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Secret Brussels

Secret Brussels

by Nicolas van Beek and Nathalie Capart

A ‘love hotel’ where you can say a prayer, a reconstituted section of the Senne river at Saint-Gery, and extraordinary private museum devoted to plastic, a farm with sheep, goats and turkeys at place de l’Yser, Masonic secrets in the Parc de Bruxelles, a hotel overlooking the Grand Place, a surrealistic trip in a lift, a homage to the military pigeon, potholing at Koekelberg basilica, a swimming pool with a panoramic view of the city, a scandalous pavilion in the Parc de Cinquantenaire, an immense vegetable garden at Uccle, an 19th century artist’s studio at Schaerbeek, a camping ground in the heart of the Belgian capital, a forgotten garden-city at Forest…
Extracts From The Book
Secret Brussels: Plastic Is Fantastic Secret Brussels: Off the RailsSecret Brussels: A City Centre Farm Among The Buildings

Plastic Is Fantastic

Secret Brussels: Plastic is Fantastic The Plasticarium is one at those extra- ordinary places that will make you fall in love with Brussels. Situated near the centre of the city, the Plasticarium holds the world's greatest collection of objects made from plastic, in both quantity and quality. Other than the items themselves, the personality of Philippe Decelle, this private museum’s owner, adds much interest to the visit. A great enthusiast for his collection, he continues to enrich it with regular purchases. The day we visited he had just acquired a 1963 flying saucer lamp. And he shows visitors around himself with humour and infectious enthusiasm. The only snag: to avoid spreading himself too thinly, Philippe asks people to come in groups of about 10 (maximum 20) before he will open his museum. Perhaps the relatively few visits each year is the secret of keeping its freshness intact.

The collection consists principally of plastic objects made between 1960, the date of the first all-plastic piece of furniture, and 1973, the year of the First oil crisis, which resulted in a
marked rise in the cost of plastic, a derivative of oil. This short period of some 15 years
defined the golden age of plastic. Plastic owes its existence indirectly to the Second
World War: before the 1940s parachute fabric was made from silk, a raw material which
came mainly from Japan.

Off The Rails

Secret Brussels: Off The Rails In a deprived area of the centre of Brussels, the Mupdofer is an amazing and very discreet private museum: even though several railway signs are fixed to the wall, you almost have to get down on your knees to see them.

This place owes its existence to five enthusiasts for railway memorabilia who formed an association in 1972. Having decided to pool their collections, they opened this little museum in 1974. The result is amazing: on three floors there are thousands of railway signs, destination plates, timetables and other documents which cover the walls and fill the display cases Arranged geographically, they will not fail to bring back memories to the greatest nostalgics who tenderly recall the tram rides of their childhood. Although the place itself has undeniable character and charm, the extreme specialization of this collection limits its appeal. However, for the unsuspecting visitor, it is still interesting to stroll through the maze of corridors and rooms looking for reminders of the past. Look out, for example, for the restored tram-driver’s cab with its sandbox.
When the rails were slippery or covered in leaves, the driver could pull a lever to release the sand,
helping the tram to grip the rails.
A City Centre Farm Among The Buildings

Secret Brussels: A City Centre Farm Among The BuildingsThe farm in the Parc Maximilien is an absolutely amazing place, only a 10 minute walk from Brussels’ Grand-Place. Wedged among the modern buildings in the district surrounding the Gare du Nord, the Petit Ring, and the immense Citroen gaRateat place de l’Yser, this urban farm is a breath of fresh air. It also offers some highly unusual sights in the heart of a big city: a sheep peacefully grazing in the long grass alongside the farmhouse, chickens pecking at grain against the background of an Art Deco gaRateand a Haussmann-style building, a goat meandering by a colossal public housing block...

Once inside, go for a quiet stroll in this patch of countryside in the city centre, feed the ducks and rabbits, gather eggs, or tend the orchard and vegetable garden. Workshops are organized regularly around these activities and more generally to make visitors more aware of environmental issues. There are also events for local children and school groups. On rainy days, attend a session on DIY repairs in the barn.

The farm, set up entirely from scratch to replace a car park 1990s, is now a big hit.

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