Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Brussels: Museum for musical instruments, chocolates, paperbacks etc.

We are winding up Brussels tonight. to put that out. When I scoped out the museums to visit one museum caught my eye. This is a museum for musical instruments. The museum was simply breathtaking. 3 floors of just hundreds of musical instruments drawn from every corner of the world. In each popular instrument that we know, like say a violin, there are tens of varieties. Tens of varieties of flutes, of drums, of trmpets, blow horns, pianos by the dozens, mouth harps and so many many more. We were given a headset that will play the particular sound from an instrument where its indicated with a headphone sign. However the radio signal is not of high quality, many times the audio was not great. The total lack of brochures or notes in English is a sure dampener for a really interested enthusiast.But music needs no language, there is always the internet to go back and read. It was an anthropological delight to see many Indian instruments classified as "from Afghanistan" etc. African music is famous the instruments from Africa are truly numerous and what vibrancy. So many forms of music across the ages. Its a humbling experience too. We come to face  the truth that we are but a small speck in the ocean of humanity in a time scale that stretches beyond our ability to comprehend and analyse in one lifetime. Visiting the museum had the desired effect on Rowena who wanted to go back to her piano classes after vacation as soon as possible. She happily lingered at every audio demo. For 5 Euro its well worth it (no charge for child under 6).

Time for wrap up we went shopping for Belgian chocolates. Wittamer chocolates are considered the creme-de-la-creme, better than Godiva or Neuhaus or Leonidas (now why is a Belgian chocolate brand named after a Greek warrior!!!). Wittamer also has restaurants serving tea and snacks at 16 Euro per person for fixed price course menu.

The obsessive shopper in me managed to squeeze in a visit to a mall. The only one (as far I saw) in Brussels. After browsing through clothing I went to FNAC a books and music store. I've found a curiosity about books sold in US vs Europe. In Europe paperback versions come out much earlier than US. I bought paperback version of Malcolm GLadwell's "Outliers" in July in UK but in USA they are still sold only in hardcover (better profits). Today I found the latest Malcolm Gladwell bestseller "What the Dog saw" in paperback, its just out in USA in a much higher priced hardcover version. When it comes to movies whether its France or Amsterdam or Germany or Belgium Hollywood simply rules, period.

I forgot a few observations in my blog yesterday about "atomium" and "mini Europe". The exhibit on immigration underscored that Brussels culture and ethos has its roots in Christian ethos. While this is a widely accepted anthropological truism it takes a certain brazenness to put it out on an exhibition. A widely read book by Max Weber attributes US capitalism to specifically "Protestant" ethos but no US government funded exhibition would dare to put that out.

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