I meet a writer friend at Café Belga on Wednesday night. It is around 10 pm but the café is busy. Taking advantage of the “March summer”, as some of the quickest marketing professionals called their latest parties, many people are sitting outside. The air is a bit chilly for me and we find a table inside by the window. The music is modern, loud enough to give an energy push and the necessary sound wall to keep the visitors’ privacy despite the close distance between the tables, but still allowing comfortable speaking.
As I am having a glass of red porto, we are talking about our writing, creative plans, literature, life…
Nice conversations can take place anywhere. But combined with the right environment, they feel even more delicious to me.
And Café Belga is that emblematic bar to which I have always returned through the years. It was not the way it started though…
Back in 2003 I lived 200 metres away from it for five months. I don’t remember going there more than a couple of times or so and I was not impressed with it at all. I couldn’t quite understand why it was so popular. I found it plain unlike the smaller and more attractive bars downtown. It might had looked differently at that time or maybe simply my tastes were different.
I don’t remember how I became fond of it during my second stay, four years later. But ever since I have spent many timeless hours there, accompanied or on my own, but always experiencing this wonderful connection to the place and its spirit. Surrounded by its numerous visitors I have read, written, worked and listened to live jazz which they offer every other Sunday (starting at 5 pm).
During the years away from Brussels, when I was thinking about the city, café Belga would inevitably come to mind bringing a feeling of sweet sadness. I was imagining it in spring time with the colourful crowd outside – some people sitting in tables, others – straight on the ground or standing with glasses in hands… In my short returns then, I was always making my way to it to get a bit of that Brussels air which does miracles to my soul.
Across the street are the two ponds with birds and willows whose green hairs are gently caressing the water. And on the side of Café Belga a beautiful old cathedral completes the surroundings. So it’s not only the café itself but also its great location which makes it so special.
Someone lent me a phrase once: “cafes are the cathedrals of cosmopolitanism”. To this I would add “some cafés”. Café Belga is definitely one of them.