Back to Belgium, aka What’s the Atomium?
I went to Belgium for one reason. One destination: one town, one street, one house, one woman. Describing K, attempting to summarize our past, present…and future…would take a book. And this is only a blog.
So I’ll hoard the emotional geography, the plateau, erosion, collapse, darkness, renewal, ascent, comprehension, acceptance, construction, optimism, and final mountainside with a very nice view.
But what I can share is the last day. A great afternoon to finish a great week.
How much French do you hear at the Eiffel Tower? How much Italian at the Coliseum? English at Buckingham Palace…okay, I’ll give you that one. But it’s an often (and halfheartedly…quarterheartedly?) lamented fact that people rarely visit their own country’s postcard landmarks. In Belgium, this is true of the Atomium.
The Atomium, as the Eiffel Tower and Seattle’s Space Needle, was built for a World’s Fair, but was just so darn pretty that they kept it afterwards. A model of an iron molecule increased 165 billion times, the structure is 335 feet tall, and was originally designed to stand on its molecular links alone (“Quantum whatnow?” asked the 1958 scientist). Luckily, those trusty Belgians test things before they build them, and noticed that the whole thing would have tipped in 80 kph winds. Belgian winds gets up to about 140 kph. They added some supports.
I’d seen the thing, hulking in molecular mystery on the horizon as I caught the IR train between Brussels and Antwerp, but it never occurred to me to visit the dern thing. But what better way to cap off a visit you never expected to make, than visiting a place you never expected to go?
It was built in the dashing days of 1958, gals and gents in comic-book “The Future Is Now!” smiles and wardrobes. The Space Race was just underway, War was over, and the future was so bright, they had to wear shades. (Nuclear overtones included.) You can see exhibits of those days, their furniture, architecture, and dental hygiene, in the various rooms of the metal marvel.
Then get on an escalator between Dutch kids and German adults, and ride through the psychedelic tube to the next ball. There is a restaurant where you can eat and gaze, plenty of port-holes with views over Brussels, and the sort of bemused tourist shuffle that puts a smile on most faces.
In the end, I’m glad we went to the Atomium.
But not nearly as glad as I am to have gone back to Belgium. Love still lives there.