Thursday, 16 October 2014

Brussels and its history (part III)

We are now going further downtown to the Saint Géry district. We start at the Rue de la Grande Ile.
Unfortunately, we don't see any traces of the Great Island today. It vanished when the River Senne was turned into an underground canal in the 19th century. Instead the city built a line of grand boulevards in its place. The city planners wanted to give Brussels something of the grandeur of Paris. At the opening the mayor said that he had 'replaced the dangerous and dreary river with the most important and arguably most beautiful boulevards in our city.' Baudelaire was not impressed when he visited Brussels and grumbled something about 'the sadness of a city without a river.'

If you live in a city you have to put some extra work into surrounding yourself with greeneries!
Aren't they lovely?

Anneessen's Technical Institute
We venture on, pass the Anneessen's Technical Institute, which is an impressive Art Deco style building, and arrive to place Saint Géry, which was once the heart of the island. Here we find the 19th century meat hall, which is a beautiful market building. Today it hosts a museum of the area, a café/restaurant and some cultural events and is rather uninteresting apart from the wonderful design. In the middle we also see an 18th century obelisk, that once stood in the middle of the square. It was originally from the Grimbergen Abbey but was moved here in 1802 when the square was built. Luckily it was saved when they built the market, by building around it.

In a courtyard at the opposite side of the market we can see what still remains of the River Senne. The surrounding are absolutely lovely, but the river... well!

 The River Senne today!

Continuing along small, narrow roads, we come to  a clockmaker's shop. I was lucky, it was
open, so I could get a glimpse of the old city wall which has been incorporated in the entrance wall. Further on we find museums, galleries, cafés and restaurants. Le Greenwich is a wonderful 19th century establishment, with Empire-style woodwork, gilded coat hooks and rows of square mirrors. Once it was a fashionable café where Magritte tried to sell his paintings, without success. Its main claim to fame is that it is a chess café. That is, until they renovated and it is not anymore. If it is still popular I am not able to say. At least I thought so when I saw a long queue outside ...until I realised it was a guided tour!

My one-person tour did not take up so much space. At this time I head a lunch date and had to hurry along. Next time I have to finish walk No. 2 with the Saint Catherine district. More to come one day.

Look at this lovely lamp on the pavement outside a café!

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