Published: May 17th 2006May 7th 2006
This statue is doing what he looks like he is doing! I got too close and got "peed on!"
Brussels seems to be a city of contrasts. It is the centre of the European Union--a case of good news and challenges. The city has only 1,000,000 people, but 3,000,000 work there. That means all these people use the infrastructure, but don't contribute to taxes. They call the buildings that occupy most of the city "Euroland" and they occupy 2,000,000 square metres of office space. In the next ten years that is expected to grow by another 1,000,000 square metres. Each member country is entitled to the same number of staff and they keep adding countries. The good news for the residents is that Brussels has more restaurants than any other city in Europe because of all the expense accounts.
Nobody will put money into buildings that are close to Euroland--good chance that they will be torn down for more office space. The other problem is that they need more and more office space so more and more apartment buildings are made into offices. As a result, they have a critical housing shortage. Euroland was built with private investment, mostly from banks.
The Dental School is an Art Deco buidling built by George Eastman of Kodak fame. Why would he build a dental school? People take pictures of their kids. They take more pictures if their kids have nice teeth. If they take more pictures, then he sells more film. Older people in Brussels remember being herded to the Dental School as children for free dental work done by the dental students.
In contrast to these amazing buildings comes "manneke pisen." This goes back to 1614 in the leather district. They used urine to soften leather and paid people one cent for a bucket of the stuff. On the wagon they used to collect the urine they put a statue of a little boy peeing. Some of the matrons at the time were distressed at the sight, so they put clothes on him with an opening at the front so that he could still, well, pee. Manneke pisen is now a symbol of the city. I caught one of their "ceremonies" on Saturday. The had an unveiling of still another costume. He has over 600 in total made by his own tailor. They say that his Elvis costume is the best. When the makers of Viagara sponsored an unveiling, the pee went straight up and with twice the pressure. On special occassions he pees wine or beer and everybody gets a free drink. Some things are just plain weird.
Bye for now,