One day, I wrote:
Yes, I know that, as an European citizen, I'm ruled from Brussels.
Yes, I know that it is important, but... I don't like it.
I've been in Brussels twice, tried two different approaches, and... still don't like it.
Maybe if I'd get one of those jobs paid by millions I would start to enjoy the city, but, meanwhile, I love my Portugal (and many of the other places I had the chance to visit).
And then, unexpectedly, I visited Brussels again and... caught a different impression. Good! Brussels is much more interesting that it looked in my previous visits.
However, Europe area didn't get better - there was a summit, and the only thing that we could see were barriers and nervous Police. No incident registered, but the restrictions (including the areas of several distant hotels) were boring.
The "Caprice des Dieux" (the "Gods Whims") aka, the Europarliament Spaak and Spinelli Buildings. have been cynically nicknamed like that because it looks like a cheese that has the same shape and because it was very expensive and big. It was built with the enlargement in mind and, if I am correct, 800 MP's can sit in it. You can see it behind the XIXth century Quartier Léopold's Train Station that now looks like a dwarf which makes the view even more impressive. The Quartier Léopold was a typical Brussels neighbourhood but it has been half-destroyed to make room for Euro-institutions despite the mobilisation of its inhabitants. The last to leave was on old artist who had to be escorted by the police...
For those who are interested, you can visit the Parliament: http://www.europarl.eu.int/abc/visit/visit_en.htm
Now, I accept that you'd be forgiven for doubting my sanity in dragging you to an area that cares little for the architecture of Horta, the restaurants of St Catherine or the street art a-plenty around the city. But bear with me on this one.
In the foreground we find a handy perch for the city pigeons, in the form of a statue to Englishman, John Cotterill. Who he? Only one of the great fathers of the industrial revolution. Don't have much time to dwell on him in this little box... but look him up...
Now let your eyes wander for the moment to the glass palace in the background... yes the seat of European power, the European Parliament. One of the largest building sites in the world during its construction, and now, even with its 7 km of corridors, too small to house everyone.
Funny story. Just after it opened, to great acclaim for the architects, and the care taken to ensure the welbeing of the residents, one of its finest features was hailed to be the bullet-proof glass. Within a matter of weeks a roof area was shattered by a rook, dropping stones on it. There is a visitors centre. If you get a chance to enter as an official visitor, there is also a great restaurant inside.
So, in any case, why design it with that big bump in the middle?
Glad you asked that question. Focus now on the little building in between. The shape of the Parliament echoes the shape and proportions of that little building. And that little building, the Gare de Luxembourg, is the oldest railway station, not only in Brussels, not only in Belgium... it is the oldest railway station in continental Europe.
I have wiled away many hours on this square, and watched it change and develop. It's a really funny place, populated by day by the workers from the EU institutions, the journalists, a selection of street musicians and local people. By evening it's a hang-out for the trainees that work int he EU institutions and one or two of life's observers, like me and my mates! Check the restaurant tips for my top suggestion for food.
Well, what can I say? After the tight security to enter the parliament, the tour is very disappointing, you see a lobby and stairwell, then sit in the public gallery of the parliament and then the tour is over.
There is an audio tour that you are given.
It is dull and not a great experience.
John Cockerill Monument
It presence here is not accidental: indeed this British industrial , born 1790, has greatly contributed to the development of the steel industry in Belgium. This has enabled the construction of many machines (the first locomotive of the European continent) and rail networks (among others).
His steel enterprises were taken over in 2002 by the Arcelor group.
The bronze statue is the work of Armand Cattier (1871)
Sa présence ici n'est pas le fait du hasard: en effet cet industriel Britannique, né 1790, a grandement contribué au développement de l'industrie sidérurgique en Belgique. Ce qui permit la construction de nombreuses machines (la première locomotive du continent Européen) et des réseaux ferroviaires (entre autres).
Ses entreprises sidérurgiques ont été reprises en 2002 par le groupe Arcelor .
La statue en bronze est l'œuvre de Armand Cattier (1871)
EU under construction
What makes the challenge even more important and difficult to achieve is the complexity of managing what has already been done and simultaneously accommodate and stimulate the introduction of new members.
It is clear that each member has its own peculiarities, well anchored, which must be respected. But sometimes sacrifices are necessary.
Nationalisms, traditions, history itself may form an obstacle to a rapid progress but is respect for "roots" really inconsistent with the future (economic, social, political and cultural) of our countries?
Ce qui rend le défit encore plus important et difficile à réussir c'est la complexité de gérer ce qui à déjà été accomplit ET simultanément accueillir et stimuler la venue de nouveaux membres .
Il est évident que chaque membre a ses propres particularités, bien ancrées, qu'il faut respecter. Mais souvent des sacrifices seront nécessaires .
