Saturday, April 21, 2007

Mannequin Pis

Doesn’t matter how often I travel, I’m amazed. In the morning you’re in Tel Aviv, under the rooftop and by lunchtime you’re in another world. In this case Brussels, home of luxury chocolates, Leffe beer, art nouveau, waffles, the European Union, Tin Tin ( and the mannequin pis (

This time, thanks to a friend who has lived there for 12 years, I got to see some parts of the city I’ve not encountered before. The funky African Quarter for instance and the red light district. We also went to a restaurant decorated in art nouveau style called Le Dernier Hallucination. Brussels is filled with wonderful examples of art nouveau and art deco.

Despite its reputation as a grey nonentity, most Brussels residents seem to like living there. It’s a small big city, easy to navigate, with great restaurants, a rich cultural life and a cosmopolitan population. Sure it’s not as magnificent as Paris, but so what. The weather was springlike but not always warm thereby confusing the locals whose wardrobes ranged from shorts and T shirts to coats and scarves. Brussels is like the mannequin pis, modest yet surprising.

My friend also reminded me that there are three Parliaments in Brussels: the Federal Parliament ( I saw on my early morning walk through the Parc de Bruxelles) the Brussels Parliament and the European Parliament. So Brussels also serves as an example that a) if your country is divided along ethnic lines, these can be turned into a federal structure and b) that in today’s world you’ve got to think beyond nationhood alone if you want to survive and even prosper.

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