Recently, I’d been to Brussels. It’s the first time I’ve traveled alone and also the first country I’ve been to without my parents. The plan was to catch a bus at dawn, explore the city all day and catch a bus back at night. Before I’d left, I checked out all the tourist attractions and more. But one thing every website and everybody else told me to visit was the beloved statue of Mannekin Pis. I’d seen pictures of it before and knew it was pretty famous so I did decide to pay it a visit.
After getting off at the Gare du Nord Station, I took a metro to get to the Grand Place. This is perhaps the prettiest place I’ve been to and this was also the same place where I found a friend in an Albanian girl who was around my age. We decided to walk around together, checking off most of the tourist attractions. And this was how, we began looking for the Mannekin Pis statue. I can’t believe we walked an extra 2 km to suddenly turn into a street corner and exclaim “Oh!” because the statue really just is on a street corner and in perhaps the most non-descriptive way possible. It’s supremely tiny and nothing like I’d imagined it to be. But a tourist attraction is after all, a place for dozens of people to take pictures. I took some too, after dodging some woman who attempted to pose for a picture in such a way that it seemed like the little boy was peeing into her mouth. I don’t know what kind of person she was or what she’s into but if you ask me, I really don’t think it’s the perfect picture for framing and hanging on your family wall.
My Albanian friend told me a version of the history of the strange thing. Turns out, during the invasion of the city, some little boy decided to pee on explosives. He ended up defusing them and also saved some lives. So they decided to commemorate this beautiful act in the form of that strange statue. And it’s funny because it didn’t just end there. ‘Mannekin Pis’ very literally translates to ‘little peeing man’ in Flemish. And to think that there are waffle stores and even a restaurant back in Amsterdam with the same name that’s actually famous for its fritjes!
From what I’ve seen and read, this is an integral part of the city and for the Brusselaars, a nostalgic piece. If you decide to look up the history of this thing, you’d learn that there have been times when people thought it was funny to steal the statue and riots broke out. I don’t claim to understand this obsession but they regularly dress up the statue, according to the season and various festivals that deem it important enough for clothes. I saw the naked version and I’m confused about what would’ve been a more pleasing sight.
You’d think my rant would end here and I really hoped it would’ve too. But there are more peeing statues in Brussels. Google suggested them to me under ‘Nearby Attractions’ and sadly, I wasn’t attracted enough to actually pay these a visit. But an attempt at gender equality was also made by carving another bronze statue called Jeannike Pis. This one shows the little boy’s sister who was placed on the other side of Grand Place. I’m not sure why she was also carved out to be peeing but she is, just like her little peeing brother. But in all probability, this probably ensued a sibling feud and she hated him for all of eternity.
And finally, we have Zinneke who successfully completes the Holy Trinity of peeing statues – a dog peeing against a pole on a street. I couldn’t find too much on the relevance of this statue or why some poor artist’s lifework was to make a peeing dog statue but apparently, this one was made purely as a joke. It’s also a common sight to see tourists mocking the pose of the dog and taking pictures. At this rate, I think you could actually point to real people peeing and tourists would still take pictures. #peeing
But here you have it – the Holy Trinity. Thankfully, my rant ends here. But what I learnt from my short trip is that the Belgians are famous for their delicious waffles, their expensive chocolate boutiques, their exquisite lace work, their fine glasses and finally, their strange obsession with peeing statues!