fivemack (fivemack) wrote,

Delights of Brussels

They have a Museum of Musical Instruments, which fills four large floors with a vast collection of instruments ancient and modern - the giraffe and pyramid pianos, ancestors of the upright obtained by bending a long grand piano upwards behind the keyboard. The seven-headed trumpet, so that you could play Western music on valveless trumpets simply by picking the appropriate trumpet for each key. A collection of strange mutations of the violin, including one which is symmetrical at the bottom and lopsided at the top.

They have a Royal Palace, the tour of which proceeds through half a dozen rooms where there is nothing but white paint, cast trinkets thrice-gilded with fine gold, and crystal chandeliers, before suddenly turning into an exhibition of satellite photos and, in a room with the ceiling covered in the shells of 1.4 million Thai common iridescent green beetles, the hands-on section of a standard science museum.

They have the offices of the European Commission, which make Potsdamerplatz in Berlin look positively refined; huge building after huge building, with the local office of the Scientologists wedged in oddly opposite the department of agriculture. A fifteen-storey sign on the sign of the Barleymont welcomes Slovakia pre-emptively to the currency union, a hexadecalingual sign opposite welcomes France to the presidency of the EU.

There is a tasteful and subtle monument to Fifty Years Of Belgium, built in 1880 about the time that Franz Josef was laying out Vienna, and in similar style - sweeping wings up to a Brandenburg-Gate-style gate.

There is the Museum of Central Africa, which has a fantastic collection of African wildlife (stuffed), a couple of rooms of a didactic style no more used (whole cases of 'Common parasites of the elephant', 'Useful starch-bearing plants of the tropics' or 'Remarkable African spiders'), and some very poorly explained ethnology accompanied by apologetic notes; this is in an enormous palace, whose grounds are now used for bike-riding and carp-fishing.

Bruges tomorrow, I think.
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