What can you do in almost 4 hours? From my experience, it would be write one or two articles, watch a bunch of TV series episodes (I’ve noticed that my favorites are no longer than 20 minutes), for many it would probably be quite a generous amount of sleep before the exam (especially if the whole cramming process starts just a little too late, as always). Last weekend I also discovered that 4 hours is more than enough to completely change my surroundings and travel from Paris to Brussels. Well, in theory the surroundings are not so drastically different, because I was still speaking French there and the atmosphere was just as pleasant as a Parisian one, but there were a lot of things that seemed to be weird… and in a very nice way.
Despite horrible and unwelcoming weather (having an umbrella in this trip and wearing multiple layers as a sartorial shield was more important than anything), Brussels somehow left a surprisingly good impression. If I had to come up with characters, Brussels would definitely be a good, peaceful and a very simple guy (but definitely not in a bleak, boring way!) From this perspective, Paris could take on a role of a very capricious lady. The sense of calmness just pervades the city: nobody bothers to use a car signal if you haven’t noticed a green light while being the first in the waiting line (meanwhile in Paris… All the cars standing in all the different corners of the street will start signaling you even if your mistake and slowness is not bothering them in any way), the drivers stop to let you cross the street even if you’re only in the process of approaching the crosswalk, there’s no particularly loud music anywhere and people seem to be literally fleeting in a slow motion. The city is sooooo zen. Okay, I might be exaggerating, but the good thing is that it really gives chilled, relaxing vibes to such extent that you suddenly don’t even care about the rain anymore. Or anything else for that matter. It’s probably weird to start the whole discussion about the city from this point of view, but it was actually one of my strongest impressions.
The architecture is a little bit somber (what’s up with the black balconies?), or even gloomy sometimes, but it’s very harmoniously counter-balanced with impressive, white monuments and historical places, which instantly light up the city center. There are no two identical buildings: Each one is distinctly individual and attention-grabbing in its own way, be it for intricate ornaments, industrial details or even rusticity. I especially loved the fragments of wall art (it’s much more elaborate technically to call it simple graffitti) peppered throughout the whole city.
I have to admit that it was probably the first journey where I had absolutely no plans what I want to see or where I want to go – the evening before the trip I told my boyfriend that we hadn’t even thought about a single plan for Brussels, shouldn’t we give at least some effort?! But it actually turned out to be the best scenario – we were just endlessly wandering in the beautiful streets and enjoying every sight that presented itself to us. Well, there was one exception – I was eager to visit René Magritte’s museum as it’s my all time favorite artist and this museum is like a Holy Grail for someone obsessed with Magritte like me. Seeing Belgium through the prism of Magritte’s work was probably the best plan I could have ever come up with then the rain was threatening to break our umbrellas and ruin our hair. But to be honest, I’d have given up even the best weather to explore the black and mysterious halls showcasing Magritte’s art and life. I could go on forever, but I’m saving my impressions for a special article dedicated to Magritte, so stay tuned!
Last but not least – Brussels fascinated me because of the incredible amount of stylish boutiques, art galleries, bookshops and stores of antique things! The city is surprisingly full of all things art, which gives a very special touch to the city’s portrait. It doesn’t even matter that a Renaissance-looking gallery can be standing next to an industrial building, an obvious skyscraper wannabe. The city may not have an extraordinarily distinct character, it’s rather a well-curated mosaic of different façades, but what an awesome place it is to be! Brussels, it was a great pleasure to know you and let’s meet in the future – I hope you’ll have better weather for us next time.