Posts Tagged ‘Brussels’

Graffiti Town – Part I

June 27th, 2010

This here is the first of a two-part series on graffiti and wall art in Brussels, as promised a while back.

Most of the pictures below were taken on or in the side streets around Rue Haute and Rue Blaes.

More coming soon!

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Flight of the Pigeons

June 19th, 2010

I was wandering down a street at one point, when I noticed a large flock of pigeons flying overhead. They were circling and swooping in tight arcs, round and round. Someone was pigeon flying! Naturally, I paused to watch and snap a few pictures.

The art of pigeon flying remains quite popular in the Arab world. I’ve often see flocks of pigeons circling over the rooftops in Cairo, Beirut and Amman, for instance. But the shot above wasn’t taken anywhere in the Arab world. Can you guess where?

Brussels, Belgium. Yep.

Some say the use of pigeons to carry messages can be traced back to the ancient Persians (some 2800 years ago). The ancient Romans also used messenger pigeons in their military campaigns over 2000 years ago (for example, Julius Caesar was reputed to have used them in his conquest of Gaul). Use of pigeons to carry messages outside of a military setting – in a postal system – goes back to the late 10th Century at least in the Arab world, where it was developed under Fatimid rule.

The use of homing pigeons by the French during the siege of Paris in 1870-1871 gave new breath to their use in the military in Europe who used them extensively during World War I and again in World War II. You can find out more about war pigeons here.

There’s a memorial to those messenger pigeon trainers who fell in service to Belgium during World War I at one end of the garden at the far side of the Quai au Briques. Here’s a shot of it below.

All this may be interesting but it doesn’t explain why someone was flying pigeons in Brussels.

Turns out that the (modern) sport of pigeon racing was developed and gained immense popularity in Belgium in the middle of the 19th Century. The sport has since spread all over the world, though it seems to be suffering from a lack of interest by the general public. You can find out more about pigeon racing here.

More coming soon!

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Wall Art & Comics

June 13th, 2010

Early this year I took a trip to Brussels to visit a friend.

I’d visited Brussels only once before for a day. And that as a small child. The one enduring impression I had of the city then was the sheer amount of graffiti all over the place.

After my visit this time, I can certainly confirm that wall art is certainly big over there.

I hope to share with you a short a series on graffiti and wall art in Brussels soon. Meanwhile, this here is a picture of the very first thing I saw upon exiting the Brussels Midi train station following my arrival:

The image, which took up the entirety of the wall of a tall building, is a spectacular reference to all manner of comic books characters prominent in popular culture in Europe and which were created by Belgian artists.

You can see characters from and references to: The Smurfs, Tintin, Leonard,  Blake & Mortimer, Thorgal, Spirou, and many many more. Belgium has a long and illustrious history producing some of the best in comics and has been a major influencer in the development of comics in Europe. If you’d like to know more, see here and here.

More coming soon!

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Dinosaurs!

June 3rd, 2010

I’m back from the pilgrimage! And I seem to finally have access to both my laptop and the internet on a semi-regular basis.

What can I tell you about the pilgrimage? No words can describe it really. Suffice it to say it’s probably the best single thing I’ve ever done in my life. Quite the eye-opener on a lot of levels. I’ll share more on that later.

For now, I’m sorting through the pictures I took on the way. Stay tuned for more updates on that soon.

Meanwhile, here’s a little something for the little kid in all of you.

A while back I had the opportunity to visit the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels. I’d been wanting to visit the place for ages now for one reason: Iguanodons! You’re probably going “What’s he on about?”

The story of Iguanodons is the one which first got me interested in dinosaurs as a kid.

Iguanodons were first discovered in 1822 and were one of the three types first used to define dinosaurs (They were also one of the dinosaur types which inspired Godzilla!). The story of the Iguanodon has had scientists of repute at each others’ throats for decades. After the idea that dinosaurs existed was finally accepted by the scientific community, then came the fighting over what Iguanodons looked like. Their reconstructions went through several stages. First they were described as massive quadrupedal reptiles with a rhinoceros-style horn on their snouts. Then came a second representation which lasted for over a century: a bipedal animal with spikes for thumbs which used its tail to prop itself up. Finally, as of the 1960s, this last gave way to the current interpretation: a versatile reptile able to shift from all fours to two at will. Trust me, all very interesting to a 6 or 8 year old when condensed into 10-minutes in a documentary.

In 1879, 29 skeletons were found in a coal mine in Bernissart in Belgium at a depth of some 322 meters. These skeletons were painstakingly excavated and put together (incorrectly) by Louis Dollo. Nine of these skeletons can now be seen at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. They can’t take them apart and put the bones together as they currently believe they should be as the skeletons are now too fragile to disassemble and reassemble.

Anyway, enough talk. If you want to know more about the Iguanodon, you can start here.

Here is a shot of Dollo’s Iguanodons, standing to attention. Below that is one of an Iguanodon assembled as currently accepted by the scientific community.

Below is another childhood favourite, Dimetrodon. It’s not a dinosaur, but a pelicosaur. Dimetrodon was an apex predator which lived between 280-265 million years ago. Dinosaurs showed up about 230 million years ago.

I leave you with a shot of a beast which needs no introduction: the T-Rex.

Do make time to visit the museum if you have the time when you’re next in Brussels. They have the largest dinosaur gallery in Europe and (if dinos aren’t your thing) have loads more besides.

More coming soon!

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The Road

April 18th, 2010

Some time ago I decided to do Saint James’ Way, also known as Le Chemin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle, Il Camino de Santiago, etc…

I decided to follow the Camino Frances – as in, that part of the Way that starts in France (at the foot of the Pyrenees to end in Santiago. It’s an 800 km trek on foot.

By the time you read this, I’ll have started it some days back and likely well on my way, somewhere down the road.

That means that I won’t be posting anything new for a little while as I’m not taking my laptop with me. But I do intend to come back with a few good pictures (and stories) to share with you.

Until then, I’ll leave you with this picture, which I made in Brussels.

This age-old symbol of the sun, a menhir, was offered by the Xunta de Galicia to the city of Brussels and dedicated to the Anonymous Pilgrim. It was erected at the site of the city’s traditional assembly and departure point for pilgrims embarking on the Way of Saint James.

I propped up my flash on my backpack – which I set on the floor some distance from the menhir to camera left. I then exposed for the sky and snapped away.

Catch you soon!

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The Train Ride

April 12th, 2010

At one point I was on the train to Brussels from Paris. The young man seated across from me wrapped up his jacket to use as a makeshift pillow, leaned against the window and promptly fell asleep. The image of both him and his mirror double propping up the window between their foreheads as the beautiful French countryside zipped by was too much. I had to make the picture.

More pictures coming soon!

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