Brussels notes

by on June 27, 2016 at 10:29 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

I strongly recommend a visit, as the different currents of contemporary Europe swirl together here like nowhere else.  You can see high culture, high taxes, dysfunctional governance, bickering linguistic groups, EU bureaucrats, tourists, Art Nouveau, Turks and Moroccans, and cops carrying submachine guns, all within minutes of each other.  It is cheaper than most other major European cities, and has excellent architecture, art, and food, including ethnic food and some of the continent’s best African food (try Resto Bar Tam-Tam).

Unlike in Paris, the immigrant neighborhoods are often no more than a ten or fifteen minute walk from the major non-immigrant neighborhoods.  That is the geographic feature which gives Brussels its special feel.  Here are my notes on Molenbeek, a short stroll from city center.

The area near the European Commission reminds me of the part of Washington with the World Bank and IMF.  Hard to believe, I know.

I don’t find the chocolate here better than in say France, but Brussels does show that chocolate competition lowers prices.

Here is Ian Buruma on Brussels.

1 ramagopal June 27, 2016 at 11:00 am

I understand there is a museum in the city devoted to the cartoon character Tintin!

2 cheesetrader June 27, 2016 at 12:00 pm

The national arms museum in Parc Cinquantenaire is most excellent

Personally, I liked their parks quite a bit – especially Petit Sablon which was filled with statues of tradesmen. Plus, people can freely drink beer in the parks which is cool

The Gote Markt/old town area is nicely touristy

Overall liked Brussels quite a bit – very much worth a visit – just don’t drive

3 prior_test2 June 27, 2016 at 11:04 am

Wait, not a mention of how some brave Flemish want to throw off the yoke of Brussels?

4 dearieme June 27, 2016 at 11:05 am

I trust you had a beer in The King of Spain?

Is it still decorated with lots of puppets being hanged, as a tribute, I presume, to the enlightened rule of those Kings in times past?

5 blades June 27, 2016 at 11:10 am

Can’t believe no mention of Belgian beer, their greatest contribution to civilization!

6 prior_test2 June 27, 2016 at 11:19 am

Or the pommes frites – which you would think would be right up Prof. Cowen’s street food alley, so to speak.

7 cliff arroyo June 27, 2016 at 1:46 pm

For a globetrotting foodie slash globalization shill humble pommes frites cannot compete with la cuisine africaine authentique!

8 Sam Haysom June 27, 2016 at 6:51 pm

Cowen among the nightingales. the funny thing about Cowen if TS Eliot had depicted a character matching Cowen’s social climbing unpolished manners and personality Christiopher Ricks would have used it as evidence of eliots alleged antisemitism.

9 ladderff June 27, 2016 at 11:39 am

Sounds like a dystopian shithole. Shill on, though.

10 prior_test2 June 27, 2016 at 11:43 am

All of the EU is – please don’t visit it, that way your opinion of its dystopian nature can remain utterly undisturbed.

11 ladderff June 27, 2016 at 11:56 am

Get a job.

12 prior_test2 June 27, 2016 at 12:51 pm

No, in the dystopian EU, I get 6 weeks paid vacation.

Like I said, don’t visit, so you can keep your opinions unchanged.

13 Jeff R. June 27, 2016 at 1:26 pm

You spend your vacation time trolling the MR comments threads?

14 prior_trest2 June 27, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Nope – instead of getting up at 5:30am, I got out of bed and turned the PC on around 8:30am. After commenting for a good while (between coffee, breakfast, cleaning up, showering, etc), I spent three hours swimming/shopping, along with a couple of hours doing housework/gardening, plus admittedly a good amount of commenting today.

But Brexit is a fascinating topic, especially when one realizes that it really isn’t considered all that big of a deal in Germany. The British have voted to leave, and the Germans are more than willing to see them leave – in typically German matter of fact fashion, actually.

It is the English language press, along with many commenters here, that seems to be treating this as the most significant event imaginable.

It is fascinating, of course – who would have thought that Gibraltar would be in talks with Scotland concerning how to remain in EU, for example? – ‘Gibraltar is in talks with Scotland about a plan to keep parts of the UK in the EU, BBC Newsnight has learned.

