There are a lot of things to like about Belgium, the beer, the frittes, the chocolate, but the one thing that I am always surprised about when I travel out here is the comic culture. They were one of the places in the world that developed comics into what they are today, and they are proud of their contributions to this art form.
The Belgium people have created many comic titles that are enjoyed the world over, from Tin Tin, to the Smurfs, to Marsupilami. Their stories may not be the superheroes that are enjoyed by many Americans, but that should not deny the impact that these comics have had on the world. Their stories endure, and the style they employed to tell those stories should be analyzed and treasured.
The people of Brussels understood this about their national treasure. When they were looking at the blank walls of their city, they thought that the best way to beautify their city was to honor this tradition. They took the most popular of the characters that the various people in town told, and painted murals of them on those blanks walls.
It makes walking the streets of Brussels a fun adventure with every turn of the corner. You don’t know if you will see a mural or not, and if you do see one, you don’t know what character will transport you to a simpler time when stories could be told through this seemingly simple medium. There are so many of them on the wall of Brussels that you can find a map of a walking tour involving them at the local Information Center, and you can always see people making their way to discover them all.
Once you start to notice these murals, you start to notice that it goes beyond the comic culture of Belgium. There are many pictures that are painted on the sides of buildings, highlighting many different issues that are important to the people of Brussels. They are just not painted on the side of buildings, taking up the whole wall; instead, you have to look at the corners to find these great little pieces that still will make you laugh, but will also still tell a great story at the same time.
Some organizations took this spirit one step further to paint the spirit of their movement on their walls. It nice to see that this tradition came move beyond a simple idea to make the streets of the city prettier to see, but to also supply important political messages to the people of that same city.
These murals give Brussels its own distinct character that makes traveling here fun in unexpected ways. The cold winter days no longer seem daunting when you know that going from one place to another will come with it a quick trip back to your childhood. I love the way that the people of Brussels were able to take something that was completely unique to them and use it to give their city charm and character. So though I came for the frittes, chocolate and the beer, it was the murals that really captured my imagination while out in Belgium.