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MARCH 9-22 2012 ISSUE 13 €4.95

HAVE WE DONE IT? The European Women’s Lobby on the fight for equality

Spa: wellness in a bottle from Belgium’s ancient source


Everything you need to know as a new expat mum


To outer space, and back in time for tea


Bl!ndman goes electric

9 771373 178016




M ARCH 9 - 22 2012

Celebrating 50 years

Safety first

Driving skills have surely improved since the days when anyone could buy a licence. And yet accident statistics in Belgium are appalling


The cover story for the September 23, 1977 issue of The Bulletin showed a street full of cars in Brussels behind the chilling headline ‘Licence to Kill?’ It may sound like an anti-Belgian canard, but until 1968 anyone could get a driving licence just by asking, no tests required. Finally, as the accident rate rose to become one of the worst in Europe, a new law made a theory test on the rules of the road compulsory. As an afterthought, a second law made a practical test compulsory (that is, actually proving you could drive).


Today, the rules governing driving are certainly much stricter and far better enforced. But the number of accidents is still far too high. There are some 70,000 crashes big and small every year in Belgium, which includes 154 deaths per million inhabitants. In the Netherlands, the ratio is 49 per million, meaning our roads are three times as lethal as Dutch ones. Seatbelts and airbags are not enough: we need steadier hands on the steering wheel. By Cleveland Moffett


Contents p44 The European Space Center

p14 Cécile Gréboval


p32 Tram Experience


p61 Apocrifu


Politics & Business

Lifestyle & Community

Culture & Events

9 News In Brief

27 Lifestyle In Brief

52 Focus – Bl!ndman The new music ensemble premiere Cube, the final work in their Kwadratur trilogy

Cover story


32 Food – Love at First Bite Food blogger Anniek Chiau shares some of her foodie favourites

International Women’s Day puts the spotlight on women’s issues for one day, but the EWL works hard to make sure it stays there

34 Focus – She’s having a baby All you need to know about pre- and postnatal care as a new expat mum

14 Focus – European Women’s

18 Know-how Thinking of getting a divorce in Belgium? Read this first 22 The Brand – Spadel Belgium’s famous water brand is a modern icon with ancient roots 26 Your Money Savings in times of financial crisis

39 Digital Our top technology tips 40 Up My Street Tervuren 43 Behind the Scenes Cinema Nova 44 Travel European Space Center 47 Community

56 Focus – Per Kirkeby A look at the life and work of art’s Great Dane, Per Kirkeby 60 14 Days The Bulletin’s cultural highlights for the fortnight ahead – in Brussels and beyond 68 Film Reviews and recommendations for not-to-be-missed cinema 70 Property 76 Classifieds 80 Jobs 82 Capital Life British-Ethiopian-Eritrean writer Sulaiman Addonia opens up his diary for The Bulletin

Editeur Responsable /Verantwoordelijke uitgever: John Stuyck, A. Gossetlaan 30, 1702 Groot-Bijgaarden. Opinions expressed in The Bulletin are those of the authors alone. For reasons of space, street names in Brussels are given only in their French version.


M ARCH 9 - 22 2012


Politics & Business

All in the name DEXIA BECOMES BELFIUS Dexia Bank Belgium has rebranded itself Belfius in a bid to distance itself from two humiliating government rescues in three years. The rebranding will cost an estimated €35 million. Dexia Bank Belgium groups the Belgian activities of the Dexia group, which remains a Franco-German holding. The bank’s new management decided to change both name and logo because of the toxic associations the name Dexia conjures up, due most recently to last November’s €4 billion bailout. The name itself embraces three factors: the ‘Bel’ stands for Belgium, ‘fi’ for finance and ‘us’, deliberately in English, for the community. The bank also announced a net loss in 2011 of €1.37 billion, compared with profits of €678 million a year earlier. Dexia Holding, which is what remains of the Dexia group after Dexia Bank Belgium was nationalised and some French and Luxembourg activities were sold, made an €11.6 billion loss last year. (Pictured, Belfius CEO Jos Clijsters, left, and chairman of the board Alfred Bouckaert at the press conference to launch the new name on March 1)




Scientists discover ‘obesity gene’ A gene considered crucial for determining obesity has been discovered by scientists at Antwerp University’s Centre for Medical Genetics and Antwerp University Hospital. The gene determines to which extent lipids are stored in the body and the researchers hope to find a way to eliminate the ill-effects of a malfunctioning gene in obese patients. BUDGET


Di Rupo struggling to find cuts

Civil service shrinks

Elio Di Rupo’s government is still debating where the axe should fall on its budget, which needs to be trimmed by €2 billion this year to meet an EU deficit threshold. A panel has recommended savings of €1.5 billion and a buffer of €500 million to pull the budget deficit under its 2.8 percent target. The task is complicated by falling growth forecasts: Belgium’s 2012 budget was drafted on the assumption the country’s economy would expand by 0.8 percent this year. However, the Belgian central bank last month forecast an economic contraction in 2012 of 0.1 percent, a figure confirmed by the European Commission, which says Belgium’s late implementation of austerity measures will add to the banking crisis and tight credit conditions.

