Monday, June 15, 2009

Manneken Pis

Manneken Pis is the biggest little attraction in Brussels.

As the Dutch name implies, Manneken Pis is a small statue of a naked little boy making water on a street corner.

Many myths, legends and untruths surround the fountain's history and inception. Some say he was a nobleman's kid who urinated on an opposing army in the Middle Ages. Others claim he used his natural means to put out the fire of a fuse set to blow up parts of the city. Another popular tale is that he was the son of a wealthy traveler or merchant who was lost, then found by citizens as he did his business in a garden.

I personally found it odd that no one seems to be able to give an exact reason for the statue's construction, but I knew I couldn't see Brussels without paying homage to the bronze boy.

Throughout the past 200 or so years, visiting dignitaries have sought to clothe the boy. According to some accounts, French King Louis XV's soldiers made off with the little statue. Louis, furious with his soldiers, had a costume made for the boy and returned the statue.

Regardless of how the tradition came about, Manneken Pis now has a few hundred costumes at his disposal.

When I saw the fountain, he was naked as the day he was forged. He was, to my disappointment, eliciting a stream of common water. I'd heard he is sometimes hooked up to a beer keg and that passers-by are offered a drink. I think that would make quite an interesting social experiment, as some people would go for free beer at any cost, others would refuse it out of principal and still more might be on the fence.

Personally...I would have gone for the free beer from a unique tap.

In any case, I looked at him for a few minutes, shrugged and headed to the town square for a visit to the Manneken Pis museum - displaying hundreds of his outfits.

Wandering through display after display of outfits and photos, I realized the little lad has had quite a storied life. He's worn the uniform of multiple armies, including Napoleon's Imperial Guard and an American World War II uniform. Business suits, police uniforms, clown costumes and many, many more were on display as well.

At the time of my visit, I didn't know there are other Mannekens Pis in the country, but Brussels claims to have the oldest, and quite honestly, it's not that impressive, but is definitely worth a stop for the novelty of it.

And speaking of novelty, why not have a pint at the Taverne Manneken Pis, then pick up a Manneken Pis corkscrew/botttle opener combo? The latter has great shock value as a gift.

Manneken Pis is located at the intersection of Rue de l'Etuve and Rue du Chène, a few hundred yards from the Grand Place (town square).

For more information, visit a Web site claiming to be the official one here.

1 comment:

Cearra said...

Maybe an ever-filling tap for an epic game of Brusselian beer pong??
Or more accurately ale-pong if the timing is right :]