Let's return to the place de la Monnaie, where the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie, home of Brussels opera and dance, is located. It's in fact here that according to an anecdotic legend, taught in all Belgium schools, Belgium revolted against Dutch occupation in 1830 and gained later its independence. It was 25 August 1830, after a performance of "La Muette de Portici". The spectators, excited and pushed to extreme by an aria singing liberty and patriotism, ran out on the street to mingle with a crowd of working people. Fights broke out all over the city against the Dutch occupation forces and lasted during the famous "Journées de Septembre". One year later, prince Leopold of Saxe-Cobourg-Gotha was crowned the first king of Belgium.
Only 8 ionic columns of the neoclassic peristyle, surmounted by a fronton, is the only remnant of the original building, dating 1817-1819. Rebuild after a fire in 1855, the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie was renovated in 1958-86.
Have a beer, coffee or else on the neighboring terrace of "La Lunette" (3, place de la Monnaie). Café decorated by mirrors and wainscoting. Beer La Lunette comes in one-liter beer mugs!
Cross the rue du Fossé aux Loups, up to the rue Neuve, main commercial artery of contemporary Brussels. A lot of shoppers, but these shops are mainly chain shops you can find in any big city in Europe, Paris included. Not my style. There are other much more classy and typical shopping areas I will tell you about in other articles.
Anyway in the rue Neuve you make suddenly a left into the Passage du Nord, to emerge at the famous hotel Metropole, 31 place de Brouckére. This magnificently decorated establishment, which didn't practically not move since 1894, receiving lots of world personalities. Don't be impresses by the waiters in livery and sit down, inside or at the terrace, décor of a lot of motion pictures. Notice the three boulevards joining at the place de Brouckere, lined with Second Empire buildings. Continue now on the boulevard Adolphe Max, turn right into the rue du Finistere (notice the Art Deco café é "L'Espérance"). On the rue Neuve again take the rue Saint-Michel and take a look on the place des Martyrs, which neo classic edifices from the 18th century are in full renovation, the danger of collapsing became too obvious. See also the monument to the 445 heroes, who gave their life for the Belgian revolution.
Leave the square through the rue du Persil (east), make a left in the rue des Marais and a right in the rue des Sables to visit the unique and incomparable "Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée" (Belgian center of comic strips). Yes, my friends, Belgium has always been and still is the Mecca and the birthplace of Europe's greatest comic strip artists. Does TINTIN, SNOWY, CAPTAIN HADDOCK, CUTHBERT CALCULUS and THOMPSON AND THOMPSON ring a bell? Hergé had his albums translated into 122 languages, even in Swahili. The local growth of talents was fueled by two incredibly high quality magazines for the youth: "Spirou"(1938) and... "Tintin" (this one appeared only in 1946). All the fabulous characters started their lives in these mags.
The publishers of these magazine could detect and develop talents such as: André Franquin (Gaston, Spirou), Edgard Jacobs
(Blake and Mortimer), Morris (Lucky Luke), Maurice Tillieux (Jerry Spring), Jijé, Jacques Martin, Peyo (the world known Schtroumps or
Smurfs in English), Roba, Walthéry... and so many others until the mid eighties. Looking back to collections of these magazines seems like entering the world of a wizard, in this museum. All the Belgian talents in comics are present!
More on this museum, built by Victor Horta in his Art Nouveau style in my next article.
"Guide illustré de Bruxelles "by D.des Marez (Brussels 1979), " Gids " voor Vlaanderen (Vlaamse Toeristenbond), "Brussel, groei van een hoofdstad, by Jean Stengers (Antwerp, 1979), "Vlaanderen's roem", by Guido Peeters (Brussels 1975),"Brussels : Fin De Siecle", by Philippe Roberts-Jones(Evergreen Series),"Brussels : The Art of Living", by Piet Swimberghe(1998)