“When I look into your eyes I know that it’s true:
God must have spent… a little more time on you.”
– (God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time On You, N’Sync
I have been severely slacking off with my blog updates in the past month, and I can’t deny that it’s actually been a hectic past few weeks for me. Supervisions, research, coming up with a first draft, and squeezing in time for coffee with friends and a short trip to Brussels in between — I’ve got a lot to catch up on now.
Ailsa’s Travel Theme this week, Statues, gave me a great opportunity to dig up some of my old photos and new ones and reflect on some of the statues — both big and small, famous and insignificant — I’ve come across.
First of all, I must say, if you didn’t have enough time to do your research about the city/country you’re visiting before you embark on your travels, the best thing to do is to step into a souvenir store when you’ve arrived in the city. You will immediately get a sense of what the famous monuments or sites are and the sort of food the country is popular for (in Belgium’s case, there was a lot of magnets of overspilling beer glasses). The postcard section is always my favorite: literal postcard-shots of famous historical buildings immediately tell me where I should go to get some of the best shots of the city. Of course, this would only give you an essentially touristic sense of the city, and if you prefer to trudge the path less traveled then it might be best to avoid the souvenir shops altogether. In Bruxelles, my friend and I stumbled some of the best shops and cafes completely by accident.
On my recent trip to Bruxelles, I had to resort to this impromptu reconnaissance missions to the souvenir shops to get an immediate sense of what I should see, do, visit, and eat while in the city. My first impression of the city when I walked into the souvenir shop wasn’t too good: the first thing I saw was hundreds of magnets with the figure of a boy taking a piss with a cheeky grin on his face. I later found out that the name of this (apparently tiny, as I later discovered) statue is Mannekin Pis (literally, ‘pissing statue’). A swift look around the souvenir shop told me that the Mannekin Pis is literally the star of the city — he was on every T-shirt, hoodie, postcard, keychain, magnet, notebook, and other souvenir paraphernalia on sale in the shop.
Though I didn’t find the Mannekin Pis particularly appealing, on my last afternoon in Bruxelles, I knew I had to hunt down this statue to look at it with my very own eyes. When I first got to the statue I was relieved to find that there weren’t many people crowding in that corner of the street anyway, but the Mannekin was so tiny, I almost didn’t see it:
Well, at least now I could say that I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
Next up is this:
This is something I came across in Bruges at a porcelain store near the Lake of Love. I met the owner of the store, who apparently makes these porcelain figures himself in his workshop in the morning and comes to the shop in the afternoon. His shop was filled with porcelain figures of people in various occupations. The one on display outside in the photo above is one of judges in distress, which I found supremely adorable. The owner has been making porcelain masterpieces for “most of his life”, and you could see it in the way each figure has been lovingly crafted, often times with elegance but also with a dash of humor, as you can tell from the figure above.
Another statue that I literally had to hunt down all the way from across the city in rainy weather is Gaudi’s multicolored mosaic salamander, more popularly known as “el drac” (the dragon), in Park Güell in Barcelona. At least this lizard was a truly unique masterpiece, and it was worth rushing over to Park Güell from Montjuic just to see it (I thought it was near closing time, but apparently the park remains open till a bit later than the other museums in the same site). From MNAC, we took a random bus that took us near to the park, but apparently not to its front entrance. We therefore had to climb hundreds of stairs to reach the back entrance of the park, but when we finally got there we knew this was not a place to be missed. Especially when we got to see this little guy right here:
The last statue I wanted to include is neither famous nor big as some other statues and national monuments might be, and it is not something that you might find in a guidebook of any city either. I stumbled across it in the living room of our host’s apartment we were staying in in Bruxelles. It is small, but it emanated such warmth and serenity on its own without needing to be grand or imposing, and I found my eyes glued to it a couple of times while I was waiting in the living room for my friend to get ready before we left the apartment.
Statues may be silent, unmoving, but I feel that it often speaks to us in certain ways through the emotions it invokes within us, be they positive or slightly unfavorable. I’ve never been a huge fan of statues before this, but I must say, after coming across some unique ones in my travels, it has given me more things to appreciate in my travels and in my every day life.