. I am not a big fan of cathedrals, or churches, and what interested me more here was the way that the modern building next to it used some of its symbols to fit in with it.

Brussels did well to keep me engaged during a walk of several hours in which I saw everything from impressive old buildings to quirky wall paintings. It was exactly what I came to Brussels to do and see.

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