Brussels/Bruxelles/Brussel - Capital city of Belgium
Brussels Travel Blog› entry 2 of 12 › view all entries
Brussels has grown from a 10th-century fortress town founded by Charlemagne's grandson into a metropolis of more than one million inhabitants. After the end of World War II, Brussels has been an important centre for international politics. It hosts the main institutions of the European Union, and the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Thus, Brussels is the polyglot home of many international organisations, diplomats and civil servants. Brussels is the EU's third-richest city in terms of per capita income.
Although historically Dutch-speaking, Brussels has become increasingly francophone. Today most inhabitants are native French-speakers, although both languages have official status.
Brussels is the bilingual capital of Belgium. This means that both French and Dutch are the official languages of the city. Street names and traffic sings are always in these two languages. Furthermore, it is a cosmopolitan city where many different cultures live together and where different languages can be heard on each street. This liveliness and international flair is, of course, intimately related to its role as a crossroads for all of Europe.
The same variety and contrast can also be found in the different architectural styles that can be found in Brussels, the former capital of the medieval Duchy of Brabant. Gothic cathedrals and churches are next to - and sometimes in stark contrast with - gracious classical facades like the buildings around the Royal Square (Place Royale - Koningsplein), or beautiful art nouveau and art deco houses.
The heart of Brussels and the place to start getting to know the city is the Grand'Place (Grote Markt).
The Atomium is a monument built for Expo '58, the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. Designed by André Waterkeyn, it is 102-metres (335 ft) tall, with nine steel spheres connected so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.
Tubes which connect the spheres along the 12 edges of the cube and all eight vertices to the centre enclose escalators connecting the spheres which contain exhibit halls and other public spaces. The top sphere provides a panoramic view of
One of the original ideas for Expo '58 was to build an upside-down version of the Eiffel tower; however, Waterkeyn felt that an atomic structure would be more symbolic of the era.The monument was originally planned to remain standing only six months. However, it soon became a symbol not only of the World's Fair, but of modern architecture and
The Atomium is located beside the King Baudouin Stadium in
The three uppermost spheres lack vertical support and hence are not open to the public for safety reasons. The original design called for no supports, the structure was simply to rest on the spheres. Wind tunnel tests proved that the structure would have toppled in a 80 km/h wind (140 km/h winds have been recorded in
Manneken Pis (Dutch for little man pee), also known in French as the petit Julien, is a very famous
On many occasions, the statue is dressed in a costume. His wardrobe now consists of several hundred different costumes. The costumes are changed according to a schedule managed by the non-profit association The Friends of Manneken-Pis, in ceremonies that are often accompanied by brass band music.
On occasion, the statue is hooked up to a keg of beer. Cups will be filled up with the beer flowing from the statue and given out to people passing by.
The famous statue is located at the junction of Rue de l'Étuve & Eikstraat. One has to take the left lane next to the
Legends and history
There are several legends behind this statue, but the most famous is the one about Duke Godfrey III of
Leuven. In 1142, the troops of this two-year-old lord were battling against the troops of the Berthouts, the lords of Grimbergen, in Ransbeke (now Neder-over-Heembeek). The troops put the infant lord in a basket and hung it in a tree, to encourage them. From there, he urinated on the troops of the Berthouts, who eventually lost the battle.
Another legend goes like this: In the 14th century,
There was already a similar statue made of stone in the middle of the 15th century, perhaps as early as 1388. The statue was stolen several times. In 1619 it was replaced by a bronze statue, created by Franco-Flemish Baroque sculptor Jerome Duquesnoy, father of the more famous François.
Another story (told often to tourists) tells of a wealthy merchant who, during a visit to the city with his family, had his beloved young son go missing. The merchant hastily started searching with others all corners of the city, until one member of the search party found the boy happily urinating in a small garden.
Jeanneke Pis is a modern fountain and statue in
, which forms a counterpoint in gender terms to the city's trademark Manneken Pis, as it does aurally and geographically, being about the same distance away on the other side of the Grand Place / Grote Markt. Brussels
It was made by Denis-Adrien Debouvrie in 1985 and erected in 1987 and endowed with its own instant legend, the better to amuse strollers.