My parents arrived on Thursday after a long drive from Sweden, long because of the weather – they got more or less stuck on the island Fehrmarn in Germany after getting off the ferry from Denmark due to the strong winds. The bridge to mainland Germany was closed and they said that their car was shaking from the winds, even though they were standing still!
Today has been a sunny and hot day, but as usual when it is hot in Brussels, it’s humid and heavy – typical “headache” weather (for me at least). Fortunately it just started raining, for a few minutes it poured down like a monsoon (not that I have ever seen one but I have seen tropical storms in the Caribbean) and then it changed to just a little less intense raining.
O is now making his turkey tikka masala (mmm…) and roasting almonds at the same time – they are now now cooling down on the dining table, making a funny sound, almost like popping. We are listening to Elvis Presley’s greatest hits and my parents are showing me photos from their holiday on the Amalfi coast in May (I was there with my mother, my best friend Å and her mother in June 2000 for our 150 year anniversary [25+25+50+50] – a beautiful place).
I can finally tick off one thing on my list of things to do before leaving Brussels: The Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, a park and village outside of the capital. Most of the museum consists of stuffed animals and birds (among them an elephant and a giraffe) and all kinds of artefacts from Africa. Quite a stuffy atmosphere, and when you consider that most of the objects were collected by the King Leopold II himself… Leopold was not a very nice guy at all, he took personal control of the Congo in the 1870’s to exploit the area for rubber and ivory. According to the Wikipedia link, between 5 – 22 million Congolese died, and in the end the Belgian government had to take over the colony after a huge international scandal of the exploitation, slavery and atrocities committed under his rule. It’s quite surprising that not more of the museum is dedicated to this era of Belgium’s history in Africa, nevertheless the section treating the 1870’s to 1960 when Congo became an independent state is interesting and well worth visiting (and all the displays are written in English as well as French / Dutch).
Leopold used some of the riches collected in Africa to build what we in Sweden call skrytbyggen (boasting or ostentatious buildings) such as the arch in Parc Cinquantenaire (built to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Belgium’s independence in 1880) and the Palais de Justice, which is supposed to be larger than St Peter’s in Rome.
The museum was actually built by Leopold and opened in 1910, it has a beautiful park surrounding it (O thinks it reminds him of Versailles). The park is a bit like a Russian doll, because it is part of the Park of Tervuren, which is also a part of la Forêt de Soignes, a forest covering 43 km2 to the south-east of Brussels.
Now it is almost time for the tikka masala, so better go and help O to prepare the dinner.