Today was one of our last days in Brussels before we head out to The Hague on Thursday, and it certainly was an interesting one. We started off the day with a couple hours of lecture from Dr. Fabry, and today we discussed the International Criminal Court, which we’ll visit on Thursday upon arriving in the Hague. We held a class wide discussion about our opinions regarding the effectiveness of the ICC, and it was interesting to hear everyone’s thoughts on the subject.
After lecture, we all had a quick lunch break, then headed over to the Horta Museum in Saint-Gilles. The Horta House was built in the late 1890s / early 1900s and was designed by the architect Victor Horta, and he lived there as well. The house is a prime example of the concept of “art nouveau,” which was developed in Brussels around that time period. Our guide told us about not only art nouveau in general, but also about Horta himself and about what inspired his architectural decisions.
Some interesting facts our guide told us about architecture during this period included using paint and mirrors to create depth, using a sloping method at the bottom of each house’s structure to have an organic effect, and using windows and natural light to instigate an open and airy feeling throughout the house.
Learning about the art and architecture in Brussels was extremely interesting, and it was strange to think that we only have a few days left in this amazing city, and I am just now getting to know the buildings here on a personal level.
After we explored the Horta museum, our guide took us on a short walk around the area and pointed out several architectural phenomena in our surroundings. He also drew our attention to the change from art nouveau to art deco architecture, which came about after WWI. Something interesting we saw was the transition from openness in art nouveau to a more closed and protectiveness in art deco, which our guide said most likely came from people being more afraid and reserved after the negative effects of the war.
It’s interesting to see how politics can affect every aspect of our lives, even art and architecture. The effect that politics and international relations can have is wide and the scope is large; I think this shows the gravity of the subject that we’re studying and how important it is to keep this all in mind holistically even when not implicitly studying the subject.
Something else our guide said really stuck with me – he said, “If you can, everyday, you should take a different route to your destination, and look at the buildings and architecture around you, because Brussels has so much to see.”
Hearing that made me think about how often I am on my phone while I am walking around the city, trying to navigate my way around town on Google Maps instead of just looking up and around me at the fascinating architecture and history that surrounds me. It makes me wonder how many times I’ve missed something interesting or beautiful because I’ve been preoccupied with not getting lost, or with a text someone sent me, or a Facebook notification.
Although staying plugged in is important in a sense, I think this visit to the Horta museum really reinforced in me the idea that it’s not at all the most important thing – in fact, it’s far from it. Especially in terms of studying abroad and experiencing new surroundings and cultures, I think it’s a lot more effective and important to simply soak in what’s around us and let it have an effect on us, whether positive or negative.
Tonight was also the last night that my host family and I will all be together, so we had a final goodbye dinner. We reflected on the past two months, and talked about how far we’ve come from when I first arrived to their house in May.
Although I’m beyond excited to take on the last leg of our trip in The Hague, Berlin, and Krakow, I’m struck with the feeling that I’ll miss Brussels the most, as it’s truly begun to feel like home to me. My time in Brussels is something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget, and I’m immensely grateful for the experiences I’ve had whilst living here.