Since then, a 50-year old and extremely tricky political issue has been solved and our credit rate had gone down to a level that puts us in the same range as strong countries like Germany, Denmark, etc … I’m not sure whether the other financial and budgetary measures the new government has taken will have a long term effect and how much they will cost us, the little ‘shrimps’ who work their ‘b..’ off every day. But at least we are out of the danger zone and national bankruptcy is no longer lurking around the corner.
Princess Mathilde, their eldest daughter Elisabeth - our first ever Queen and first in line after her father Prince Philip. This is Elisabeth first official mission: opening an new children's wing named after her in a hospital in Gent. (photo:beeldarchief.ugent.be)
Compared to last year, when our King delivered a very angry speech on TV, even banging his fist on the table on several occasions, we saw a very happy and smiling King. The man is 76 (I think) and has had several health problems in the last years, so last year’s excitement was something he could do without. The speech was shown on TV on Friday night and repeated on Saturday at 1 p.m. On Saturday morning the King, Queen, Prince Philip and his lovely wife, the Princess Mathilde and the dowager Queen Fabiola, widow to our former King Boudouin, attended a religious celebration at Brussels’ main cathedral. This celebration is called the ‘Te Deum’. Afterwards the royals come out to shake hands and exchange some small-talk with the waiting crowd.
The King’s daughter, Astrid – named after her grandmother, the beautiful Astrid of Sweden, who was killed in a car accident in Switzerland when our present King was only a toddler – and her husband attended a similar ceremony in the northern, Flemish speaking part of the country; while Laurent, the King’s youngest son and a bit of a rebel, attended a ceremony in the French speaking south. Last year Laurent was banned from the official ceremonies – and completely ignored by his parents for more than a year because of a controversial and politically incorrect trip to our former colony, Congo. However, this year he has been re-instated and in the afternoon arrived at the military parade with his wife Claire and their twin sons of five. They also have a daughter, who is slightly older, but who wasn’t present. The two boys looked very handsome in their grey flannel Bermuda trousers and blue blazers.
While the parade was going on, there was a large popular feast and free entertainment going on in the park across the street from the Royal Palace. Police gather that over 300,000 people attended the festivities; 25,000 of which stayed on till 11 p.m. to watch the fireworks.
While the party in the park was going on, a huge outdoor restaurant was set up at the Vossenplein (Fox square) in the popular ‘Marollen’ district. This really is the heart of Brussels where you’ll still find the true and ‘orginal’ ‘Brusseleir’, who speaks the authentic Brussels’ dialect which is an amazing mixture of French and Flemish, with a lot of funny and colourful expressions! It’s a rather poor district, but the people have an extraordinary ‘joie de vivre’ that you won't find in the ‘posher’ parts of Brussels.
On the menu: our national dish by excellence – mussels and chips (like fish and chips but with juicy, mussels, cooked fisherman’s style). 150 poor and homeless received a free meal and judging from the images I saw on TV people were having a super time. Most of them had also attended the popular ball on Friday night and that had lasted well into the early hours of Saturday.
Seeing all these happy people – Flemish and French speaking – having a good time together and enjoying eachother’s company, I wonder what our politicians are playing at. They create resentment and even hate between the two populations. Life in Belgium is really, really good (when you compare it to so many countries around us). Okay, we pay the heaviest taxes in the whole of Europe, but we get a lot in return … except maybe warm and sunny weather. Although …
P.S. I hope you enjoyed this short lesson in Belgian royal history and traditions!