BRUSSELS - Art Attack
Intertwined like a spider’s web, the artistic streets of Brussels continue to inspire architects and caricaturists from all over the world
For a city that’s high on chocolates and beer, Brussels seems to have perfected the art of balancing the regular with the greats and, then further, with the extraordinary. So what was supposed to be few days of getting wasted on litres of fermented syrup, followed by a heightened sugar rush, turned into an exploration of street art, comic characters, satire and gastronomical wonders.
No visit to Brussels is complete without a trip to the Grand Palace. Known locally as the Grote Markt, this square is literally in the middle of the city. Surrounded by an eclectic mix of masterpieces that defy each other in their architectural styles, the Grand Palace — a square destroyed by the French artillery in 1695 — testifies to the power and pride of Brussels in choosing to retain its former glory rather than rebuild itself in a contemporary fashion.
Moving on, there are several alleyways from the Grand Palace that lead you to local pubs and chocolatiers where you can spend days exploring tales behind every spirit and sweetmeat on offer. Who knows when you stumble upon a shop that has been making chocolates for over a century, or maybe a baker who creates giant casts in the shape of men and murals to make his cookies, or even a local drinking hole that stocks over 3,200 kinds of beer! For an explorer, these backlanes of Brussels can be like going down a rabbit hole. And if you’re lucky, local musicians might treat you to an impromptu jamming session in the middle of your excursion.
It’s the mix of the grand and quirky, old and new, rich and poor, together with some of the most beautiful buildings in Europe, that makes Brussels perfect for just walking around. Art lovers are in for a visual treat here. Budding painters and sculptors find ready buyers who are willing to take a chance on a new artist. Situated between the art hubs of Paris, London, and Berlin, Brussels has many curators and artists nurturing innumerable galleries in the city. So do scour a few. Before calling it a day, visit the city’s landmark creation, the Atomium. With nine interconnected stainless steel spheres, this remarkable installation has now become synonymous with new-age Brussels. From a city centre that’s steeped in historic architecture, complete with a maze of tunnels running all over, to this shiny structure that’s all about technology, Brussels has indeed found a middle ground where it can happily hold on to its past as well as hopefully look forward into the future.
Hari Govind Nair