The number of full-time federal officials has fallen by 3 percent in the past two years to 72,026, according to new statistics. With government cost-cutting measures, the trend is set to increase further in 2012 and 2013, and the four-year shrinkage will total 10 percent.


“Ice-Watch is a very Darwinian company” Jean-Pierre Lutgen’s riposte as his company loses its latest legal battle against Lego. The Belgian watch maker will now have to change its packaging, which resembles a block of the children’s toy

In Numbers

Number of Belgians who changed their name in 2011



Atomium architect Polak dies Jean Polak, the co-architect of the Atomium, has died aged 91. He designed the Atomium as a representation of an iron crystal for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, with his brother André and André Waterkeyn.

Business KBC sells Polish subsidiary KBC is to sell its Polish subsidiary Kredyt Bank to Spain’s Banco Santander. The shareswap transaction values KBC’s interest in Kredyt Bank at €820 million, though KBC will keep 16.4 percent of its shares. The sale is part of a divestment deal imposed by the European Commission after KBC received financial guarantees from the Belgian state during the 2008 banking crisis.

Record housing loans issued Belgium’s banks issued a record €27 billion in housing loans last year, up 4.1 percent on 2010. Some 54 percent of those loans were used for renovations.

Solvay sells Pipelife Solvay has sold its 50 percent stake in plastic pipe manufacturer Pipelife to Wienerberger, its partner in the joint venture, for €225 million. Pipelife employs 2,600 people worldwide and had sales of more than $1 billion last year.

D’Ieteren predicts tough 2012 Belgium’s largest car distributor, D’Ieteren, has forecast a dismal 2012, with lower car sales expected after the end of tax incentives for eco-friendly vehicles. The company forecast that the Belgian car market would shrink by 13.5 percent due to the withdrawal of the incentive scheme at the end of last year. The scheme helped push D’Ieteren’s pre-tax profit up 8.4 percent to €297.4 million in 2011 as people went for ecofriendly cars.

New record for the number of retired Belgians living abroad (a 50 percent rise in 10 years)



M ARCH 9 - 22 2012



Unknown Brontë story discovered

One in five firms cheat on wages, say unions

A story by Charlotte Brontë has resurfaced after nearly a century. Called L’Ingratitude, the manuscript is the first piece of French homework Brontë completed for her tutor while she was living in Brussels in 1842. The seven-paragraph story, written in grammatically erratic French, has been published on the London Review of Books’ website. Brussels Brontë Group member Brian Bracken found it in the Musée Royal de Mariemont, near La Louvière, while researching a biography of Brontë’s tutor, Constantin Heger. L’Ingratitude describes the last day of a young rat’s life, as he sets off to travel, free of the constrictions of his father. Brontë moved in 1842 from her native England to Brussels, aged 25, with her sister Emily to study, with the plan to open a school of their own one day.


Cavendish wins Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne Britain’s Mark Cavendish overcame illness to sprint to victory in the 195km KuurneBrussels-Kuurne one-day race. Cavendish crossed the line after four hours 27 minutes and 30 seconds, ahead of the Belorussian Yauheni Hutarovich and the Dutch cyclist Kenny van Hummel. The win makes the Manxman the first British rider to win the one-day semi-classic race.

Number of prostitutes working in Brussels


Almost one in five businesses could be committing social fraud, according to unions, because they refuse to offer the minimum wage. Socialist union FGTB/ABVV says any firm that offers rates of less than €20 per hour must be suspect. Using figures from Belgium’s National Bank, the union said 18.7 percent of the 364,785 officially registered companies in 2010 fell into that category, mainly in the Brussels hotel sector. The union also gave as an example the 2,192 cleaning businesses, where 870 paid a rate of less than €20, even though the minimum gross wage is around €24.

On Belgium

Rising dragon… in Willebroek

The emerging superpower China is to fill a new business park not far from Antwerp. By Kristof Dams


ur newspapers and magazines should really dedicate a separate section to New Chinese Advances. A telling recent development is the Chinese takeover of the global art market. In 2011, Chinese buyers had a world market share in auction revenues of 41 percent according to specialist firm Artprice, an increase of eight percent compared to 2010, when they first held the number one position. The Belgian section of New Chinese Advances recently reported that later this month, some 100 Chinese companies will visit Belgium to look into its investment potential. We’re not talking simply about a preliminary visit; a deal has already been closed between China and Flanders. In the small municipality of Willebroek in the province of Antwerp, a major part of a 200,000m 2 trade complex currently under construction will be occupied Almost by Chinese firms. And both parties of the everyone seems ‘Flemish-Chinese Chamber of Commerce’ to agree that are confident that more deals will follow. the only thing Today, voices are being heard all over Europe saying that we should concentrate to do is to woo on re-industrialising the continent instead of the (economic) relying more and more on the Chinese yuan. powers-that-be But while the national(ist) reflex in Flanders is strong, it doesn’t go quite so far as to want to take control of its own economy, its own destiny – or even seeing this as feasible, as there’s no tradition of that here. The postwar economic boom in Flanders was almost entirely based on foreign investment by the US and Germany, in petrochemical industries and car-assembly. In France those proposing to reinstate national control over the economy, both on the right (Le Pen) and the left (Mélenchon), are expected to do well in the elections (though neither stands any chance of becoming president). In Flanders, almost everyone seems to agree that the only thing to do is to woo the (economic) powers-that-be; for example, with a tailor-made Flemish support service for the Chinese, offering assistance in market strategy and accountancy, called Dragon Rising. Isn’t it odd to celebrate the rise to supremacy of a foreign power in the name of a government programme? Those who have ever visited tranquil Willebroek will recognise that it’s a funny place for the dragon to rise. One might say the Flemish services for investment pulled a fast one on their Brussels counterparts. As the self-declared Capital of Europe, you Kristof Dams is should have a direct line to the Middle Kinga Ghent-based dom, rather than having to go via your tiny journalist and next-door neighbour. historian