Les nationalismes, les traditions, l'histoire elle même forment parfois un obstacle à une avancée rapide mais le respect des "racines" est-il vraiment incompatible avec l'avenir (économique, social, politique et culturel) de nos contrées?
EU , un très grand défi !
A fine example of the complexity and challenge of European integration and the difference in language !
In opposition of the USA or the USSR, the states of the European Union each have their (or their) own (s) language (s) This increases the complexity of managing such a large ensemble.
Un très bel exemple de la complexité et du défit de la construction européenne et la différence de langages l
A l'opposition des USA ou de l'URSS, les états de l'union européenne ont chacun leur (ou leurs) propre(s) langage(s) Ce qui augmente la complexité de gérer un si grand ensemble.
What's our future ?
The European Union and I have almost the same age, and the same openness.
That the path is long and difficult to reconcile the needs, cultures, economies, ... countries so different as Denmark and Bulgaria, as Spain and Finland ...
And the future ... what a challenge! and how lucky we are that we are at the center of this movement !... But what there is long way to go !!!
L'union européenne et moi-même avons pratiquement le même age, et la même ouverture d'esprit.
Que le chemin est long et difficile pour concilier les envies , les cultures, les ECONOMIES, ... de pays si différents que le Danemark et la Bulgarie, que l'Espagne et la Finlande, ...
Et l'avenir...quel défit !!! et quelle chance nous avons que nous soyons au centre de ce mouvement...Mais quel long chemin il reste à parcourir ?
Our view of this building was from the top deck of the Hop On Hop Off bus and as it was moving the photo quality is less than desirable. It is a magnificent building , tall with plenty of glass and some nice curves.
Built in 1967, the building was the European Commission's headquarters until 1991 when leaking asbestos forced its evacuation. It was reopened in 2006 and again is the districts landmark sight.
We took these pictures whilst passing on the Hop On Hop Off bus, a moving bus not the best for photography.
Built in 1967 this building was the European Commission's headquarters until 1991 when leaking asbestos forced its evacuation. This fantastic looking building is the area's landmark site
Aside from being the capital of Belgium, Brussels is also the seat of the main institutions of the European Union.
The European Parliament seems to hold most of its meetings here, though they also all travel down to Strasbourg once a week or so.
Second photo: The Schuman Building is the seat of the European Commission, the executive branch of the European government.
The so-called Quartier Léopold was developped in the XIX century to accomodate the prosperous bourgeoisie, which did no longer find comfortable to live in the congested centre of Brussels. So far, the area, which was beyond the city walls, was a rural valley crossed by a small stream called Maalbeek (today vaulted). The area was annexed to the municipality of Brussels in compensation for different road and urban development investments.
The chessboard pattern of the street grid favoured the construction of office blocks, which progressively replaced the stately homes during the second half of the XX century. That is why parts of this district look today lifeless and rather grey, specially around Law and Belliard Streets. However, there is much more to the Quartier Léopold than meets the eye and some of the most interesting aspects of Brussels are scattered in its streets, including most of the buildings that host the European institutions.
Although most of the institutions are located in the Leopold Quarter (around Schuman Square), the European Quarter actually continues beyond it towards the municipality of Etterbeek, a pleasant residential area where many so-called Eurochrats have chosen to live and which also has several sites of interest.
The European Parliament (EP) is the directly elected parliamentary body of the European Union (EU), it forms the bicameral legistlative branch of the union's institution and has been described as on e of the most powerful legistlatures i the world.
The neighbourhood of Schuman is the home to the European civil service (i.e. the Commission) and the European Council. One of the largest buildings in the area is the Berlaymont Building, one of the many habited by the European Commission. It is absolutely enormous, but in some way quite pretty as well. Especially when compared to many other buildings in Brussels which is a bizarre mixture of very ugly office buildings, newly built sleek offices (especially the European Parliament and European Regional Representatives’ Offices), very well-kept old buildings and totally derelict buildings.
The Berlaymont Building was renovated and revamped a few years back. Before that it used to be pretty monstrous and very ugly. Whether you actually like it or not, it's definitely one of the landmark's of the city. There is a row of European flags in a row in front of the Berlaymont Building.
European Council resides in the Justus Lipsius building, named after a Flemish philologist and humanist. The building has been the headquarters of the Council of the European Union since 1995. It is located on the Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat it is in the heart of the EU district, opposite the Berlaymont, the headquarters of the European Commission. Further south within the district are the European Parliament Buildings at Leopold Park. Unlike its fellow partner in legislature, the European Parliament, visiting is restricted though meetings are broadcast on the internet.
The building of the European Commission is in the EU area as well, a walking distance from the European Parliament.
During our excursion we had the opportunity to listen to some speeches there, which I found very interesting.
Afterwards I had the chance to have a seat at the main speaker's area as you can see in the pic. It's really a VIP kind of feeling to sit there. hehe