Leading off from the Grand Place square, a little distance away past crowded streets in a corner is the statue called Manneken Pis. This is a bronze statue of a small naked boy peeing. It is a fountain, with water replacing the pee! This is the most famous statue of Belgium. However, tourists expect it to be big, but it is actually a very small statue placed in a corner of narrow streets. The Manneken-Pis is at the corner of the Rue de l’Etuve and the Rue du Chene. The Rue Charles Buls leading from the Square becomes the Rue de l’Etuve. The statue is dressed up in colorful costumes on different occasions according to a weekly schedule. The Manneken-Pis has several hundred costumes. The changing of costumes is accompanied by live music.
The exact legend behind this statue is unclear since there are several of them. One version is that the statue is of a two year old duke whose troops took him with them during their fight against the Berthouts. He is supposed to have urinated on the enemy troops. Another version suggests the story of a small boy who urinated on the fuse of explosives to prevent them from exploding. They were planted by enemies trying to destroy Brussels. Another version as we noted on the shop front just opposite the statue talks about the story of Manneken Pis, also known as Le Petit Julien: “in 1619, I was 5 years old. I got lost in Brussels. After 2 days of frantic searching, my father, a nobleman, found me in an embarrassing position…peeing. As a token of gratitude, he ordered a fountain to be build, with a statue depicting me in that same position.” The picture of this poster is given on the right (click to enlarge).
The Manneken Pis has a female counterpart called the Jeanneke Pis. This is a modern piece of sculpture made of limestone, by Denis-Adrien Debouvrie, in 1985 and erected in 1987. This is located on the other of the Grand Place away from Manneken Pis. It is in the east side of Impasse de la Fidélité (Faith Alley) which is a narrow dead end street leading off from Rue des Bouchers (Butchers’ Street).
How to get to the Manneken Pis- After reaching Grand place take the Rue Charles Buls which becomes the Rue de l’Etuve. The Statue is at the corner of Rue de l’Etuve and Rue du Chene. The details of getting around Brussels is given here. In the picture below, the left hand street is Rue de l’Etuve and the street on the right is Rue du Chene.
Probably the most beautiful edifice in Brussels, the Town Hall or Hôtel de Ville or Stradhuis (yes, it has a number of names!) stands prominently in the Grand Place Square with its 315 feet tall tower. It is the official seat of the Mayor of Brussels though the administration is located on the Anspach Blvd. Its importance however is not due this. It is a historic structure which had its inception in 1402 when the construction began. On this site there were some wooden structures – shops and inns – which were demolished to make way for the Town Hall. The original new building was just the left half or the current structure with a small tower. The architect Jacob van Thienen is credited with this work. In 1444 this building was extended with a right wing which was smaller though to that on the left (the authorities did not want to over run the existing street on the right). Thus the tower is not in the middle. This construction and the current tower were complete in 1449. Jan Van Ruysbroeck is the architect of the tower. In 1455 the statue of St. Michael (shown as triumphant after slaying the Devil) was installed on the top of the Tower. This statue was only removed in 1996 to be replaced by a new one.
The original structure has undergone a number of restoration works. In 1695 after the French attack (by troops of De ville roy) the building suffered immense damage. It was immediately thereafter restored. By the early 19th century the structure required restoration due to wear and tear – mainly on the statues adorning the building. In the 1840s another restoration work entailed the beautification of the façade with over 200 little statues of the Dukes and Duchesses of Brabant from 6th century A.D. to the 16th century. The Duchy of Brabant consisted of the Flemish Brabant, Walloon Brabant, Antwerp, Brussels and the Dutch province of North Brabant during the Roman times. It has numerous sculptures on its sides. Ornate and beautiful, the tower has a overpowering presence in the square.
That was a little note on the history of the place. It is a great experience even today. The Grand Place is a obvious stop in Brussels for a tourist. The details of how to get around Brussels are given here.
The Expo’1958 was an important event for Belgium. Apart from the Expo itself , it gave the country an amazing structure – the Atomium. This underlying messages are those of progress, modernity, universalism and happiness.
To commemorate the 50th year of expo ‘58, a number of events and exhibitions are being organized at the Atomium between April 17th and October 19th 2008. To house some of these events, a temporary structure called the “Pavilion of happiness” is being set up. The idea is to represent the spirit of 1958 but with materials having relevance to 2008. It should also do justice to the existing atom shaped structure. Thus choice of building material is quite novel and would immediately pique one’s interest. The focus was on environmentally friendly and reusable material without any wastage. It is made of 43,000 beer crates (obviously Belgian). There are metal frameworks supporting the roof. The crates would function as building blocks.
Shown above is the exterior of the Pavilion of Happiness and below is the beautiful interior.
The exhibitions and film screenings would show the history of previous World fairs and stress what the Atomium symbolizes.
The noted attractions would be the exhibition dedicated to Lucien De Roeck along with the Star (called “the star of Lucien De Roeck), the symbol of Expo’58. The entire area from Blvd. du Centenaire, the Atomium Square and the Place Louis Steens would have panels representing the star of De Roeck and pictures from the Expo’58. The Walk along the Pavilions, fireworks, concerts, dances etc. are on the anvil. The ball is slated for the August 15th weekend. The films will focus on documentaries/short films and some ‘50s American and French films among others. The Pavilion of temporary happiness will be open from April 18th to October 19th daily. It would be open from 10 A.M. to 7 P.M. with the ticket counter closing at 6 P.M. On Thursdays it will be open from 10 A.M. to 10 P.M. with the counter closing at 9 P.M.