Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Brussels and its history (part II)

Last time we talked, I left you at the old city walls. Let's continue our walk and hopefully discover something nice. Maybe to start with a picture of Brussel's bike contingent. These kind of bike stations are all over the place, which is a good thing. I have not tried them yet, but should!

So we are on our way up to the Cathedral and on the way I pass by the bikes and the MAES truck. MAES is one of the Belgian beer brands and they are just delivering to a wonderful bar in the neighbourhood called;  Café à la Mort Subite. It was designed in 1910 by Paul Hamesse, who created a neoclassical interior filled with marble columns, tall mirrors and flower paintings. The owners have been the same since the 1920s. They sell their own beer, La Mort Subite, a cherry beer. Yes, that exists here in Belgium! For a 'I don't like beer' person like myself it is great. I can drink this one. 'La Mort Subite' means 'sudden death' or 'death on the spot'. It does not mean that there is any danger in drinking the beer. It seems to refer to a dice game, once played by the regulars who involved themselves in reckless drinking bouts.

A la Mort Subite

Ok, we are on our way to the Cathedral. Since I have already visited it a couple of times, I decided to skip it, since I did not have that much time. It turns out I also missed a page so the Brontë connection will have to wait for another time. We turn our eyes to the Gare Central, the Central Station. It was designed by the famous Victor Horta in 1937 in an Art Deco style and completed after his death by his student Maxime Brunfaut. The project aimed at linking the Gare du Nord and Gare du Midi stations. It was hailed as a triumph but meant that large parts of the old town had to go. Just outside the station on the wall is carved reliefs that show some of the hotels, taverns and shops that disappeared along the project. 

The stations is not much to see, I think, although it is designed by Horta. However, the city has now modernised the area outside the station and I think it looks rather nice.

Continuing further down town we come to a square called Place d'Espagne. There is not much to see really, but there is a copy of a statue in Madrid of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (have to have some book references here!). As Derek describes it; "impressive and unexplained". Continuing I saw another statue at the other end and went towards it. Turns out to be a statue of Hungarian composer Bela Bartok. Another unexplained statue.

Leaving this square we immediately enter another little square with a small park. Here we find a statue of the mayor Charles Buls, with his dog pulling at his sleeve. In his hands he is holding av book titled De Laudibus Dementiae. Behind him the fountain is carved with reliefs of various Brussels buildings which he saved from ruin, including the town hall and part of the medieval wall. We have to thank him for that. 

Around this square are also a lot of beautiful old houses, most of them built after the 1695 bombardment. The No. 111 is dated 1696 (the house with the turquoise entrance to the shop). 

Below you see some of the other very beautiful buildings. This is a September day, but since the weather has been so nice here in Brussels, the cafés still have chairs outside on the pavement. 

We continue along the small narrow streets, and come to another little square. Here in café La Fleur en Papier Doré Magritte and other Surrealists sometimes met. The café is very dark and crammed with a lot of paintings, scraps of paper and scribbled poems, enormous antique lamps and a lot of other things. Unfortunately, nothing of worth and no Magritte paintings!

We still have to cover the Saint Géry district, but I think I stop here for now. Part III will follow soon.

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