I do not like my life in Brussels. I really did give it a good try though - for more than fourteen years now. But living in Brussels and Belgium is still very hard for me... I have expressed the reasons of my deep despondency in so many posts now that most of you won’t be surprised by my opening statement.
There are a few places in Belgium I do like though... If you mention a trip to Bruges (Brugge), I will be delighted. And if we decide to go and spend the day in Antwerp (Antwerpen), I’ll be overjoyed. The amazing thing is that both cities are in Flanders and I have met natives of Brussels and Wallonia who have never set foot in Flanders. Never once in their life. Belgium is a very strange country indeed, Brussels being 28 miles away from Antwerp.
I’ll have to write a post about Bruges one of these days because it is such an enchanting medieval town. “The Venice of the North.” (One of them.)
Antwerp is quite different. Almost aggressively well-to-do compared to Brussels. It is the second largest port in Europe and it is renowned for its diamond trade. Antwerp is the capital of the Antwerpen province but not the capital of Flanders. May I remind you that Brussels is the capital of Flanders, strange as it may seem?
I like to go shopping in Antwerp even if you have to speak English all the time there since people refuse to speak French, even shopkeepers. But I don’t mind. Belgium is such a very strange country, you know.
I am pretty sure that within a few years, we’ll need papers to cross the border since Flanders wants to secede from Belgium more than ever now. Or maybe we will be Flemish, Brussels being the capital of Flanders. Or hopefully, we’ll be back in France. No problem then!
There is a place in Antwerp I really like. We’ve been there over and over again.
It is called The Middelheim Museum.
Oh, another artsy thing... I can hear you loud and clear! But this one is different.
The Middelheim is a thirty hectares park. A huge landscaped garden with clusters of tall trees and thickets. A small brook adds to its charm. And then there are delightful paths to walk around. And hundreds of sculptures to discover too! Some belonging to the Middelheim permanent collections. Others being there for a special exhibit.
|Some paths being totally dream-works of art...|
|Some sculptures are hiding among the trees!|
|'Belgian Funhouse' by Dan Graham|
|'Orbino' by Luc Leleu|
From time to time, the Middelheim houses contemporary art exhibits. Some of the works will stay there permanently since the museum buys at least five sculptures per year adding contemporary art to modern art and more classical works.
It is quite surprising to go from Rodin to Henry Moore, Gargallo, Calder and more recently Al Weiwei and Dan Graham and Erwin Wurm. So many works and so many artists.
|'King and Queen' by Henry Moore|
|'Balzac' by Auguste Rodin|
|'The Bridge without a Name' by Al Weiwei|
|A Weiwei sculpture that you can actually walk on to cross the brook...|
|'Misconceivable' by Erwin Wurm|
It is one thing to go to a museum and a completely different experience to take a walk through the Middelheim Museum. We have been there at different times of the year, mostly winter and spring. It is much quieter then.
I love some sculptures more than others but after a while, they all become so familiar and they merge so well with the landscape that I don’t even bother to think: “Here is ‘the’ Gargallo.” I just enjoy walking by the “Prophet” and this is true for all the sculptures there.
|The Prophet by Pablo Gargallo|
Some sculptures are quite funny. And children love them. Which is a good way to learn to love art, don't you think?
In the Middelheim, there is no artsy intellectualization. Art does not 'drive you crazy' because it blends in with life and nature. And a few hours in the Middelheim become an exciting adventure.
Good for your body because of the long walk and great for your mind because it never hurts to meet with genius once in a while.
*Good Luck, and Good Night*