Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Brussels mourns

It is with great sadness that I see my Twitter feed filling up with news of the Brussels explosions. 

Belgium is a country that we know well, having lived there on two occasions for over eight years. My son was born there, and until fairly recently it was the country that our kids knew the best. Here are a few pictures from my most recent trip in May 2015 as I share some of my thoughts and memories.

Brussels - Euro Statue

All three of our children attended the local French speaking schools. They all started at Maternelle, like their fellow classmates when they were two and half years old. 'That's young' I hear you say. Which is true, but with three kids under five, I was not complaining. This early crack at education has given them a life-long linguistic advantage and some beautiful cursive writing...

Well, whilst they might be linguistically gifted, it is only compared with their parents. It is certainly not compared with the other students. You see in Belgium there are three official national languages: French, Flemish and German. We used to say the next generation of illiterates in Belgium will be those who are monolingual.

These different languages and cultures also brought their differences of opinions. We often heard the comment that Belgium could be the next Yugoslavia. Happily during our time, this never happened. 

We loved the melting pot of cultures from all around the world.

Living in Belgium was an exciting time of our family life, we have fond memories of this tiny country sandwiched in between France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. 

We would wake-up and decide which country to visit for lunch.

Looking out over Brussels rooftops
It was challenging living away from all family and friends, but we soon found ourselves a popular place to visit. Once the Channel Tunnel crossing had opened we could be in the UK and nearly home easily in three hours. Driving the car to England gave us plenty of opportunities to stock up on our favourite British foods at Sainsbury's returning with a boot full of our favourite cereals and treats that we missed back home in Belgium.

Our Belgian life combined the excitement of Europe, 
with the ease of access back home.

Brussels streets reflected in the modern buildings

Mind you it worked both ways, we loved the new foods we found on the Continent. The street markets were amazing and the speciality shops such as the boulangerie's with croissants like we'd never tasted, pain au chocolates, gateaux and waffles a real treat. 

You never got a bad meal in Belgium, Les Belges like their food!

Wandering around Europe's capital was always fascinating. You can move from the most modern area, like the roads around the European Parliament, to ancient cobbled streets in a heartbeat.   

I loved the differing architecture and the history of the place. 

Sometimes we felt like we were in a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale - well, he was Danish, but I'm sure you get what I mean.

I loved the differing architecture and, of course, geraniums in the window boxes

Whilst we had the excitement of living in the centre of Europe and the kids mixing with the children of the movers and shakers of Europe, there was a darker side to Brussels living.
There was always the threat of being a target. At the school entrance, even in the mid-nineties, our cars were inspected for bombs before we were allowed in to drop the kids off. This was also the time of Marc Dutroux, the Belgium serial killer and paedophile. 

When I think of my time living in Belgium, I was more on guard than my life in Australia.

We lived in the times where open borders offered opportunities for high-end car thefts, stolen on demand allegedly for the Eastern European markets. Car and home jackings were real, our company car was fitted with an anti-hijack device. Happily we were never woken by a criminal demanding the car keys with a gun at their heads, but had we been, the car would drive but after 5kms, it would slow to a halt. 

The advantages of being at the centre of Europe, 
was always its potential biggest disadvantage.

Today's breaking news is sad and horrific. I can picture the airport and the Metro stations and our hearts go out to all those caught up in this terrible tragedy. We share your pain.

With love to all our friends in Belgium.

Linking with Our World Tuesday
Thank you to all the hosts

Post a Comment