The picture above shows the reclining statue of Everard 't Serclaes, an honored citizen of Brussels from the late Middle Ages. (Rubbing the statue is supposed to bring good luck which accounts for my hand on the statue.)
A few meters from the main square is the world famous Manneken Pis and i was surprised to find that the statue is smaller than it looks from the standard photos.
Among the Brussels (and Belgium)-related facts i learned from Anna and her husband are:
- Belgium is the most heavily wooded among the Western European states, with 40 percent of the area covered by trees.
- Thirty percent of Brussel's population is made up of expats working for (and with) the European Union.
- Belgium as a State came into existence in the early 19th century as a neutral buffer state between the French and the Germans. History shows that, unlike in the case of the Swiss, this arrangement has not worked in their favor.
- Throughout its existence, much of Brussels has been periodically flattened by war (the latest being World War II) which accounts for the relatively young age of its structures as compared with the rest of Europe.
- A lot of the older structures have nevertheless been torn down to make way for the EU offices in a manner that would make our Manila mayors happy.
- Near the center of Brussels, you can find a statue of Spanish literary characters Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, which may not be all that suprising considering that the area was once under the Spanish Crown. Anna also believes that these characters reflect the disposition of the Belgian people.
- The Members of the European Parliament keep their papers in boxes ready for shipping to and from Strasbourg in France, which is the other place where they hold sessions. This less than optimal arrangement is a concession to EU politics.
I'm glad to have had the chance to finally meet Anna in person after two years of exchanges in the Blogosphere.