Time to be shaved off the 35-minute Eurotunnel channel crossing this summer

5 minutes

Multiplication of average house price in Belgium since 1975




The Brand – Spadel

Liquid asset From deep below the Belgian soil, the natural mineral water of Spa has been quenching thirsts since Roman times by betina kiefer alonso


M ARCH 9 - 22 2012


Spa Reine on the production line at Spadel’s plant

t might have escaped the less observant among us, but Belgium really likes to drink water from a bottle. According to research by the European Federation of Bottled Water, the average Belgian drank about 121 litres of bottled water in 2010, making them the fourth biggest consumers in the EU. The Dutch and the English, in comparison, seem to find bottled water an unnecessary expense, and average a mere 22 and 24 litres per head respectively. While you could argue that most businesses draw something from their origins, Spa water’s ties to Belgian culture seem particularly salient. It’s a market leader in a country that eagerly drinks its offered product. The Spadel group, which manages the brand among others, is not only Belgian but is also one of the last independent, family-owned bottled water companies in Europe – 92 percent of its shares are owned by the Dubois family. “Belgians like bottled water because they have good water brands,” according to JeanBenoît Schrans, Spadel’s communications director. The wealth of natural, high-quality sources in Belgium means that, unlike in many other countries, bottled water here is not simply filtered tap water. “There is more added value to the product,” Schrans says. The source of Spa water, Spadel’s largest brand, is in western Wallonia. It flows

under a protected area of 13,177 hectares near the cities of Spa and Liège. Despite Spadel’s strong Belgian roots, the exploitation of the Spa source predates the Spa brand and even Belgium itself. It was first discovered by the Romans, who were seeking a water source to further their conquests. Legend has it that they named the region after the noise of the sparkling, bubbling water flowing under the soil.


alued for its allegedly healing properties, water from Spa began to be bottled and sold in 1583. The mineral water springs also attracted those seeking therapeutic baths, leading to ‘spa’ becoming a general term for facilities dedicated to thermalism. Water collected in Spa was commercialised by several companies until the early 20th century, when Spa Monopole secured the exclusive exploitation rights that it retains to this day. The Monopole was mostly bought up by the Dubois family in 1921 and has now grown into the larger European group Spadel, which also manages other brands. As a business, Spadel is exclusively interested in collecting and commercialising natural mineral water. For water to be recognised as such by the public health authorities in Belgium, it must meet various requirements: it can’t go through 



any chemical or microbiological treatments, point is similarly stressed by Schrans, who and there can be no human contact with the says, “We remain close to our consumer, product from source to bottle. The composi- and we are passionate about protecting our tion of the water must remain stable and be sources.” The source is in a protected area clearly outlined in the packaging. As far as of about 13,177 hectares, created in 1889 and Spadel is concerned, there is far more to this since expanded. While open to the public, clear liquid than meets the eye. “The specific the protected zone is strictly off limits to label ‘natural mineral water’ is awarded by industry and agriculture. the Ministry of Health and signifies that Whether bottled water can be truly the product meets more than 50 criteria,” sustainable when compared to tap water explains Ann Vandenhende, remains a contentious issue. director of corporate social IN THE KNOW Bottled water has been the responsibility. target of significant boycott 1912 Compagnie Fermière initiatives internationally, ince natural mineral des Eaux et des denounced as an unnecesBains de Spa is water is filtered by na- founded, retaining sary, wasteful alternative to ture, it is essentially a exclusive rights to tap water. Vandenhende conproduct of the Belgian Spa water siders the two to be distinct soil. The whole process, in the 1921 products. “The comparison case of Spa Reine – Spadel’s still Renamed Spa is not appropriate,” she says. Monopole water collected at Spa – takes “We are talking about two dif1980 place over a period of about International Group ferent products with two diffive years, from rain enter- Spadel is created to ferent legislative frameworks, ing the springs to the water manage Spa and but which are complementary.” other brands f inally being bottled. The Schrans shares her thinking. defining property of Reine is PRODUCTS “Tap water is perfectly good, but Spa, Brecon Carreg, its purity, as it contains very BRU and Wattwiller the consumer needs to be able to few minerals. The water was IN FIGURES choose.” The strict controls imnamed after Leopold II’s wife, 520 million litres of posed on natural mineral water Marie Henriette, who lived in water sold in 2010, are a useful tool for consumers a total turnover Spa. The name of Spa Marie with who want to know what they of €196.5 million Henriette, a lightly carbonated are drinking, he says. “There water, is also a homage to the is no technological solution yet Queen, and is the product of a to remove all the impurities that 50-year process that takes place up to 600 can be found in tap water.” metres under the Ardennes. Spa Barisart Spadel has put demonstrable effort into is a more intensely carbonated version of addressing the issue of waste produced by Spa Reine – the carbon is added at the Spa packaging. “The end of life of our products bottling facility – and the latest addition to has always been a key issue for Spadel,” the Spa product line is Spa Fruit: natural mineral water with a drop of fruit juice added. It’s particularly successful in the Netherlands. Because of Spadel’s exclusive focus on marketing natural mineral water, the involvement of the Spa brand with its source must necessarily go deeper than simply collecting the product. The task of bottling water obtained at the springs of Spa cannot be outsourced – not only for the obvious geographic reasons, but also due to legal restrictions that require natural mineral water to be bottled at its source. “Our jobs can’t be done elsewhere,” says Schrans. “Because it is a brand of natural mineral water, Spa must stay local.” Both Schrans and Vandenhende emphasise Spadel’s close relationship with the source of its product, in not only its exploitation but its preservation, too. “One of our pilJean-Benoît Schrans believes in lars at Spadel is ‘nature’s best, close to you’. keeping it local This relates to our protection of resources and biodiversity,” says Vandenhende. The


