Pis in Brussels: A Photo Essay

“Brussels is a city that doesn’t take itself too seriously.” – a French expat in Brussels

Before I went to Brussels, I, for some reason, expected it to be something like Vienna: tall, clean and Art-y, very possibly boring and a little pretentious. But instead, it felt more akin to Berlin: village-like, quirky and slightly confusing. Refreshingly, Brussels is largely a non-grid city, with meandering streets that swoop and roll from one focal point to the next. There is abundant greenery with a forest just at the edge of the city, as well as a (seemingly) competent public transit system that includes metro, tram, and rail. There is also more than enough cheap beer to go around, ancient and modern buildings literally plastered together, and a captivating history of the clashes and compromises between the Dutch and French-speaking populations. As an English speaker whose French is practically non-existent, it was somewhat helpful that the common language was English. I got by fine though I have, in large part, a magnificent host to thank for that. I should also mention that the fashion in Brussels is among my favorites in Europe — everything appears exquisitely tailored with plenty of cleverly monochromatic shade combinations.

The topic of this “photo essay,” anyway, is pissing. And I think it summarizes the playfulness of Brussels quite well.

Manneken Pis (1618), one of Brussels’ prime tourist attractions. Translates from the Brussels dialect Marols into English as Little Man Pee.

Jeanneke Pis (1987). Translates into Little Joan Pee. Jeanneke is behind iron bars, apparently, to protect her from vandalism. (See cage-free photos here.) Jeanneke is Manneken’s little sister, I guess. Gender equality, right?

Zinneke Pis (1998). Roughly translates into Little Mutt (i.e., of uncertain or mixed origin) Pee.

And so on.

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