Most toilets in bars and cinemas are maintained by a woman affectionately known as Madame Pipi. She is normally found seated at a small table decorated with a vase of plastic flowers, reading a celebrity magazine. She expects to be paid about 50 cents. The tips she receives are her only source of income.
You see them everywhere. And if you don’t see them, you hear them. Over the past few decades, Brussels has been invaded by green parakeets. It started in 1974 when the owner of a local zoo released about 50 birds into the wild because, he said, Brussels needed more colour. Now there are an estimated 8,000 colourful birds nesting in the trees on Place Guy d’Arezzo and in several city parks.
MUSIC IN THE BRUSSELS METRO
Some years ago, the people who run the Brussels metro decided to stop playing muzak all day. They developed a playlist with songs to match the time of day. The music is cheerful in the morning, becoming more edgy around 4pm when schools come out and ending with classical music after 9pm in a bid to stop kids loitering on the platforms.
Avenue de Stalingrad
Gare du Midi Quarter
The artist Emilio Lopez Menchero constructed a giant steel megaphone near the main railway station in 2006 as a monument to migrants. He was inspired by the Spanish rebel Dolores Ibárruri GÓmez (who appeared in a film scripted by Ernest Hemmingway making passionate speeches from a megaphone on the back of a truck.
KING ALBERT’S JACKET
Place des Palais 7
+32 (0)2 545 08 09
The BELvue museum has a strange collection of relics relating to the Belgian royal family, but the oddest item is a corduroy jacket in a glass case with a torn sleeve. This was the jacket King Albert I was wearing when he fell in mysterious circumstances while climbing a cliff in the Ardennes.