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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Manneken Pis

So, we were in Brussels and were going to see Manneken Pis – the most iconic and photographed monument in the city. I had heard so much about this famous landmark and was really excited to see it.

When we arrived, the street was already crowded with busloads of tourists jostling for selfies.

Well, did we get the pay-off we had come all the way to see?

The Manneken Pis was quite literally what it means "little peeing man".

Unimposing, overrated and underwhelming the statue is merely 24 inches tall! Even more disappointing, the diminutive sculpture is only a replica of the 1619 original, which is now in the nearby Brussels Museum.

Mannekin Pis ranks #4 on TOP10HQ's Top 10 Most Disappointing Tourist Destinations list!
Size does matter!
So, why is this little naked boy peeing in a fountain so famous? And why are people (even the locals) flocking daily to take a photo of it?


Manneken Pis is a little statue with a big wardrobe! Pee Boy gets dressed in different costumes several times each week. The costumes are managed by a non-profit organization called The Friends of Manneken-Pis. The organization reviews hundreds of designs submitted by fans each year, and selects a small number to be made and used. The schedule of costumes is published on the web and on the posters plastered around the fountain.

Over the years, Mannekin Pis dressed as Santa, Elvis Presley, Nelson Mandela, Uncle Sam, an astronaut  and even as a condom on World Aids Day!


Photos from Manneken Pis' FB page.


There are many stories surrounding the inspiration for this statue.

Here are just three:

1. During the Middle Ages, tanners let children and street urchins urinate on their leather as the ammonia in urine made the leather more supple. The peeing statue was most probably a homage to the tanners.

2. The most popular story suggests that it was a tribute to a local boy named Julianske who saved Brusssels by urinating on a burning fuse of an explosive lit by enemies who were trying to blow up the walls of the city.

3. According to a folklore, the son of a noble abandoned a procession to urinate on the wall of a house where a witch lived. Pissed, the angry witch cursed the lad to pee for eternity by turning him into stone, thus a peeing statue!

It was amusing to see this mascot of sorts gracing the streets of Brussels. His likeness appears on all things imaginable –  from street art to tourist souvenirs to lollipops. You’ll even find him made of chocolate!

image credit - Teeny Tiny
Just when we thought we had enough of peeing statues, our tour guide took us to see Mannekin Pis' family – a peeing girl and yes, a peeing dog!


According to our guide, not many people who live outside Brussels know about this female counterpart of Manneken Pis.
Rumour has it that the little girl in pigtails was commissioned in 1987 by a local restaurant owner to attract visitors to the restaurant. While Jeanneke Pis still squats. the restaurant is no more.

Zinneke Pis

A video of the thousands of costumes worn by Mannekin Pis throughout the years.

Which one is your favourite?

Musings Of A Tired Mummy

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

De Buerspassage

While ambling along the streets of Amsterdam, we turned into a corner and ended up in a passageway that looked like a secret portal to Hogwarts. Turned out, the arched walkway was Buerspassage, an art installation that was created to pay homage to the city's famed canals.

Artists used things that end up in Amsterdam's canals to create a walkway that gives the illusion of walking through an underwater tunnel along the bottom of a canal with fish, air bubbles, reflections, an assortment of objects  gliding and floating above you – bicycles, umbrellas, cogs, boat parts, liquor bottles, etc  and yes,Vincent van Gogh's ear!

The artwork, named Amsterdam Oersoep meaning primordial soup, is a visual narrative that tells the story of how all of Earth’s life forms originated from water.

Can you spot Van Gogh's ear?  I see a mouse on the left! Eeek !

The seven chandeliers and Art Deco mirrors are made of recycled bicycle parts. Each year Waternet, Amsterdam's Water Authority, fishes between 12,000 and 15,000 bicycles from the canals! The bikes were either discarded deliberately, or tossed in by drunks.

The  barrel-vaulted ceiling is covered in 450 square metres of glass mosaic in hues of green. Each art piece, from the floor to the ceiling, has symbolic references to the city of Amsterdam, its history and its future.

The ceiling for example contains a tube of paint that flows into a rainbow referring to the colorful nature of Amsterdam, its tolerance for the LGBTQ community but it also contains the image of a tiger, liquor bottles, fish, rats and numerous art historical references to famous artists like Van Gogh and Rembrandt,” explains Hans van Bentem. “This work is a journey through the history of Amsterdam, its main arteries, the canals. A crowd stopper, freezing a moment in time thanks to its elaborate craftsmanship and rich materials, celebrating our everyday source of life: our holy water.

