1) When walking along the streets I always wonder:
– How do all the hundreds of shops doing the same thing (launderettes, copy shops, hairdressers) survive?
2) When walking along the streets I always conclude:
– Nobody here must have a washing machine or a printer, so they must get their haircut while waiting for their laundry or their printing.
3) When walking along the streets I then question:
– Why do I never really see many people in the launderettes, the copy shops or the hairdressers. So then my thought process goes back to 1).
4) I’m constantly struck by the contrast between the wealth of an area like Ixelles (where people have beautiful houses, balconies, nice cars, nice schools and trendy shops), and the poverty interspersed in the area, where people are begging, hapless and sleeping rough.
5) The Matongé is the most vibrant, colourful, area, full of African music and delicious smelling food. There is constant noise and bustle and chaotic market stores.
6) Whereas if you walk 15 minutes in the other direction, you stumble across the “Abbaye de la cambre” which is a beautiful building, lawns are perfectly manicured (like a British stately home) and it is lovely and quiet.
7) Stefania square is definitely uptown! Swish designer clothes shops and expensive perfume shops. It is close to the Palais de Justice, which is very grand indeed. Reminds me of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona as it is covered in scaffolding and it has been under renovation for so long that the scaffolding around the building has to be renovated too. (Maybe because it’s a political building and Brussels politics strike me as very complicated, see below).
8) I know I keep mentioning the cash machines, but apart from the noise they make, I really like the fact there is a ledge for your bag in front! The inside of the banks are also open all night so you can go inside.
9) It is a truth universally acknowledged, that arts buildings are beautiful… and science buildings are not.
10) In Belgium everything is complicated. Like really complicated. I highly recommend watching this this youtube video which sums the situation up perfectly. I find it funny that Belgium is the capital of the EU but has 6 governments and ran smoothly without a federal government for nearly 2 years. There are slight tensions between the French speaking residents and the Flemish speaking residents.
11) VUB-ULB a microcosm of this. VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) is Flemish speaking (which is apparently exactly the same as Dutch but has a very different accent) and ULB (Université libre de Bruxelles) is French speaking. We are registered at both. The science campuses are right beside each other so you go from a French speaking environment, with all the signs in French and announcements in French, along a short path outside and you are in a totally Flemish speaking environment. It is bizarre! Two different worlds right beside each other. (Side note: Flemish looks extremely complicated and makes me grateful that I’m learning French.) Although apparently they are above any tensions at an academic level…
12) The national anthem is sung in the three official languages (French, Flemish and German) but it translates slightly differently each time. The Belgian prime minister was once asked to sing the national anthem and sung the French one instead, which sums up some of the confusion in this country I think.
13) Not that I’m a regular or anything, but did I mention that the fries are quite good here?