My Brussels, one year later

In 2007 I listed my observations about Brussels, both praising and criticizing the city. While I still agree with all those comments, I now have some things to add, to further illustrate the fact that Brussels is a city of contradictions.

  • You have wind from the sea blowing heavily, but you have no sea.
  • You have some of the ugliest buildings in the whole Europe, but you also have some 1200 beautiful Art Nouveau buildings.
  • You have one season instead of four, with small variations in temperature. Sometimes you have all four seasons in one day. If you see the sun, go out quickly.
  • You have the capital of Europe, acting as the model of European integration. But you also have people who argue which language should be used in national media and politics. Some Belgians get angry or disrespectful if you don’t speak their language. A country where people from different language areas speak English to each other, and behave like they were living in two separate countries, can hardly be a good example of European integration.
  • You have millions of private cars every day in a very small geographic area, polluting the air and blocking the roads, making life very hard not only for the drivers themselves, but also for people who want to use public transportation instead (or walk or cycle). Many people with cars seem to like spending hours looking for parking places in a city which clearly can’t cope with the high number of cars. In Brussels many people do what they want and don’t care too much about environmental issues.
  • You have many people freely smoking in bars and cafes (still in 2009!), while in many other countries full smoking bans have been successfully introduced already years ago.

Finally, let me say that in Belgium there is no point in asking “why”. It is just the way it is — and probably will be for some time. We all love Brussels (and Belgium) for its good things. And there are plenty of them; it can’t be a coincidence that Belgian artists have contributed so much to Surrealism.