Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung brings a story about Brussels, a long read full of very interesting observations about our city. Authors note that Brussels is much more than the EU capital and a “hellhole” as the US President Trump called it. It is colorful, charming, creative and fascinating: provincial-small-city and cosmopolitan like no other metropolis.
Authors of the story talked with different Brussels personalities such as Geert van Istendael, a former television journalist and a writer. Article brings several really interesting points:
Brussels is confusingly diverse, a mosaic of microcosms. It starts with the fact that the city is actually just one of 19 municipalities that make up the Brussels-Capital Region. Each of these parishes is as small as a Parisian arrondissement and has its own character, from down-town Anderlecht, with its terraced housing estates in the west, to the middle-class Woluwe-Saint-Pierre in the east; from the villa-lined Uccle in the south to the Stadtbrüsseler Park of Laeken in the north, where the king resides in the castle.
For outsiders, it is fascinating, even for Geert van Istendael. First of all, there is the official bilingualism: everything is Dutch and French, the announcements in the metro, the street signs, and at public authorities can citizens choose the language – even if in practice Dutch-speaking officials are rare. Where else is this? Okay, in Biel and Freiburg. But in a city or metropolitan area with 1.2 million inhabitants?
Brussels as the “Brooklyn of Paris” and the “New Berlin”
Tim Wouters, co-owner of the Swiss-Belgian gallery Waldburger Wouters, shared his obssrvations in the article, noting that: “Brussels has the hardware of a provincial town, but the software of a cosmopolitan city.” This has led renowned galleries from London or Paris to open branches here. New off-spaces are also emerging, profiting from real estate prices that are lower than abroad. The city remains affordable for artists. Especially since art in Brussels is not only produced, but also bought, by traditional Flemish collector families or well-paid EU officials. This boom has earned Brussels nicknames such as “Brooklyn of Paris” or “New Berlin”.
Authors also touched the typical image of Brussels as the “EU capital” and the epicentre of the so-called “EU-bubble”:
It is a pretty pointe that Brussels is often perceived as the capital of the EU only when you realize the size of the European quarter: one square kilometer, half the size of Zurich’s old town. In fifteen minutes you have walked from the Commission to the Parliament, past crushing Modernist office buildings, for which Brussels once had demolished beautiful 19th-century townhouses.
The article is written in German and you can read it on the website of Neue Zürcher Zeitung