I still don´t really know what to think of Brussels. Duval Guillaume is still great and I´m there most of the time anyway. But when I step outside of the walls of my agency there´s a world of opposites. Brussels has both positive and negative sides.
To start with a negative side: everywhere in the city you hear sirens. Day and night. I thought I might get used to the sound, but it still drives me crazy. Whether it's the police, ambulance or the firemen, everybody abuses its right to turn on the siren. They seem to use it as a claxon for anything that gets in their way. Even if there's a fly in front of the window they turn on their howling megaphones. You hear so much sirens, one might think Brussels is a complete warzone.
Luckily there's not so much criminality as the sirens make you believe. That's probably an advantage of Brussels. I haven't had any trouble with people yet. On the other hand, a lot seems to be demolished. I mean, I'm used to be in Amsterdam, which is not the safest city in the world. But the destruction I've seen in two weeks Brussels is about the same as you see in Amsterdam in two months. A telephone booth is smashed, the glass of a bus shelter is smashed, there's a burst in the window of Duval. So far pretty normal stuff, now comes the bizarre stuff. I wanted to get money, but the cash machine has been demolished. Another thing: I heard that a car crashed into the upper half of a traffic light (how did he do that? Flying?) and broke the pole in half. And last week I saw that the escalator of a subway station was destroyed. It seems that somebody actually drove with his car into the subway station(!).
The buildings here are really dirty. But there's also a part of Brussels where it's beautiful and where they take good care of the buildings. It's the most touristic place of Brussels and it's a really beautiful place. I would recommend everybody to see it once. In fact, it's the only place in Brussels I would recommend. There are small, cozy streets with a lot of restaurants and warm lights on the side. And on the 'Grand Place' (or: the big square) there are two magnificent buildings full of statues. Whatever could escape the eye of the tourist seems to be totally neglected. There are even buildings that are clean at the front, but when you walk around it you see that the sides are totally dirty.
The strangest thing here is the languages. In Brussels they speak two languages: French and Dutch. So everything you see, from street signs to the wrapping of a chewing gum package, is in two languages. The problem is that you never know who speaks French and who speaks Dutch. Sometimes I order a beer in French, after which I clearly hear that the barman speaks Dutch. And whenever I start talking Dutch I most of the time get bewildered looks, so I know I have to try to speak French again. And some French-talking Belgians have problems with the Dutch-talking Belgians. So when you're not good in French, they think you're Flemish and they're offended.
It's not that I dislike Brussels. It's just that I don't understand Brussels. This city is strange. But that's funny in a way. Maybe I have a different opinion about it in a couple of weeks. Maybe I even learn to enjoy the sirens.