“Belgians like bottled water because they have good water brands. There is more added value to the product”


M ARCH 9 - 22 2012

An Addiction Problem?

says Vandenhende. The brand was a founding partner of private recycling initiative FostPlus, which collects and recycles about 75 percent of all PET (a kind of plastic) used in Belgium, and each bottle of Spa is made of about 50 percent recycled PET. The size A complete and highly personalised treatment programme, for of Spa Reine’s bottles has been reduced by all your misuse issues and addiction problems, based on the 50 percent since 1971, and the labels are Twelve Step Minnesota Model. printed with vegetable ink on recycled We offer you an inpatient solution into one of our private partner paper. Spadel also keeps a close eye on its clinics in and outside Europe. An outpatient treatment in Antwerp carbon footprint and energy expenditure, is also a possibility. Admission in all discretion within 24 hours, areas in which recycling can be a hazard. no waiting lists. “We have evaluated that it is more beneficial to recycle the bottles than to not recycle You can reach SolutionS 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. them,” Vandenhende says. “For example, If you would like to speak to somebody about SolutionS mental health and addiction services or accessing treatment, in 2010, we contributed to the reduction of you can do so in all confidence. Call us for an appointment 10,204 tonnes of carbon dioxide through or ask, without any obligations, for our extensive brochure. the recycling of our bottles.” But do those measures allow bottled waCheck with your insurance company for an eventual refund. ter to fully compensate for the added energy expenditure and carbon footprint of its packaging and recycling? Vandenhende does not overstate her case, but remains optimistic. “Are we there yet? Certainly not. We will continue to work on reducing our packagTel. +32 ( 0 ) 3 202 08 80 ing through diminishing the weight of our Venusstraat 12 - 14, B - 2000 Antwerpen bottles and doing research on sustainable plastic material,” she says. “For economic and ecological reasons, we also minimise transport,” adds Schrans, who believes in keeping it local. “I am always frustrated when AD Bulletin ENG 25_01.indd 1 26/01/12 they bring me foreign brands in Belgian restaurants. I think it is important to eat and consume locally. Belgians are not proud of what they have.”

SolutionS helps you, in all discretion!


hile Spa water remains its biggest brand, Spadel also markets BRU, another natural mineral water, in Belgium. BRU is said to be especially suited to complementing meals and wine, Schrans explains. “It contains exactly 20 milligrams each of calcium and magnesium, which is recognised by the most famous gastronomic and wine associations in Belgium to be the best balance to accompany and improve the taste of food.” Aside from its local Belgian portfolio, Spadel also owns a few brands abroad, such as the Welsh Brecon Carreg and the Alsatian Wattwiller. “We are an ambitious group,” admits Schrans. Even as the group expands, Spadel remains steadfastly attached to its business model: naturally treated water distributed to a limited market, closer to the water source. “We are simply not interested in another business model,” maintains Schrans. “We consider ourselves experts in protecting sources of natural mineral water.” 


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New faces, new plans, new taxes and what they mean for you

At home Elio Di Rupo

Master chef Tintin’s in town

with would-be prime minister


Brussels goes Design

PROPERTY 001_001_cover di rupo OK.indd 1

Tips on renting and buying-to-let

Django Reinhardt



Meet the vintners: Belgium’s wine scene uncoveredS

In conversation with the EU’s counter-terrorism czar

6/09/2011 12:29:03

001_001_cover new.indd 1


His new film launches right How to navigate The life and times here where he was born Brussels’ schools maze of swing maestro


tr avel

Our guide to the best short ski holidays

Marrying in Belgium

up my street 9 771373 178016 INTERVIEW


Ardennes adventures

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We meet football’s forgotten hero Jean-Marc Bosman

Fancy a spin? Pole dancing in Brussels

6/01/2012 13:37:35

14/10/2011 13:39:43


Highlights of the Danish EU Presidency

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Diary dates for 2012 DEPOT BRUXELLES X

Tasty tips from Goûter Bruxelles founder


DepoT BruXelles X

Neville Marriner at the Klara Festival

Peter Goossens, the man behind Belgium’s top restaurant



9/11, ten years on. Belgian victim’s parents remember


DepoT BruXelles X


9/12/2011 13:32:03

Published every two weeks, the new Bulletin is packed with exclusive interviews, expert analysis and your definitive guide to lifestyle and culture in Brussels and Belgium. From politics to culture, business to travel, food to fashion, if it’s happening and you need to know about it, you’ll find it in The Bulletin.

