I have to be in Brussels for medical tests every so many weeks. To make it more enjoyable, my friend and I play tourist for a day. This time we are heading for the Atomium!
It is an exceptionally beautiful autumn day. Exceptional in the sense that it is not raining (yet) and the trees have still enough colorful leaves on their branches. Good that I mixed up the time we were supposed to meet each other on the car pool parking… I was one hour too early. There goes the morning grocery shopping for my friend and instead she makes her way to the car pool asap.
The Atomium makes me curious, because my mum used to tell stories about the World Expo in 1958 in Brussels for which the Atomium was build. She was 15 at that time and went to the exposition with her dad. It was a big thing. There was a lot of advertising and propaganda around it to stimulate the Belgian population to get ready, learn languages and seek employment at the Expo. According to the pamphlets the exhibiting countries would show “what happiness meant and the means to get there”. The Thai pavilion made the most impression on my mum. The US and Russian expositions were not her thing, too macho and focused on power… this was the nuclear age…
It has been a while I have been here, from what I recollect this would be my 4th time only. First time in 1981, then again in 1986 – both times we didn’t go all the way up – and the last time on a social outing with work at the end of the 90’s. I love the symmetrical structure, the tubes connecting the bolls, and the way it still exumes the 50’s atmosphere, even after the major overhaul 10 years ago.
I love the old memorabilia of the 50’s… it is so distinct and clearly of that time. Actually, it was a well thought out marketing approach designed to excite the visitors and inspired by the latest evolution in nuclear science.
In one of the bolls there was a special light show which we loved. We sat down and let the light, dark and music carry us away… I love to observe people around me… they always make good subjects for pictures… as with this group of teenage tourists taking the exhibition to the next level…
After the visit we go into the Ossegempark, which starts at the foot of the Atomium. I know it’s called that way because I looked it up… afterwards. Clearly a park which has been there for a very long time looking at the size of the trees… When I look at the map now, I see you can walk through this park and the connecting Parc of Laken all the way to the Royal Castle and beyond. My friend tries out the exercise stops which makes brilliant pictures which I will save for the moment I want to blackmail her…
We have still an hour or so before we need to go to the hospital for testing. As I need to get blood tested as well I can’t eat or drink, so “going for a coffee” is not an option this time. Going to the center of the city takes too much time. So what do we do? “Let’s just drive around” my friend says… “I like it when you are driving, I would not dare to drive here in Brussels”. A big smile on the face to the right of me… We are passing the royal gardens and greenhouse which unfortunately is open only a few days per year and today is not one of them… We are passing the royal castle, not open for public either… In front of us as we are approaching the center of Laken, we see a very nice church. Wow, this is a big church and seems to be renovated quite recently. We see someone opening the church with a key. With the most innocent look we have we follow them in. What church is this? The ceilings are almost reaching heaven, even the light blue color of the ceiling is hinting towards it. We burn some candles for our loved ones and make our way to the back end.
One of the ladies at the entrance was talking about a crypt and that the “castle” police opens and guards it. It is open for public only a few days per year… and today is one of them. What crypt? Where are we? Oh, there is a door at the back of the church and it is left open. Where does it lead to? … THE crypt. THE crypt where all our Belgian kings and queens are buried. Yes, that one. This is so weird, so unexpected. We are speechless. And that never happens.
Check out some more pictures of my trip: