Brussels was a city filled with duplicity, balancing the sleek silver buildings of the European Parliament with the Medieval centre that oozed opulence and decadence. It seemed fitting that the EU should find its home in this metropolis, as it perfectly balanced the traditional past and the advancing future that has come to symbolise the continent of Europe.
After exploring the cobbled streets of the Old Town, the greatest surprise is unveiled. The Grand Place, standing in the centre of Brussels, is a hidden gem that blossoms right before your very eyes. Surrounded by quaint churches and a patchwork of traditional buildings, this Medieval centre unfurls itself in a mix of majesty and gold-adorned wonder.
There is no site quite like it in the world – a plaza completed surrounded by some of Europe’s oldest and most beautiful buildings. It truly is a wonderful sight.
Once the explorations had been done and a copious amount of Belgian waffles had entered my stomach, a commotion erupted from The Grand Place, and I headed back to see what was happening. The Ommegang of Brussels was occurring, and it was a spectacle to behold.
The Ommegang is a yearly festival held in the city that honours the coming of Charles V to Brussels back in 1549, and is a tradition that spans hundreds of years. Actors in wonderfully realistic Medieval costumes reenact the arriving processions, whilst crowds watch on at lute players, flag dancing and fire tricks. Jesters tell jokes as knights do battle. The Grand Place was filled with noise, laughter and ounces of fun.
Soon, the festivities poured out onto the streets of Brussels as a procession marched through the crowd-lined avenues and roads. Princesses passed by in horse-drawn carriages. Religious figures marched whilst reading ancient Latin parables. Warriors rode their majestic stallions as wizards appeared to cast their spells. There were giant plaster figures that covered stilted performers, and all around as a jovial, fun atmosphere.
Celebrations culminated in what became a huge street party, filled with wine and beer. It was so very European, yet uniquely Belgian. The festival was something I had not expected to witness in the de facto capital of Europe, but I am glad that I did.