Fabian Picardo, the territory’s chief minister, told the BBC he was speaking to Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, about various options.

One possibility under discussion is for Gibraltar and Scotland, which both voted to remain in the EU, to maintain the UK’s membership of the bloc.

Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that talks are under way with Gibraltar.

Northern Ireland could also potentially be included in the discussions.

“I can imagine a situation where some parts of what is today the member state United Kingdom are stripped out and others remain,” Mr Picardo told Newsnight.

“That means that we don’t have to apply again for access, we simply remain with the access we have today, and those parts that leave are then given a different sort of access, which is negotiated but not necessarily under Article 50,” he said, referring to a provision in the Lisbon Treaty that sets out how a member state can voluntarily leave the Union.

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed to BBC Scotland that talks are underway with Gibraltar on the matter.’

15 Jeff R. June 27, 2016 at 2:38 pm

TL;DR, yes, but I’m pretending no.

16 dearieme June 27, 2016 at 2:54 pm

Good Lord, you mean we’ve found a way to get rid of Northern Ireland? Pure gain. Pity about Scotland, but there you go. Except that she won’t go, of course.

17 Art Deco June 27, 2016 at 3:42 pm

I’m sure the Spaniards will find Nicola Sturgeon’s bath toy navy most intimidating.

18 prior_test2 June 27, 2016 at 12:54 pm

You are probably American, right?

One of the more striking memories I have of travelling in Northern California in the late 1980s, taking three weeks off from working at GMU, was having someone yell out of a beat up pickup window that I needed to get a job, seemingly unaware that some people with jobs actually enjoy free time.

People who obviously prefer EU dystopia to American style paradise.

19 Art Deco June 27, 2016 at 3:42 pm

You were fired for cause. Deal with it.

20 jk June 27, 2016 at 3:40 pm

Non-passport holder I presume?

21 Dave Donaldson June 27, 2016 at 11:42 am

If the EU could, they would force tax cuts and gut public spending.

22 BigEd June 27, 2016 at 12:30 pm

So the EU is run by faceless dysfunctional bureaucrats? Maybe you preferred a world or, at least, a continent-wide war every 20 – 40 years??

23 DJF June 27, 2016 at 1:40 pm

NATO has done far more to stop wars in Europe then the EU.

24 prior_test2 June 27, 2016 at 1:52 pm

Not to mention fighting a couple, of course.

25 dan1111 June 28, 2016 at 5:52 am

So which wars in Europe did NATO start?

26 Lukas G. June 27, 2016 at 12:38 pm

“Turks and Moroccans, and cops carrying submachine guns, all within minutes of each other.”

They are so lucky. What would Brussels have been like, if it weren’t for the “progressives” and their great visions.

27 Cooper June 27, 2016 at 4:20 pm

If Brussels is the future of the EU, its’s no wonder the English voted to leave.

28 Albert June 27, 2016 at 6:27 pm

“Turks and Moroccans, and cops carrying submachine guns, all within minutes of each other.”

Of course in the rootless cosmopolitan mind one has nothing to do with the other….

29 dsgntd_plyr June 28, 2016 at 2:54 pm


HAHAHA! i noticed that too! the joys of vibrant diversity i guess.

30 A B June 27, 2016 at 12:58 pm

Nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to be ruled there.

31 Hoosier June 27, 2016 at 2:11 pm

Was in Brussels in 1999 and found very little interesting. The art museum is great if you’re a fan of Rubens. The architecture outside the grande place was noyhng special. I don’t get the allure. Can’t recall a single building or any image or street of note (again, outside the grande place). Brussels was the only big European city that reminded me of an urban environment in the states. I remember walking past a concrete overpass with graffiti on it and thinking it was the first time in a year I saw something that reminded me of Detroit.

In 1999 it was no cheaper than Paris either.

I did a tour of a local family owned brewery that was neat. Very nice people.

Overall, for a tourist Brussels had nothing on Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Amsterdam or Paris.

