Because I don't live in a city which beauty
is so obvious, because its hidden charms are so moving, because it is certainly
one of the most architecturally destroyed cities in Europe, because you can hear
six different languages at each street corner, because it is, if you look at it
closely, just an assemblage of villages, reassuring villages, because it has no
pretension at all and stays, after all, very shy. I love Brussels!!
I know it has been eviscerated, that it is merely the shadow from what it was in
the past, the "brusselisation" is become a term to characterise a way
of destroying the urban site, I know that political, economic and financial
interest were at stake, and if that wouldn't have happened, Brussels would be a
dignified rival to Barcelona today.
Already in 1841, Gerard de Nerval wrote:
" Brussels is beginning to be divided in the high and lower city which will
end up in a miscommunication. But I know also that a discreet charm will always
survive, nice buildings, hidden parks and gardens. I dare to be convinced that,
Baudelaire excepted, I know NOT ONE foreigner, living in Brussels, that isn't
happy and doesn't like this city".
Who doesn't know the anecdote of all foreign correspondents or European
diplomats, staff and employees saying: "We wept when we were assigned to
Brussels, but we wept even more when we had to leave it."
Quality of life has no price in Brussels,
and the ambience in its public places like cafes and restaurants is unique.
Let's be honest: the houses are large, pretty, and comfortable: because the
weather, usually gray and sad, is not very inviting for a walk. In Brussels, you
move with a precise and hurried plan. Traffic jams, daily food for the citizens,
didn't discourage them from taking the car, so it is at home, in their own
interior, that they take the time to stroll, invite with splendor and
refinement. In Brussels, the ambience is completely interiorised. So I'm writing
about a quiet city, easy to carry on my shoulder, human, full of good nature and
kindness. I think I could live here, even without having the impression being
Brussels is not possessive, she doesn't impose herself, she will not stand in
your way. It's like a haven, a "port d'attache", a transit room, which
will, despite all her efforts, always be a bit grey, tarnished in harmony with
the dominant color of her sky.
But I like the lady, her untidy charm, her disarming touch, being squeezed
between her linguistic quarrels.
Ambiguous city due to the complex relation that people have with her: certain
days, she is adored, other days she is hated, depending her character. When I
return from Madrid, I ignore her, and when I return from Hong-Kong, I'm happy
like a child! But she is all except a city without hope. We have the feeling
that it wouldn't take much to save her. Then from a lying city, she would rise
As my second home, Brussels, is very
difficult to define. Bastard, she is very individualistic, just like her
inhabitants and their houses. Start to talk about Brussels, and you'll will
often begin by saying mean and bad things about her. And then, even without
realizing, after a couple of minutes, you start to understand how much positive
elements there are, beautiful, undiscovered, hidden treasures and the more you
talk the more admirative your conversation. Geographic hazard at the turning of
a corner, the aspect of an unknown street, this world opens slowly to figure
finally at the hit parade of international cities. Maybe she finally got back
where she belonged, just finished playing the provincial little girl,
coquettish, all she had pretty, and all her alluring attractions. Baffling city,
sometimes absurd "business minded and mundane", like the writer
Marguerite Yourcenar denounced her, "the passion and snobbism to acquire a
name and a title, flourishes here like nowhere else."
The unexpected! A city where nothing is acquired definitively, where everything
is possible. And a city, juts in between German and Latin mentality. This city,
center of European politics, of which people talk a lot but nobody really takes
the time to know her, that we let pronounce "Brukselles", the French
way, and of which only the vegetal charms are praised....
Effervescence, turmoil....In 2001, Brussels feels summoned, like many others.
But she has a pretext and she cannot miss the opportunity. She gets the label of
"Capitale Européenne de la Culture". She moves, lives, interrogates,
and finally is aware of her wealth, her situation, her international neutrality
Her unavoidable bars, "La Meilleure Jeunesse", 45 rue de l'Aurore, her
original boutiques, "Terre d'Ivoire"1000b chaussée de Waterloo,
"Graphie Sud", 15 place Brugman, galleries and unusual libraries
(Arthus, Balthazar, Chapitre XII), a world famous opera house, affirms Brussels
slowly as an adult city again. Houses are constantly bought, transformed,
refurbished and bets are placed on the best locations since 20 years.
That's why new centuries are made for! And let's not forget that tomorrow, we
will all be citizens, and should be prepared for it.
Small green city, distressing, it is full of qualities and unexplored
possibilities. But at the contrary of her big European sisters, she is not a
city you can grasp at once. She is secret, complex with a much more difficult
approach. It's there that all her wealth is, and that cannot be unveiled to a
first time visitor at once. If one day or another, you should go and stay, live
in Brussels for a while, don't forget to take a copy of "Le Petit
Prince", by Saint-Exupery, in your luggage. The novel will make you
understand how to accost, how to tame, because Brussels has to be tamed: now
that's a word that fits her as a glove!