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Celebrating 50 years

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M ARCH 9 - 22 2012


Lifestyle & Community


WATCH AND LEARN Do you like to do new things? You know, fun, off-the-beatenpath things like learning how to DJ, making artisanal bread or even launching your own start-up? Well, may we direct you to Kicktable. Set up by three young Brussels-based entrepreneurs, Matthieu Vaxelaire, George Henry de Frahan and Diego d’Ursel, it uses the collaborative consumption model pioneered by companies like Airbnb to allow people to “share their passion by creating an experience and earning money from it”, according to Vaxelaire, who says: “We want to transform passionate people into micro-entrepreneurs.” Following the success of the Brussels launch in December, Kicktable London was rolled out in February, while Paris and New York are also on the cards for this year. Anyone can become a host – all you need is a passion and a handful of people who want to share it. Want to know more? Visit the website.



Up my Street

Down in Tervuren town Paul Arinaga loves to be outdoors, so with its park and little lake, Tervuren is the perfect place to call home by katrien lindemans photos by natalie hill


ervuren is about 15km from the centre of Brussels, but the distance isn’t a problem. Not only is the town connected to the capital by the elegant Avenue de Tervuren, it’s also linked by the 44 tram from Montgomery, which provides the most scenic tram journey in Brussels. Avenue de Tervuren was built in 1897 by King Leopold II for the Brussels International Exposition; he wanted to showcase his Congo Free State and used both Cinquantenaire Park and Tervuren as exhibition sites. A tram allowed you to travel from one end to the other, and that tram route remains Brussels’ most picturesque as it runs past Stoclet Palace in Woluwe, the many grand embassies along Avenue de Tervuren, the Tram Museum, the Forêt de Soignes and the Africa Museum, the tram’s final stop. From there, it’s only a short walk to Tervuren centre, where Paul Arinaga, a 49-year-old communication consultant, lives. “I was born in Hawaii and lived in Japan, London and Eindhoven before moving to Tervuren about nine years ago,” he says. “At the moment, we’re looking to move right into the town centre, to be within walking distance of restaurants, bars and the tram stop.” The commercial heart of Tervuren is around the Markt square. Nearby Brusselsesteenweg is home to a few of Paul’s favourite shops. “Treasure Trove (at number 7) is a delightful English bookstore for kids, but they happily order books for adults as well,” he says, while bicycle store Robeet (72) provides him with all his biking needs. “It’s not the cheapest bike shop around, but they have a good selection of rides and a great mechanic to fix your bike.” A few doors down is a shop that lets Paul unleash his culinary prowess. “For spices or Thai ingredients, I pop into the Chiang Mai supermarket (42), run by a very friendly Thai lady.” The Markt square hosts a food market on Fridays, but for fresh fruit and vegetables, Paul recommends Voedselteams ( “It’s a group of people buying produce from a local farmer, a great way to access quality products at a fair price and discover new things at the same time.”

For a bite to eat, Paul recommends the Italian Il Carretino (2 Peperstraat). “They make the second best pizzas I’ve ever had,” he laughs. “La Brace near Schuman still tops my list, though.” Of the many brasseries surrounding the church, Paul recommends Gambrinus (12 Markt). “They have a nice menu and a cosy interior, though the noise of the cars on the cobblestones outside sometimes makes it hard to keep conversation going.” To tackle this issue, Paul has joined Verkeersplatform Tervuren, an action group who’d like to see part of the centre made carfree: “More foot traffic would ensure a nicer atmosphere and would certainly help local businesses,” he says. “At the moment, we’re creating awareness in schools and plan to run a survey among the community.” On Sundays, Paul likes to venture out for a walk or a bike ride. “The park and the forest are nearby and are definitely a major selling point of the area.” From the church, walk under the Warande Gate to reach the park. The gate was built in 1897 to grant access to the Congolese Village in the park where 60 Africans lived through the period of the expo. You’ll notice the large pond with its restaurant, Bootjeshuis, and the old Panquin military barracks on the right. “If you like to exercise, there’s a trail through the park with all sorts of workouts. It takes me about an hour to finish all of them,” Paul says. “There are plenty of bike routes as well: one of my favourites is next to the Voer, a side stream of the River Dijle.”


visit to Tervuren wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Africa Museum (www. When it opened in 1897 it focused on the Congo, but now it tries to include the history and culture of the whole continent. It’s surrounded by a stunning garden that’s the perfect location for a walk or picnic in warmer weather. Paul also recommends a ride on one of the old trams. “They set off from the Tram Museum ( and take you to the terminus in Tervuren or all the way to Cinquantenaire Park.” 


