A Totally Unbiased Perspective of the Best Project Week Ever

Michael Berger Staff Writer What do Art Nouveau, chocolate, famous street art, and a statue of a small child peeing all have in common?  All of them are displayed front and center in the beautiful city of Brussels, Belgium.  When one thinks of an ideal European city to visit,  one commonly thinks of London, Paris, or Rome.  I believe that Brussels can not only give you the type of experience you could gain in any other European city, but it can do it in a more intimate way then these other tourist “go to” cities can.  Brussels has the benefit of having a rich history, an incredible art scene, and food that could stack up to the rest of Europe – if not outdo it.  Though it is true that Brussels’ art scene is not on the level that Paris’ is on, and its historical sites are not nearly as breathtaking as they are in Rome, the way the city presents itself is truly special.  In the words of another member of the trip, junior Rachel Stone, Brussels was “essentially Paris Junior, or perhaps the lovechild of Berlin and Montmartre. It’s small enough for you to see the same street waffle vendor three times, but large enough to get fabulously lost.” To be completely honest, before we got on our extremely delayed United Airlines flight to Brussels, I barely had a clue what Art Nouveau was.  I had a small knowledge basis (thanks to a few Wikipedia pages I read), but not much else.  For all of you out there that do not know what Art Nouveau is, here is a quick definition courtesy of Google Dictionary. Art Nouveau is, “A style of decorative art, architecture, and design prominent in western Europe and the US from about 1890 until World War I and characterized by intricate linear designs and flowing curves based on natural forms.”  By the time the trip was over, not only did I understand the art form to a much greater extent, but I also was able to create it. We even got sketch Art Nouveau around us in museums, something that, according to Rachel, “made us feel pretty legitimate. Though our sketch books might have been filled with as many games of tick tack toe as artistic renderings of an Art Nouveau iris, we all felt quite artistic and European.” When we got to Brussels, we went to a large park in the city and were told to go off and sketch for nearly three hours.  We expected this to be a waste of three hours, but ended up being the exact opposite.  As a group we sketched, talked, and got lost in the world around us. Perhaps those transcendentalists were on to something after all… Over the next few days, we went around the city and explored several different museums (including the home of famous Art Nouveau artist and father of art nouveau architecture, Victor Horta, and a museum of older and intricately designed musical instruments) as well as the food scene. “These street waffles taste like God,” remarked Rachel upon stealing a bite of sophomore Kaya Romeo’s purchased delicacy. The chocolate was pretty good too. When we were not at museums or restaurants, we were able to explore the city.  One late afternoon, for instance, a few friends and I made it a personal mission of ours to find the “Mannequin Pis,” a famous statue of a young child urinating. We went to several shops and asked where this city symbol was located. Only after various storeowners kept leading us in completely conflicting directions did we realized something was off.  We learned that since so many people try and find this statue on a daily basis, storeowners play a game where they lead tourists in convoluted (and completely wrong) directions.  When we eventually found it the next day, it was because someone showed us a trail of signs pointing directly to it. On the last day of the trip, we took a train to Paris.  When we arrived in Paris, we went to the Musee D’Orsay and explored the incredible museum – seeing everything from Van Gogh’s Starry Night on the Rhone to Cézanne’s Card Players.  We then visited the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts at the Petit Palais, had a nice meal in Paris, and took the train back to Brussels.  The trip was an overall incredible experience jam-packed with cultural immersion, free cappuccinos (courtesy of a very friendly restaurant regular), new friendships, and unforgettable experiences. And did I mention the chocolate?]]>