In the Brussels Bubble

The third morning of my trip into the Brussels bubble has begun; it is a little grey but still not less promising than the days before.

What should I say, now that the first half of my time here in the self-referential centre of the European Union is over? Should one have an opinion on something like Brussels after so short of a time?

I think yes.

The first thing that comes to my mind is that the eurodistrict seems like the most undemocratic and intransparent place I could imagine. The architecture is either depressingly monolithic or bombastically modern. There is almost no colour and no life (beyond moving suits) in the area.

The street system between the institutions is completely counterintuitive, and to my remembrance there are no signs guiding the way from one institution to the other. The lack of intuitiveness, the lack of logic of why some administrative or political body is where it is, and the depressing architectural system perfectly represent the political system of the Union:

Citizens are supposed to stay out, and the only ones quickly finding their way are the EU insiders and experts.

However, leaving the eurodistrict, Brussels is fascinatingly multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and shines with many different architectural facets.

I’ve been having one of the best dinners in my life in a Lebanese-Israeli restaurant yesterday. I love the many colours and styles in the metro when driving through the city. It is beautiful to have breakfast in a french-style restaurant with classical jazz music on a quiet morning. It’s energising to sense the weekend’s vibrations in the student district. Eating a fresh nectarine while walking through provincial streets of Elsene/Ixelles feels like being on holidays.

And I suppose I could prolong the list after today when I’ll have done some sightseeing with a friend of mine.

If the political system of the Union was able to breeze in this life outside the eurodistrict – where, by the way, the multi-cultural face of Brussels disappears almost completely – it could become more human, more vibrant, more open to changes and the needs of the society of the 21st century.

In the Brussels bubble, however, there seems to be not much room for this kind of life or political openness – if you don’t consider lunches between mostly white, highly educated professionals on the Place Luxembourg in front of the European Parliament an expression of openness and diversity.

PS.: More on the Brussles bubble and the people I’ve met in some days, after I’ve come back and have a full picture.

Julien Frischa, a former euroblogger and an eububbler missing in action

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