Mainly small terraced houses in the centre; further out you’ll find detached houses with a garden. Renting a two-bedroom place starts at about €750; if you’d like to buy, prices start at €2,000 per square metre (Vlan Immo) PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Take tram 44 from Montgomery, or take a De Lijn bus (several buses travel between Brussels and Tervuren: see MEET THE NEIGHBOURS

With the many embassies and international schools around, you’ll hear a lot of English on the streets. Most inhabitants are Belgian, followed by a large number of Brits and people from the Netherlands, Germany and the US


M ARCH 9 - 22 2012



Paul says: “Everybody in the centre seems to know each other, which creates a very homely feel. I also love the open and green space of this area, which is perfect for biking – though you often need a car to get around.”



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Paul relaxes beside the lake at the end ofthe Africa Museum’s gardens

The best pizzas in Tervuren can be found here, according to Paul 2 Peperstraat







Bike shop that offers new models and a mechanic to fix your old one 72 Brusselsesteenweg

The museum and its gardens make an ideal family day out 13 Leuvensesteenweg




One of Brussels’ most picturesque routes terminates in Tervuren


More guides to Brussels on




M ARCH 9 - 22 2012


A space odyssey Hold on, it could be a bumpy ride: we take a trip to infinity and beyond by emma beddington


pace travel. It’s extraordinary the picturesque ‘book village’), looks like a when you think about it, isn’t it? homage to space triumphs past. Carcasses The very peak of human endeav- of rockets, capsules and satellites stand inour, striking out into the unknown, congruously next to a children’s playground pushing back the limits of our physical like so much obscure scrap metal: it’s hard and technical capabilities. Awe-inspiring to imagine the extraordinary places they stuff. The only awe my first taste of astro- came from and what they did. Inside, there’s naut training could inspire, however, is awe a full-sized replica of the American shuttle at my complete ineptitude. I am hanging, Amicitia, a flight simulator, and a diving like a sack of potatoes, from the ‘moonwalk tank for zero-gravity training (we didn’t test chair’, trussed up in a harness like the ones that, to my relief), but there are also cases you use to suspend fractious babies from with fragments of moon rock and obscure doorframes. pieces of equipment and the walls are lined Dominique, our endlessly with portraits of illustrious aspatient trainer for the weekend, ESSENTIAL INFO tronauts including Belgium’s is encouraging me to try and Mission Discovery magnificently moustachioed bounce. “You need to push off two-day astronaut Viscount Dirk Frimout. your feet, one at a time,” he says, training programme costs €138 per gesturing towards the other side person, including he Discovery weekof the windowless hangar. I all meals. Training ends – which run try to push off my feet but just takes place every approximately once month, in French end up rotating on the spot, and is suitable for a month, alternating legs dangling uselessly. Over ages nine and over with shorter programmes – are on the benches, I can hear my The next session is supposed, precisely, to capture on March 31 children’s delighted laughter. your imagination; to give you In the end Dominique has to drag me back an authentic taste of what being an astroto the start and free me from the harness. naut is really like. It’s a tricky exercise, I don’t think it’s time to give up the day job balancing educational and fun, but on the just yet. Sorry, Nasa. whole the weekend succeeds. My children My abortive moonwalk is part of a Mis- find the two lectures on the first day on the sion Discovery weekend at the European basics of shuttle launches quite heavy going Space Center, and I have already learnt that (at seven and nine, they’re slightly young astronaut training seems to be a process for the programme, really), but Dominique largely devoid of dignity. There is much, keeps their attention by stressing that we’ll much more to come. From the outside, the need to remember what we’ve learnt if our Center, in one of the prettiest spots in the simulated mission on day two is to have Ardennes (it’s just down the road from Redu, any chance of success. 


Family fun in zero gravity at the European Space Center



Mission Discovery weekends: a taste of life as an astronaut


oon, though, they get what they came for: a chance to test out the frankly terrifying simulators, and as a fringe bonus, to watch their mother look ridiculous. As well as the giant baby walker (which simulates the experience of trying to move in zero gravity), there’s a centrifugal seat that spins until your eyeballs jangle, a ‘gravity-free’ wall where you can practise repairing equipment while suspended in mid-air and, worst of all, the dreaded gyroscopic seat. You can opt for a gentle spin, with Dominique turning the various wheels to revolve you 365 degrees, or throw caution to the wind and take the motorised version, spinning around on several axes at once, at high speed. Obviously, I am forced to take the latter option: after 30 seconds of gut-churning fairground-ride unpleasantness, I have to beg for mercy. The children zip around everything cheerfully and without the slightest ill-effects: the parents grit their teeth and pray the evening meal comes with wine. With a maximum of 16 participants, the weekend is necessarily a sociable experience: all meals are taken as a group, and in the evening there’s a communal bowling trip to nearby Libramont. We quickly bond, as only people who have seen each other staggering and nauseous can. Each family gets its own room in the fairly rudimentary

dormitory block: for most of the year, the centre hosts school groups. The next morning our mission is to simulate a real shuttle launch, and each group member is assigned their own set of tasks and script. In the Control Room, seven-yearold Louis is the technical director, a task he executes with deadly gravity. Theo, nine, is more interested in seeing if he can sabotage our intrepid astronauts, seated behind us in the flight simulator, but since he’s in charge of weather reporting, his opportunities are thankfully limited. It’s great fun, but we also find ourselves taking it very seriously – a simultaneous failure of all four of our onboard computers (not Theo’s doing, I hope) causes wild panic, and Dominique has to step in and remind us about the back-up systems. The finale of the weekend is a rocketmaking task, where we build our own cardboard, wood and sticky-tape vessels, stuff them with highly flammable propellant and take them outside for launch. We stand back as Dominique presses the launch button and wait anxiously to see if our wonky orange vessel, the Electric Weasel, will take flight. Thankfully, it does, soaring up in the air with a satisfying ‘whoosh’ and vanishing high over the perimeter fence, into the Ardennes forest beyond. There it is: the magic of space travel, albeit on a tiny scale, and we’re absolutely thrilled. 




