Manneken Pis and Belgian Dilapidation

Architecture and Cafes

We continued to walk around Brussels for the afternoon, photographing architecture, drinking specialty coffee, enjoying Belgians. We found our way to the famous ‘Manneken Pis‘ statue (not far from Grand Place), who was dressed in his best footie attire.

Mannekin Pis Footie Fan

I remember expecting it to be a much larger statue the first time I visited – in actuality it’s about two feet high and stuffed into a strange little corner of Brussels.

There are a few stories about the legend behind the ‘little man pee’, including one I was told by a local on my first tour – while the city was under siege, a little boy witnessed foreign forces loading up explosives to take down the fortress walls. To foil their planning, he pee’d all over the ignited fuse and saved the city.

Mannekin Pis

Perhaps more ‘folk-lore’ than fact but much celebrated and revered regardless.

…And the little guy has a great wardrobe! There is a museum dedicated to his clothing, which has been made for him since he was cast in the 1600’s.

Shadowing the Congress Column

We accidentally happened upon the ‘Congress Column‘, an obviously unappreciated monument – bound by crumbling edifices, abandoned and graffitied.

Built to commemorate the creation of the Belgian state in 1830/31, there are five unknown soldiers from the First World War buried at its base below an ‘eternal flame’. At the top stands Leopold 1.

Lions of the Congress Column

The buildings adjacent to the column had long since been abandoned. Clearing/levelling/re-building work appeared to already be underway. Perhaps the area will have some new life breathed into it before long.

On our way driving out of Brussels, we came across the neglected but gorgeous St. Mary’s Church with its beautiful Byzantine design and copper dome, decorated with stars. It is used primarily for concerts now, with an interior that has seen better days.

View of St. Mary

In a repeat experience I have ‘enjoyed’ every time I have tried to leave Brussels, we get lost. The city is terribly hard to navigate OUT of.

With roads that stop and do not offer you a direction to turn to, construction that renders GPS or map-reading useless, deep and plentiful potholes, terrible traffic, impatient and sometimes reckless drivers, (we nearly had an accident because someone sped in front of us at an intersection to cut us off by turning left when we were already signalling to turn right), and a serious lack of multilingual signs (or any signs at all really), Brussels is an absolute nightmare to get out of.

It took four long hours on my first visit, and this time around was three and a half. A minor victory. But very, very frustrating and a HUGE waste of time.

On to our next destination, Ghent!

Many additional photos in the slideshow.

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You can follow this trip by heading to the ‘8 Country EU Tour‘ section, and you can enjoy many more photos of Belgium by heading to the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.


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