I was in Brussels about a week before the terrorist attacks. Went running on the park next to the Maalbeek subway station where one of the bombs exploded. Strolled through the same airport check-in counters where the other two bombs went off. I thought about turning this post into a rant about the randomness of being on the wrong place at the wrong time. However, instead of indulging terrorists with a fear mongering post, I will instead talk about Brussels the way it deserves to be talked about: like a 1,500 year old city that proudly sits in the heart of the European Union.
I developed a love-and-hate relationship with Brussels after living there for about a year, back in 2003. After spending the summer in Amsterdam, winter in Brussels felt like joining the Night’s Watch. Slowly but steadily though, I learned to look past the grey weather and the grumpy morning faces in the subway, and ended up meeting some of my closest friends in Brussels.
I often go back to Brussels, usually on one of the city’s trademark rainy days. This time was different though: I was met by cold but beautiful blue skies. Figuring I should put my own advice to the test, I woke up early and explored the city before heading out to work.
Brussels gets a bad – but mostly deserved – rep for being an unwieldily architectural mingle. From the 1880’s to the 1980’s the city grew quickly, and many historical districts were torn down to make room for some astoundingly unsightly buildings. But there are pockets of sheer beauty strewn all around the city. The Guildhouses in Grand Place and the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral are the most well know examples, but there are many more worth seeing:
While I was grudgingly making my way to the office, dark grey clouds replaced the earlier blue skies. By that time however my mind was already packed with memories from the good old days spent living in Brussels, and no overcast skyline would shadow that. Stay true Brussels, see you again soon.