Eagle and serpent

explorations and philosophy: in the world, of the world

Month: February, 2009

Brussels, open air toilet

Trying to overcome one’s prejudices can be disappointing. A gave Brussels a second chance, as some eight years since my last visit already passed. At the moment of departure, St. Pancras International was beautiful, modern and well-functioning. Capital to capital high speed train is something worth trying… Au revoir!

The smell of urine welcomed me already at Brussels Midi. Still something was missing… Oh yes, cigarette smoke! There it was again, genuine Belgium experience. Getting out of the metro to the chilling, damp air, I tried to find my way to the hostel. No nameplates of the streets, every fifth (or so) stone missing from the pavement, every other corner filled with stinking heaps of rubbish, every other with stinking, aggressive idlers… Ah, beautiful.

And the funniest part was yet to come. I was going to see Mental Finland, Kristian Smeds’ new production. Walking past ‘hey, handsomes’ and ‘pss pss, smoke misters’ to the theatre, I was already prepared for the coming super-relativist dose of culture. Or so I thought.

Well, you can read the reviews if you’re interested in the play itself. It takes a tough stomach to digest boundaries crossing art. Beauty and ugliness is hard to combine and still keep it credible. But, it’s really about stomach, since some cowards couldn’t take it and went out before full time!

Anyway, Brussels is the place to see this kind of theatre. The contrast between sh*t+blood and sh*t+blood isn’t too great. In the evening, when consuming one out of two good Belgian things (beer), it suddenly appeared to me! The place is a combination of French untidiness and German kitsch! Music is Schlager and chanson together, interiors are plastic, neon lights and cigarette smoke combined and drink is beer as strong as wine… You name it! Lacking the good sides of either, French el├ęgance and German Organisation, Brussels is the worst of both worlds!

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The most developed developing country

Cheers Henri for this definition. Last night it finally started to unfold to me as well. Until now, I’ve been mostly positively surprised of the level of infra etc. – at least here in London.

Last night, after a false fire alarm (and having spent a good half an hour in the fresh snow) I started to think of this morning. And, oh yes.

By now you all probably know that the place has ceased to function. As in Germany, where ‘Stau’ means not a ‘traffic jam’, but the ‘total stoppage of everything’, 20 centimetres of snow here means: ‘complete chaos’. Millions are literally isolated in their oh-so-aesthetically-appealing sub-urban homes, unable to commute anywhere.

I even took my camera along to the office, as I thought there might be something worth shooting. No. Slushy, almost empty Kingsway is nothing appealing.