I had gone to Brussels with zero expectations. A friend, who had recently returned from there, hadn’t too many good things to say. She had felt it was boring and dead, and too cold. But my tickets were done, rentals were booked and the bags had been packed, so nothing could be changed. If nothing, we will just rest up there before hitting Amsterdam, we had thought.
So when the train pulled into Brussels Midi, I wasn’t too excited.
In hindsight it was good thing perhaps. Having great expectations of a place usually leads to disappointments, and to spend hundreds of thousands and get underwhelmed is not a great feeling.
Brussels surprised me however, and pleasantly so. It started from the station itself where placed high above a rooftop, I saw a large picture of Tintin and snowy. I had always known that Brussels was home to Tintin and Snowy, I had also read about the museum here, but I was not quite prepared to see them everywhere.
On the walls, at railway stations, deep inside the old town, on metro lines, Tintin was everywhere in Brussels, where it was not him, it was stories of him.
Right behind our apartment stood the Metropole, a hotel featured in Seven Crystal Balls. If you stand across the road with the comic book in hand opened to page 20, you’d almost find yourself inside the book.
At the the Belgian Comic Strip Center, a few steps away from our home in the city, a large prototype of the red-and-white rocket from Explorers on the Moon stands tall in the lobby. The shelves are overflowing with Tintin, even though in French and Dutch. It is here we decide to begin the trail of the famous sleuth reporter.
Trail of Tintin:
1. Belgian Comic Strip Center: Designed by Victor Horta, the Atr Deco house is home to all of Belgians comic treasures. Pictures, paintings, books, cut outs, models, gifts — you find everything here. A whole section is dedicated to Tintin, tracing its origins from black and white line drawings to the later, more colourful editions.
2.Brusel Bookshop: Just a few lanes away, in Grand Place, lies the next point — Brusel Bookshop. Known as a temple dedicated to Tintin, the three floor emporium has Tintin Comics piled in high stacks. The gallerias in basement and first floor display posters.
3. La Boutique de Tintin: A treasure trove for Tintin fans, this store just so much more than a shop. With a large mural of the reporter next to the large shark from a comic. The place stocks every possible article with Tintin on it. Folders, diaries, keyrings, magnets, figurines, apparel — you name it and it will be there. The place closes sharp at 5, so getting there in time is crucial
4. The Royal Palace: The imposing Royal Palace can transport anyone back in time. For a Tintin fan however, it has only one significance: it formed the backdrop of King Ottokar’s Sceptre. You feel like a detective yourself, as you trace Tintin’s footsteps through Brussels Park, to the exact spot where he finds the suitcase that helps him solve the mystery.
5. The flea market at the Place du Jeu de Balle that features in the opening sequence of The Secret of the Unicorn is a few miles away. The market turns out just how Hergé had depicted it — an exciting mass of bric-a-brac and antiques laid out on the streets and tables.
6. The Herge Meuseum: The trail is incomplete without a visit to the Herge Museum about an hour outside of Brussels. Dedicated to the artist, the museum is home to his lesser known characters too. It is ironic to learn that while Tintin traveled the world, Herge himself hardly ever left home.
Some other places where you can spot Tintin:
A mural of Tintin and Captain Haddock on Rue de l’Etuve from the book The Calculus Affair.
The Comic Strip House on Boulevard de l’Impératrice, depicts the evolution of the characters.
La Monnaie is the theatre that inspired Hergé’s drawings of the opera in The Seven Crystal Balls.
Place du Jeu de Balle ﬂea market featured in The Secret of the Unicorn.
The first publishers of the Tintin books, Les Editions du Lombard, have a giant Tintin and Snowy sign on top of their office building.
La Boutique Tintin at Rue de la Colline 13, right in the centre of town, stocks a host of Tintin products, including figurines, comics, stationery, and apparel.