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Hustle and bustle in Brussels (Part 1)

There’s something chaotic about Brussels - so much happening all at once that it’s easy to be paralysed by choice. My 48-hour Brussels Card gave me free access to no less than 51 museums, though ruling out the Sewer Museum was a no-brainer.

With museum decisions pending, I opted to start my visit by rambling and riding my way around Brussels to get my bearings and snap some of the city’s famous landmarks. Brussels is a relatively compact city and what isn’t located within a 15-20 minute walk from my hotel in Sablon is accessible via the hop-on, hop-off bus. Adding to the sense of chaos however, is the traffic (standstill at times) and the incessant sirens.

Experiencing the impressive Atomium from the bus was enough for me given my acrophobia. Functional, sculptural and timeless, the Atomium pre-dates me and was designed and built for the 1958 Brussels World Fair. Over the last 65 years, it has become a symbol of Brussels, and even Belgium (though all this was news to me).

The other icon of Brussels - which I recognised even if I didn’t associate it with Brussels - is Manneken-Pis, the wee man (and he is wee) doing a wee.

Manneken-Pis has been peeing since the 15th century. The fountain was once an essential watering hole for locals but towards the end of the 17th century, the statue itself became more important to those in city, surviving the bombardment of Brussels in 1695.

During major events, they adorn him with luxurious clothes (and yes, one of the museums is dedicated to his wardrobe). This is a bit of a tradition too it seems as records indicate that Manneken-Pis was dressed at least four times a year. With the advent of plumbing in the 19th century, Manneken-Pis became an ornamental image and symbol of the Brussels folklore.

He’s been kidnapped a couple of times and vandalised so the original now lives in Brussels City Museum (where I did visit him). However, a stunt double cast from the same mould now pees gleefully from the retirees little street corner.

Disappointingly, I only spied one Tin Tin mural on my travels (I’ll pop it in the gallery), but I did visit the Tin Tin shop (unfortunately, the Hergé Museum is not in Brussels).

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