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June 2011

10 there to here


Brussels identities from A to Z Miles, Kike and Jaroslaw have been living in Brussels for many years now. All three agree that the city is one of Europe’s gay capitals. But first and foremost, they are passionate Brusseleers who love their new home, for myriad reasons.

United States Miles Madison, teacher, from San Francisco: “My partner and I moved over here when Bush was re-elected President – we didn’t want to live in that kind of a country any more. And apparently, our country didn’t want us anymore either, as gay marriage was voted down. I know it’s good form to complain about Brussels, but hey – compare it to other cities in the world and you’ll soon see how good the quality of life is here. In Paris, you can’t get a seat for the symphony orchestra without having to murder at least one granny; in Brussels you can still get a ticket on

Miles, at the place to be for gay, straight and everything in between: Bar Fontainas (91 Rue du Marché au Charbon): “A cool and happening bar with the most beautiful, hidden terrace of all Brussels!”

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the day. For the New York MOMA, you have to reserve months in advance and you pay more than 25 dollars. Here, I’ve already visited the fantastic Tuymans exhibition at Bozar twice and for free on Thursday evening. Same with the Ancienne Belgique, recently rated as the best concert hall in Europe. OK, Brussels is perhaps less varied than some of the bigger cities, but people always go to the same five bars anyway, and what’s more, so many international people come to Brussels that the scene always renews itself. People should take more pride in their city and should feel lucky to live here. Of course I know it’s not very Belgian to be proud, and I actually like that mentality. The only thing I’d really want to change is the idiotic habit in almost all bars and restaurants of not wanting to serve tap water. The uptight linguistic situation gets on my nerves as well – I find it only logical to learn both the country’s languages when you live here. Another annoyance: the cycling policy. In Flanders you have gorgeous cycling routes, and then you reach the Flemish-Brussels border and there is no path to be found. Last but not least, I would abolish the nineteen communes – just get one city government that works!”

Kike with Rocco at Bar Fontainas. Take a look at his impressions of Brussels: http:// kikemu.tumblr. com

In praise of: Park Pierre Paulus in SaintGilles, where it’s nice to sit in the sun. Very different to the Parc de Bruxelles atmosphere – too busy for me. Café Floreo (19 Rue des Riches Claires): A beautiful corner bar in the city centre, but a bit hidden away so that it’s mostly quiet here. With wifi and a good selection of beers. Berlin atmosphere: cool, but not too cool. Molenbeek (metro stop Comte de Flandre): Ideal to go shopping when you love to cook southern food, like I do. People are nice there – of course it can happen that adolescent boys shout ‘pédé’ at me, but that’s what adolescent boys do everywhere in the world – nothing to do with being Arab or Islamic.” MILES

Bois de la Cambre: A green lung in the middle of town. I often take Rocco for a walk there. Café Le Coq (14 Rue Antoine Dansaert): Great meeting point, for hip youngsters and older Brusseleers as well.

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Jaroslaw, near the Charlemagne building where he works. “Not the most relaxing neighbourhood …”

Café Central (14 Rue Borgval, near St-Géry): Classy café with good music and dancing. And even here you can find those little old men who blend in with the interior and who nod to everyone coming in. KIKE

Le Pré Salé (20 Rue de Flandre): A typically Belgian restaurant where people come to chat, and have dinner. Right by, there’s Fornostar (65 Quai au Bois à Brûler), a good Italian restaurant with fine design. I also sometimes have something small in De Markten (5 Rue du Vieux Marché aux Grains). If this place were in Paris, it would be much too aware of itself, but as it is in Brussels, it’s just zero nonsense. Au Laboureur (108 Rue de Flandre), a 100 percent authentic Brussels blue collar bar with a wonderful owner, Thérèse. Here you get an idea of the real Brussels before the city became international – she speaks the real Brussels dialect, a mix of Dutch and French. Christophe Coppens (23 Place du Nouveau Marché aux Grains): Fantastic scarves, hats, gloves and so on! JAROSLAW

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Venezuela Kike Muñoz, graphic designer and IT-er, from Venezuela: “With my dog Rocco I have been all over town. Brussels is not exactly what you might call a sightseeing city, but it is photogenic. This struck me when I first arrived here ten years ago, though I must say that the city has since changed a lot. I used to get only commiserating looks when I said I lived in the centre, now people say “great!” My favourite area is the Marolles, with its mix of people, its typical Brussels market on Sundays, the Brussels vernacular which you can still hear there. I’m interested in the history of the city, and like to talk about it with old Brusseleers. You can still find them in the Marolles. Brussels is the only city where I’ve never felt like a tourist, perhaps because everyone is from somewhere else. Brussels has a fantastic amount to offer in terms of culture. Even if, on a global scale, Brussels is really very small, you still have a big city feel here and I like that. Now just change a few small things and Brussels could become a truly great city. For instance, the people’s mentality – they should learn to keep their city clean. Especially in the summer, I miss Maracay, the city in Venezuela where I come from. Because when it’s warm in Brussels – where do you go? No sea here. But then I find the village feeling that you get in the summer wonderful. It makes me feel at home. You can see great Belgian musicians

such as Tom Barman sitting out on the terrace of the Plattesteen, or Arno in the Archiduc or on the terrace of De Markten. Everyone knows who they are, but nobody bothers them. Just act normally and let people be, that is Brussels.”

Warsaw Jaroslaw Krol, interpreter at the European Commission, from Warsaw, Poland: “I first came to Brussels in 1994, for work. Brussels at that time was not yet the pleasant city it is now turning into. The neighbourhood where I live, the Marché aux Porcs, was completely decrepit and desolate. When I bought my apartment here, European colleagues considered me mad for choosing to live in the Bronx of Brussels. But I shuddered at the thought of moving into one of these sterile neighbourhoods in Uccle or Woluwe, where many Europeans settle. This just to show that even when I sometimes join my colleagues in complaining about Brussels (which Poles love to do, I can assure you) I am basically optimistic about the evolution of the city. Even the safety is OK – here at night, women walk the streets alone, which in Warsaw would not be a very good idea. From Woluwe to Koekelberg, you meet all sorts of people, skylines and cultures in Brussels. The nightlife, and certainly the gay nightlife, is very vibrant. In some respects Brussels is too slow – the administration and service in restaurants, for instance. But that’s what’s great about it as well: the relaxed atmosphere and nice people.” 

Interview and photos by Veerle Devos

18/05/2011 10:56:01

Brussels identities from A to Z: USA, Venezuela, Warsaw  

Miles, Kike and Jaroslaw have been living inBrussels for many years now. All three agreethat the city is one of Europe’s gay capitals. But f...

Brussels identities from A to Z: USA, Venezuela, Warsaw  

Miles, Kike and Jaroslaw have been living inBrussels for many years now. All three agreethat the city is one of Europe’s gay capitals. But f...