All Things Dutch

Fourteen stained-glass sconces handcrafted in the shapes of an umbrella, French fries, a tulip, a wooden clog, the city's coat of arms, etc  adorn the walls.

Hmmm, how is an umbrella Dutch? I am guessing it's one of the items often fished out from the canals.
Umbrella sconce
I love the humour of the artists. The flaming spliff sconce, the red stiletto (a winking reference to the red-light district) and Van Gogh's ear on the intricate mosaic ceiling are such a witty tribute to multifaceted Amsterdam.

My favourite piece is this giant fish fountain on the wall with an open mouth. Below the fish are the words Take Some Mokum With You. Mokum is a nickname for Amsterdam. If you stick your water bottle in the mouth, the red light turns blue, and your bottle will get filled with drinkable water though there is a running joke that the water is probably from the canals!!

Musings Of A Tired Mummy

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Dutch cyclists

Someone said that the Dutch people are the nicest people in the world until you set foot on their bicycle lanes!!! Then they go crazy!!! And that statement rings true!  Don't mind the pun.

image credit - Dennis Callan

I unwittingly stepped onto a brown lane when I got off a bus in Amsterdam and a gray-haired granny on a bicycle who almost bowled me over rang her bell furiously and yelled, "Kanker op tyfus toeriste (cancer on typhoid tourist) !" in my face.

I learned fast that those reddish-brown paths are bike paths, NOT sidewalks and the most important Dutch sound you need to know is TRING, a warning rung by Dutch cyclists. When you hear it, you should clear out of their paths … pronto!  A Dutchie on a bike doesn't stop!

Tring = "excuse me"

Tring Tring = "Seriously, I'm coming through"

 A bunch of Trings =  "F@#k you!" or "Cancer on typhoid tourist!"

Oh, I also learned that Dutch people often swear with diseases!

In a country where there are more bicycles than people or cars, Dutch cyclists rule and have the right of way in most situations. They yield to no one and have zero tolerance for pedestrians especially tourists. A friend who recently visited The Netherlands said she was almost run over by a lady cyclist with a wheelbarrow (bakfiets) full of kids!

Amsterdammers of all ages, income groups and descriptions go to work, to school, to the grocer's, to the bank, to a party, to a wedding, etc on their bicycles. And they don't wear helmets! It makes sense 'cos that would totally mess up your hair!

I saw a lady cycling with one kid behind her on the bike, one kid in front, grocery bags dangling from the handlebars and a dog in the front basket! And she was holding an umbrella!

Women in tight dresses and high heels, suited men on their cellphones, Dutchies texting and taking selfies, walking their dogs, carrying bulky objects (from large musical instruments to furniture!)...... Dutch cyclists have pretty fancy biking skills!

image credit - lowlandslinda

On the way to a wedding...
image source -
Who needs a van when you have a bakfiets!
image source - bakfiets en meer
image source -

Now, where did I park my bike!?

So stay away from their bike paths of death and listen carefully for those angry bicycle bells lest you be yelled at with different diseases!

Musings Of A Tired Mummy

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Mussels In Brussels

Moules-frites or mussels and fries is a serious classic Belgian dish you can find in just about any café or brasserie in Brussels. Those steaming black pots of brimming mussels, served with a side of fries are Belgium's national pride.

When our tour guide announced that a Moules-frites lunch in Brussels was the highlight of our day trip to Belgium, I wasn't exactly thrilled. I have a mussel phobia and blame the aversion on a rogue mussel in my ramen many years ago. Mentioning this gives me stomach cramps.
Steamed mussels with a side of fries
Lunch At La Rosa Roja

When we were seated in the restaurant, I told the hubs no way was I going to eat those bottom-feeders. That was...... until steaming pots of mussels appeared on our tables and the mouthwatering aroma of butter, celery and leeks wafted through the room. Everyone was oohing and ahhing! My tour buddies heartily dug into the meal.

I relented...
Slurping the plump, juicy, flesh out of their shells and broth was a mussel experience like no other! The mussels and fries complemented each other perfectly and if you ask me, steamed mussels and fries go together as naturally as burgers and fries in the US and as fish and chips in the UK.

Moules-frites are a match made in food heaven! And it's no wonder Belgians are the world's biggest mussel eaters!

Moules-frites are a menu staple for all seasons but we were told the mussels are the freshest during the months that end with ‘er’ — from September until December.

While observing the locals eating their mussels, I realized we were doing it wrong!

Here's the Belgian way.

Step 1 - Suck out the flesh from the first pair of shells.

Step 2 - Use the empty shells as tongs to pick out the flesh from the others.

No utensil required!

I think mussels are back in my life once again!

Musings Of A Tired Mummy