32 Ali Choudhury June 27, 2016 at 2:31 pm

I quite liked Brussels and thought it had more variety and things to see than Amsterdam or Madrid which don’t offer much besides the art museums (Rijksmuseum, Thyssen, Prado).

Ghent and the Zurenborg neighbourhood of Antwerp are real highlights of Belgium, Bruges is OK but too overrun by tourists.

I’m surprised Dresden isn’t mentioned more as a tourist destination, definitely one of the prettiest cities I have been to. I’d put it up there as the best of the second tier along with Edinburgh and Prague.

33 Peter Akuleyev June 27, 2016 at 5:30 pm

Dresden? The historic center is fake, just a reconstruction, and the East German plattenbau downtown are horrible. I found the city sad and disfigured almost beyond recognition, not sure why people want to convince themselves it has risen from the ashes.

34 Sam Haysom June 27, 2016 at 6:54 pm

Leuven is to my mind better than Ghent but both are very nice.

35 dearieme June 27, 2016 at 2:55 pm

“I’d put it up there as the best of the second tier along with Edinburgh and Prague.” That good? Thanks for the tip.

36 LR June 27, 2016 at 4:20 pm

Brussels, where beta burghers meet kabob shops…

37 Sam Haysom June 27, 2016 at 6:57 pm

How big is this 2nd tier. Because I lived in Brussels for four years and I have to say basically ever other city I visited with the exceptions of Lyon and The Hauge were better.

38 Hoosier June 27, 2016 at 6:59 pm

Why? As I mentioned, it didn’t stand out as a particularly great place when I visited, but would like to hear your reasons.

39 Sam Haysom June 27, 2016 at 7:13 pm

All the interesting architecture is largely confined to the Grand Place. It’s not a great walking city because it’s very residential and commercial. There are about three interesting “boulevards” and they are all separated quite a bit from each other. The Sabloon is best at there are a few distinctive neighbors like the Sabloon that occasionally crop up, but compared to Paris or London or Amsterdam they are few and far between. The churches are some of the least impressive in Europe.

40 Sam Hayson June 27, 2016 at 7:19 pm

“Sabloon is nice and there are a few distinctive neighbors like the Sabloon that occasionally crop up”

41 Steve Sailer June 27, 2016 at 8:51 pm

The countryside outside of Brussels past Waterloo is very pleasant. Beautiful forests, some romantic ruins, enough hills to add interest to the numerous golf courses, and, of course, there’s the most famous battlefield in history.

42 Sam Haysom June 27, 2016 at 10:34 pm

It’s pretty developed now Steve not too many ruins left.

43 Steve Sailer June 28, 2016 at 7:01 am
44 Barkley Rosser June 28, 2016 at 8:43 pm

The Euro City part of Brussels is considerably more ponderous than the part of DC around the IMF and World Bank HQs, although indeed somewhat similar. The buildings are larger, and there are more Eurocrats there than people working in those places in DC, although I suppose if you throw in those from the Fed and all those Mass Ave think tanks they get closer.

Visited the European parliament just a few hours after they had the most contentious meeting ever held there with people seriously insulting each other over Brexit. It is weird to hear speakers defending the EU. I will grant that indeed it has done a lot of good, but it is also true that there is just too much of its bureaucracy. Hearing how one set of minor regulations was reduced from 25,000 pages to a mere 500 was almost hilarious. There are a lot of good intentions, but it has become muddledly overblown as to have made quite a mess of itself.

Something unfortunate about Brexit that is becoming clear to me after watching the debates in the parliament on Euro News this evening is the uncertainty induced by the long nature of the process, which the Brits seem to want to drag out (and some are forecasting it will in fact never in the end occur) is going to be damaging to a lot of economies involved for not much good reason. But indeed this tangled pile of rules and regulations are such that it probably will take more than two years to undo it all for benefits that are from obviously a big improvement.

45 Barkley Rosser June 28, 2016 at 9:20 pm

Oh yeah, one weird thing I learned at the European Commission is that they are now calling Taiwan “Chinese Taipei.” Oog.

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