The Splendor of Brussels

Brussels is Belgium’s largest urban area at the same time its capital with 1.2 million for its population. Since the close of World War II, Brussels has been a major center for international politics, home of international organizations, and a place for diplomats and civil servants.

Modernization in Structures

Brussels was modernized after the war; the construction of the North–South connection completed in 1952 is a link to the main railway station. The first line of the Brussels Metro was operational in 1976.

Since the early 1960s, Brussels had become the de facto capital of what would be the European Union with many modern structures constructed.  Development however, was allowed to progress without giving much regard to the aesthetics of newer buildings and their harmony with the surroundings therefore many architectural gems were demolished to give way to newer buildings that often clashed with the environment, a process better known as Brusselization.

People and Culture

From the last Belgian census in 1991, 63.7% of the inhabitants in Brussels-Capital Region answered they were Belgian citizens. However, there were numerous individual or familial migrations to Brussels at the end of the 18th century and onwards, with Karl Marx, Victor Hugo,Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Léon Daudet to name a few and those from neighboring or more distanced countries. Included in the list werelabor migrants, foreign students, and expatriates. Other immigrants are from non-Western countries, many of them of Turkish and Moroccan ancestry, as well as French-speaking black Africans from Rwanda, Burundi, andDR Congo.

Roads and Streets

In medieval times, Brussels stood at the intersection of routes running north-south and east-west. The ancient design of streets radiating from the Grote Markt/Grand Place still remains, but has been replaced by boulevards constructedon the railway connection between the North and South Stations, over the city walls, and over the River Senne.

Brussels like any capital city is full of national roads and the principal routes are the N1 to Breda, N2 toMaastricht, N3 to Aachen, N4 to Luxembourg N5 to Rheims, N6  to Maubeuge, N8 to Koksijde and N9 to Ostend. Usually these routes run on highways called chausses or steenwegen in a straight line, but at times lose themselves in some of the narrow shopping streets.

Grand Place and Flower Carpet

The Grand Placeis the central square of Brussels. It is surrounded by guildhalls, the city’s Town Hall, and the Bread house. This Bread houseis currently known as the Maison du roi or King’s House in French, and theBroodhuis or Bread house, after the market whose place it took. Wealthy merchants and the increasingly powerful guilds of Brussels built houses around the square. This square is the most memorable land mark and important tourist destination in Brussels. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that measures 68 by 110 meters.

The first flower carpet was created in 1971 on the Grand Place by the landscape architect, E. Stautemans, who got his inspiration from other carpets developed in diverse Flemish cities. The Brussels Flower carpet on the Grand-Place gives it its peculiarity.

The carpet is of 77 m X 24 m in area and is made in several stages. It is planned one year ahead. The number of flowers and the combinations of colors are determined based on the subject whose reproduction is being elaborated. The carpet then has to be made by about 120 volunteers who install near a million begonias at the rate of 300 by m3 within 4 hours.

Photo by williamsdb on Flickr

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