The European Space Center is at Junction 24 (Transinne, Libin) off the E411 from Brussels to Luxembourg. On exiting the motorway, turn right on to the N40, then right again after approximately 200m at the ‘European Space Center’ sign. Direct trains run from Brussels Midi to nearby Libramont in just over two hours European Space Center Devant Les Hêtres 6890 Transinne www. Tel

M ARCH 9 - 22 2012



Culture & Events


FORGET AFFORDABLE AND ACCESSIBLE. The grandest fine arts fair of them all claims to be incomparable. TEFAF, aka The European Fine Art Fair, is held each March in Maastricht, the Netherlands, near Liège. At this 25th edition, 260 dealers from 16 countries in Asia, Europe, North and South America are exhibiting and hoping to sell their prize holdings to museums and deep-pocketed collectors. Jewellery, old master and modern paintings, tribal art, antiquities, furniture, rare coins, manuscripts and more from all eras and places vie for attention. Among the treasures, this ensemble of ‘mirabilia’ consists of pieces fashioned in Europe from exotic materials during the 16th and 17th centuries. Shown here: a tortoiseshell drinking flask, rhinoceros horn goblet, coral-handled knife, mother-of-pearl powder flask and silver-mounted Chinese porcelain bowl. TEFAF itself is a 21st-century version of the Baroque Wundercabinet in which these objects were originally showcased. March 16-25, Maastricht, the Netherlands,




M ARCH 9 - 22 2012

Focus – Contemporary music

Bl!ndman leads the way New musical sounds call for new ways of performing and new ways of listening. One of Belgium’s pre-eminent ensembles goes all out to win over the public by georgio valentino

Mainman Eric Sleichim (centre, with soul patch) and his Bl!ndman collective



saxophone in conservatory, he discovered that Adolphe Sax’s creation, with but 150 years of history, was still in its infancy. “Composers are even now trying to find a way to integrate the exotic colour of the sax into the traditional orchestra,” he tells me as we sip tea in his office. “It’s so different from the other, more ancient instruments. Its very essence is contemporary.” By another fortuitous stroke, young Sleichim found himself in a similarly contemporary milieu. Brussels in the 1980s was a crucible of experimentation across ontemporary music was born in the 20th artistic media. The energy was palpable, attracting not century from that peculiarly modern im- just native talent like Sleichim but also like-minded pulse to kick against the pricks, to over- agitators from abroad. Englishman James Nice, future throw an aesthetic order inherited from founder of the eminently modern LTM Records, once antiquity. It was the Classical Greeks who had laid described his move to Brussels thus: “I felt like I had down the law: only that which is harmonious is beauti- arrived in Paris in the 1920s.” Music, theatre, dance, ful, and only that which is beautiful is good. Two mil- fashion, film and visual arts were deconstructed and lennia of Western history only reinforced this axiom, cross-pollinated, establishing an ethos (and a dramatis which had come to be accepted as a natural truth. personae) which continues to dominate the Belgian By the dawn of the modern age, nature avant-garde even today. had had its day. The artist now looked to PERFORMANCE Sleichim’s name is inscribed in said the city for inspiration and found there Bl!ndman stages dramatis personae. He formed in those the reverse of the classical ideal: disorder, ’Kwadratur #3/ early years the influential avant-rock group Cube’ at disharmony. Art was no longer intended Kaaitheater, 20 Maximalist! with Peter Vermeersch and to please the senses but to confront them. Square Sainctelette Walter Hus, and collaborated with dancers The modern composer duly expanded his Brussels, and choreographers Anne Teresa de KeersMarch 14, 20.30 palette to include alien textures, harmonic maeker and Wim Vandekeybus. Sleichim tension, unconventional sound sources remembers above all the playfulness and and brute, industrial cacophony. camaraderie of the period, laughing, “We spent most It might be atonal (as advocated by Luigi Russolo’s of our time drinking in the cafe.” pioneering polemic The Art of Noises) or altogether He founded Bl!ndman at the end of the decade with anti-tonal (like John Cage’s epically silent 4’33”), but the intention of bridging the gap between contempothis modern music, if it was to assert itself, had to be rary music and the public at large. “People are afraid sensationally novel. Stravinsky’s ballet Rite of Spring of this kind of music because it takes effort,” Sleichim famously incited a riot at its premiere. Lou Reed’s observes. “You have to think about it. You can’t just Metal Machine Music is still regularly referenced as sit back and enjoy it passively. So I don’t want to be the worst pop album ever recorded (it is the farthest too aggressive. I want to give them the keys and invite from the popular idiom). them in.” Today the shock of the new has faded, its signature publicity stunts co-opted by commercial culture. Renstead of revelling in esotericism, Bl!ndman lieved of the obligation to be controversial, contemwould court the audience solicitously. Instead porary music has become more modest. Finally, in its of driving his passengers headlong into the cermaturity, it focuses squarely on its most substantive ebral world of contemporary music, Bl!ndman aspect: its meditation on the structures of music, the would ease them into modernism by mixing rough ways in which we experience it and its relation to other and smooth, familiar and unfamiliar. artistic media. This approach is evident in Sleichim’s Kwadratur The Ars Musica festival is a showcase for this con- trilogy, a cycle begun in 2008 to mark Bl!ndman’s 20th temporary brand of new music, and Eric Sleichim, anniversary. The squaring of the circle in three steps, founder and artistic director of Brussels’ Bl!ndman, from Globus (2008) to Transfo (2010) to Cube (2012), is not is one of its stars. Named after Marcel Duchamp’s just a cute reference to his own quadratic enterprise, short-lived Dada magazine, Bl!ndman began in 1988 but a metaphor for contemporary music as a whole. as a contemporary saxophone quartet and has since The first instalment respects traditional structures, grown exponentially (and we do mean exponentially) into a federation of four quartets – sax, vox, drums and strings – coordinated by Sleichim, who in 2008 yielded his musical chair in Bl!ndman (sax) to focus on his behind-the-scenes duties. Sleichim’s adventure in the genre began in his youth. Indeed, he reckons that he didn’t choose contemporary music as much as it chose him. A student of the



