Travelers are advised to ask locals for insight on what restaurants to go to and what to see or do in a particular city. I’ve done this often, usually with mixed results. Sometimes the locals guide me to hidden gems that I might not have otherwise discovered. Sometimes I’m steered toward activities I already know about. And sometimes, I get the impression that the locals don’t really know much about their own cities at all.
This seemed to be the case with my colleagues in Brussels. I’ve been there five times now and walk the streets every trip until I think my feet will fall off. One of my colleagues said that she rarely comes into the Grand Place district because there is so much traffic and so many tourists. True. Very true. As a tourist, I love the Grand Place and enjoy having so much to do within walking distance. But I’m always on the lookout for new experiences.
As my colleague and I walked to dinner one night, we passed the Museum of Musical Instruments (mim).
“Have you gone there?” she asked.
I hadn’t. I’d read about it, but hadn’t given it much consideration. We have something similar in Cincinnati.
“You should go,” she continued. “There’s a nice café on the top floor where you can have a meal or a drink and it has beautiful views of the city.”
The next day it rained, and I followed her advice.
I paid my 7 Euro admission and the woman at the counter gave me a headset. “When you get to an instrument you want to hear, just plug this into the jack. There is only music, no commentary.” Which is perfect, is it not?
I headed into the museum and began with the woodwinds. Since I play the flute I was immediately drawn to them. I plugged my headset into the jack and heard the beautiful lilting sound that I expected. And I thought – this is the perfect museum for a person traveling alone. With your headset on, you are isolated anyway, and have no option other than to enjoy the music on your own.
I was content to listen to some instruments for a few seconds; others until the recording had completely come to an end. I only wished that there were benches to sit on. I might never have left.
What surprised me was the instrument that pleased me the most. It was one I would not have expected: the accordions! Crazy, I know. I circled back to that display a few times.
I did also venture to the top floor café. It was still raining, but the views were no less stunning through the rain-spattered windows. If the weather had been nicer, I would have enjoyed my Kriek on the terrace. I made do sitting at a table by the floor-to-ceiling window.
I’m not sure I would have gone to the museum if it hadn’t been brought to my attention by my colleague. I am often too restless to see things that I could see elsewhere in the world when I visit a city. I can see musical instruments at home. But it was a perfect diversion on a rainy day and a quiet place to wander. It seems odd to call a musical museum ‘quiet,’ doesn’t it? Especially since I spent so much time with the accordians. 🙂
Which instrument do you think you’d be drawn to?