Despite having no real complaints with the hotel I am currently ensconced in, it is not sustainable to live in it indefinitely. Not without selling off my internal organs anyway. With that in mind, I spent my first Friday in Brussels shooting off as many emails as possible to adverts on Appartager.be and Immoweb.be.
It being a Friday, when most sensible Europeans were out watching the UEFA Euro 2012 qualifiers (Belgium lost 1-0 to Germany, while Scotland and Lithuania drew with no goals), I didn’t get any immediate replies, although I was put in touch with two previous interns who offered me some advice and pointed me in the direction of some sites which I hadn’t seen before.
Hopefully, I can once again put the flat-hunting saga behind me in the near future, because quite frankly I’m rubbish at it. When I lived in Glasgow, I stayed in the same Maryhill flat for nearly five years, while my current flat in Edinburgh belongs to a friend. My pervious flat-hunting extravaganza saw me spend 9 months living in an unloved Bruntisfield student dump, with no carpets, no working hot water and bizarrely high electricity bills. So, yes, I’m not really good at this sort of thing.
Having exhausted the flat-hunting probabilities for the evening, I went out for a walk. Avoiding the Grand Place after the previous night’s excesses, I headed south towards the gigantic Palace of Justice. As I got closer, I realised there was music coming from the steps of the Palace and massive crowds of people standing around chatting and drinking around the base of the building. Slightly further along Quarte Brasstraat was a bar with and outside disco, although the larger party at the Palace of Justice seemed to have robbed it of much of it’s custom.
After this, I headed north up Avenue de la Toison d’Or, doing a bit of window shopping as I massed the designer boutiques which line this rather up-market boulevard. Close to the Trone metro station, I came across more Brussels natives enjoying their Friday night. While drink was as much in evidence as it had been at the Palace of Justice, these young people were busy playing Cycle Polo on the plaza in-front of a large bank.
Seeing the people of Brussels at play really made me think about how people in Scotland would react if we did the same things as the Belgians do for entertainment on a Friday night. I’m sure getting permission to have a public a bar outside West Registry House, in Parliament Square, outside GoMA or on the steps of Glasgow City Chambers would require a hell of a lot of hoop-jumping and more security men then you could shake a stick at. In comparison, what ever was going on at the Place of Justice had no visible security and fences which could be easily jumped over.
Cycle Polo, on the other hand, seems like the ideal game for the Edinburgh student masses. Bristo Square or even the Meadows would provide a perfect place to play, and I suspect with the number of bikes and hipsters in the city, it would be enthusiastically adopted. A Glasgow equivalent could maybe be played in the car park of the Gilbert Scott Building.
But this is humorous aside really. What I want to know is why, in the largest city in Belgium, people are able to consume large quantities of alcohol, without the same drink-related violence and other problems which plague Scotland. The police and security presence on the streets of Brussels is minimal compared to that in Edinburgh and Glasgow, with little evidence of any public problems. That is not to say that Belgium has no such problems, but they certainly don’t seem to be as commonplace as they are in Scottish cities. Certainly a matter which I’d like to investigate more before I leave Belgium.
NB: Due to photos taken outside the Palace of Justice at night not coming out well, I’ve included a picture I took today of the Palace in daylight.