Grand Palace: History Comes Out To Play At Night

Modernity and history comfortably bleeding into each other.

We arrived late at night at a bus station. I saw clothes on the ground, and a young boy mulling over a leather red heel (the other stood, upright, on the floor next to me.) Thus began our 30-hour marathon tour of Brussels, Belgium. When we woke up the next morning, we met a couple of friends at a different metro station in the center of the city. It looked much cleaner.

Our hostel’s guide for young travelers offered favorite local bars. One was described as at the intersection between the “trendy white” part of Brussels and the mainly Turkish and Arabic sections of the city.  We laughed, we had just spent the night in the mainly “Turkish and Arabic” section of the city.

Of course we saw the Atonium model, drank at least ten different types of beers, and went to the Grand Palace. All the while eating different combinations of waffles and chocolates. Doing this during the day, we crammed as many sights as we could into our short travel guide.

But it’s the nights that allowed me to see modernity and history comfortably bleeding into each other.

Much light is not needed to illuminate the Grand Palace; only sticks of lights hover above the ground in bulbs of street lamps. It is just enough light to cast shadows on the seemingly endless figures embedded and layered in stone. A noble face turned to the right, a hand extending from a saint’s arm, both delicately and softly pointing in marble.

When the glare of sun softened, when most tourists were gone, the stone cooled. I could feel the day’s dust on my finger. The sun was setting, and pulled back the curtain of time, which hid this palace during the day. I could see shadows of alleyways where whispered conversations still stood stagnant. Thin strips of gold gilded upon marble buildings glittered and reflected the city’s light.

Article by Monique Hassel. Photos by Yolanda Borquaye.

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