Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Follow me down...!

Aesthetically there is nothing much in this photo. With the exception of this 'guitar-type' instrument in the middle of the photo, one can safely say that there is nothing particular or interesting in the picture... or maybe not?

Allow me to take you momentarily on a short trip to the capital of Belgium and the 'heart of Europe', yet away from the clichés, no European Union no Atomium here: welcome to Brussels! It is Sunday morning, roughly 9 AM and we are sometime in early June: don't be surprised, it is central Europe here, coats are useful all year long.

We are walking along the Madeleine/Magdalena street, a few meters/feet past the Church that gives its name to this central, car-free, street of Brussels. Everything in Brussels is written in french and flemish, although much to the dismay of the wealthier and more populous flemish community and despite the independant status of the city, on parle français à Bruxelles. This is the first, perhaps the most fundamental, division or coexistence (depending on your perspective) that you will find in Brussels. But it is far from being the only one.

You may not see them in this picture, but delegates from the European Union member states are indeed a vibrant component of Brussels. And so are the immigrants from Turkey, the Middle East and elsewhere. It so happens that the couple presented in the photo is a Belgian (based on the age). It could have very well been veiled girls or Italian administrators working for the Commission. The two musicians themselves may be Russians for the matter; the traditional balalaika certainly hails from somewhere around or past the Moscow region…

And if you think that just because we are in Brussels that everyone is rich or possesses a summer house in Oostend overlooking the Atlantic, you are, sadly, wrong. Many people barely make the ends in this otherwise rich city, the façade of which may at times conceal reality to the oblivious tourist, who dazzled by the Royal Residence or the beautiful gardens and the lavish haute-couture stores may fail to put things into perspective…

But we are sidetracking here and I apologize. Let us focus back in the photo. For one thing, you can tell this photo is taken in Brussels, or at least safely bet your money, because the store on the far right of the photo bears the inscription ‘Gaufre de Bruxelles’, gaufre being the traditional dessert of Belgium (Waffle in English, βάφλα στα ελληνικά, gofre en español). Still, the Restaurant next door boasts a nice neon-type inscription and a good selection of fine Greek wines; fortunately, 'Domaine Hatzimihali' the wines from Nemea region (‘Vins Nemea’) of the Peloponnese are not exclusively reserved to Greeks of Greece. Alternatively, if you are Greek, you make take pride in the fact that exports are still alive and contributing to the GDP. (Let us not look at the ‘how much’ question though.)

Just so as we do not forget that we live in a globalized world, or in the event that a non-speaker of English or French gets hold of the photo, there is a familiar sign to reassure him and us all, something that makes us realize that the photo in question is from a place that bears a resemblance to our very own hometown: there is ‘KODAK’! Would a modern picture of a modern capital be ‘complete’ without it?

Interestingly so, and because life makes circles, technology and the electronic evolution may dictate the death of ‘KODAK’ and other such stores and in a few years. If ‘KODAK’ is no longer there maybe a ‘Mc Donalds’ will be. Hopefully something that fits Brussels, something that has a touch of culture, something that will not stand out but will make an effort, at least, to blend in well. A task that is not necessarily easy, even in a multicultural place like Brussels.

Our photo-trip has ended. The picture may not appear interesting at first sight, but as Chinese say, it is nonetheless equivalent to a 1,000 words or maybe a handful less.

Thank you for being here. You may unfasten your belts now!


M. Atitar de la Fuente said...

As you know, I like Bruxelles - in french look like more sophisticated. Thanks for this trip! You are a great pilot ;-)

Elpidia García said...

Without your excellent prose, the photo by itself would not have been as rich and interesting.

Best regards.

Anastasia said...

moeh and elpidia thank you very for your kind comments!

Pixie said...

What you wrote is so vivid and so touching!

Anonymous said...

Very original! felt like being in Brussels after all those years..
Was nice following you down ;)

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