“People are afraid of this kind of music because it takes effort. I want to give them the keys and invite them in”


M ARCH 9 - 22 2012

Centre stage in ‘Kwadratur #3/Cube’: emblematic neon by Hans Peter Kuhn

with spectators in their seats and musicians assembled on stage playing a mixed programme of classical and contemporary compositions. There is, however, an elephant in the room: the giant silver balloon at centre stage, indicating that something is afoot. Transfo begins to complicate the structures its antecedent took for granted. The players are no longer constellations orbiting the departed planet Globus, but are rather colonising new spaces within the hall. The limits of tonality are tested and electronic textures force their way to the fore.


inally, Cube sees the culmination of this Transfo-rmation. Under the sign of the eponymous geometric form, rendered in brilliant neon by German lighting designer Hans Peter Kuhn, the action has escaped the concert hall. The first half of the programme consists of 16 simultaneous solo-performances-cum-installations distributed in the nooks and crannies of the host venue. (At Cube’s

January premiere at the Concertgebouw in Bruges, this included even the lifts.) Each of Bl!ndman’s individual musicians is an exhibit: “I wanted to create a museum where you are free to explore on your own terms.” The second half of Cube reunites the ensemble in the hall but inverts the logic of the spectacle. The audience now occupies the stage while Sleichim’s Bl!ndmen skronk out their finale in the stands. At its best, contemporary music is all about this mobility of perspective. The rank and file of Bl!ndman add to it their enthusiasm and technical finesse. Mainman Sleichim, who has assimilated into his oeuvre influences as varied as down-home Americana (complete with banjo) and turntablism, adds his prodigious curiosity. 



CAPITAL LIFE Your city, your agenda Sulaiman Addonia is a writer. His book ‘The Consequences of Love’ has been translated into 20 languages You’re British, Eritrean and Ethiopian. Why are you taking part in ULB’s forthcoming conference on Sudanese literature? I grew up in a refugee camp in Sudan as a result of the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. I moved

there when I was two and we ended up staying for eight years, so Sudan is really close to my heart. You live in London and, since 2010, Brussels too. How has that affected your writing? It’s slowed me a little bit because I’ve had to adapt to a new country. Brussels doesn’t appear in my new novel [a work in progress set in Sudan], but it has definitely had an influence on my writing. As a writer, you cannot be immune to what is around you.

Is there a strong literary tradition in Sudan? Absolutely. Tayeb Salih is considered one of the greatest Arabic writers and he is Sudanese. Which writers inspired you? I enjoyed Charles Dickens back when I was in Saudi Arabia – we used to read smuggled books. But one of my favourites is Hunger by Knut Hamsun, a Norwegian writer. Writers facing Civil War: a Focus on Sudan takes place from March 22 to 24.







New Ethiopian restaurant in town – must check it out 34 Rue de Laeken

Opening event for the international conference on writers in times of civil war Maison des Arts 56 Avenue Jeanne, 20.00







On Saturdays, I love going to look for old furniture. Troc in Etterbeek is full of hidden bargains 46 Avenue Hansen-Soulie

I love walking around Brussels, especially in these two areas. I always discover something new


Gary Oldman as George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy












A great place to have a coffee and people-watch. I also love writing in this place 18 Place Flagey

I like to come here in the afternoons. I drink ginger tea with cinnamon and enjoy the great music selection Rue de l’Athénée

A favourite bookshop. I’m taking part in a discussion here with Liberian writer Vamba Sherif on March 23 46 Rue Antoine Dansaert

I’m looking forward to seeing this film adaptation of the John Le Carré novel

Sulaiman Addonia will be featured on TV Brussel’s Brussels International programme on Sunday, March 11. Tune in at 18.15, catch it every 30 minutes after 19.30 or watch it online at