Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Brussels: A City of Cartoons

Belgium is known for its Cartoon and Comic Strip art. In Brussels, some of the cartoons take the form of wall murals on buildings.

One afternoon, we spent a few hours looking at the Cartoon Murals near the Grand Place. My guide was the one guide book I brought with me, Frommer's Brussels & Bruges Day by Day: 19 Smart Ways to See the City by Mary Anne Evans. I usually prefer Frommer guides over most others, both for domestic and foreign travel. This particular guide is a new format and is a sort of "Best Of" guide.

Our Cartoon Mural walk was included in the "Best Special-Interest Tours" chapter.

I also found a very comprehensive Comic Strip/Cartoon map on the Brussels Tourist and Convention Bureau's web site. When you visit, stop at their office in the Hotel de Ville on the Grand Place to pick up some maps and tourist information.

Back to our Cartoon Mural walk, we saw our first mural on our way to the Manneken Pis at 37 rue de l'Etuve.

It is of Tintin, possibly the most well-known of Belgium's cartoon characters. It is a scene from The Calculus Affair, in which Tintin, Captain Haddock, and Snowy are escaping from a hotel. While eternally young, Tintin is almost 80 years old, first created in 1929 by illustrator Georges Remi, who, using his last and first initials, became known at Hergé, the French pronunciation of the letters R and G. The Tintin character is a globetrotting boy reporter whose adventures are chronicled in the many Tintin books that have been translated into at least 40 languages. There are Tintin shops in both Brussels and Bruges and I have been shopping locally at the Tintin shop in San Francisco (Karikter 418 Sutter Street,near Union Square)for many years.

These are some of the other murals we came upon in the neighborhood near the Grand Place and the Mannekin Pis.

We walked almost everywhere in Brussels, and came upon Cartoon Murals wherever we went. On our last day, walking down Rue de Flandre, the busy street where Le Pré Salé is located, we were delighted, at the corner of Marché aux Porcs with a mural by comic artist Dupa that spoofed the Manneken depicts the Manneken looking up at Dupa's popular cartoon character, Cubitus, a fat dog who lives with his master, Semaphore, a retired sailor. In this mural, Cubitus is happily peeing from the same spot where the Manneken usually resides, while the Manneken looks on.

If asked what was my main cultural enrichment in Brussels, I must say that it was the Cartoon art. In my coming-soon post on our Art Nouveau day, I will take you with me on my visit to the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée, a museum dedicated to Belgian comic strip art.

A NOTE ABOUT Frommer's Brussels & Bruges Day by Day: 19 Smart Ways to See the City:

I was attracted to this particular guide because I thought its format would be a good way to sample Brussels & Bruges in our short time there. It worked fine, but, because some attractions fit into more than one category, I sometimes had to go through several chapters of the book to obtain complete information about a particular attraction. What I really liked about the book was the theme-oriented itineraries...also the book is lightweight and compact...dealing with just Brussels and Bruges, the two places we were visting, made this book perfect to carry around; I didn't have to tear out relevant pages as I usually do when traveling to a foreign country. The book's cover is laminated to protect it from rain and other abuse and the cover has a fold-out Metro/Tram map and Central Brussels street map. There is a complete Brussels & Brudges folded map, on coated paper that does not tear, in the vinyl pocket at the back of the book. So, other than having to hunt through the book for details that I remembered reading at another time, it was a very useful guide book.

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