Extraordinary exhibitions, such as the ones commented in this blog, should not divert us from the treasures we normally find in the permanent ones. Brussels has some museums with excellent permanent exhibitions you should not forget. For example, on Chaussee de Wavre, near the European Parliament, there is the wonderful Natural Sciences Museum, which I have finally discovered after ten years in the city.
This museum is full of surprises you can enjoy with your children, or your friends’ children. The entrance doesn’t betray the impression you get from the the street—a typical building of the 60s, with ample space, wide stairs, and some rundown showcases with interesting minerals. Don’t worry about the complex order of the different sections and go directly to the main attraction: the biggest hall of dinosaurs in Europe. Here dwell a herd of local dinosaurs and some other scattered “terrible lizards” (the Greek etymology of “dinosaurs”) under the iron beams of this renovated nineteenth century gallery.
You first see them at dinosaurs’ eye level, from the mezzanine connecting this building with the entrance. The main herd is a set of “iguanodons” which caused a roaring sensation when they were discovered in a Belgian coal mine in the 1880s. Their skeletons are standing in a lifelike position in a glass cage of some thirty metres long and eight meters high. I will skip the passionating controversy about the real position of iguanodons—you will probably follow it in your visit—if they stood up on their rear legs or preferred walking on all fours. You will be presented with captivating stories about dinosaurs by world famous dinosaur scientists on the various screens around the gallery: how they lived in the Arctic, their breeding habits, the controversy of the real position of iguanodons,…I had not learned so much about dinosaurs since long long ago.
If you want to continue the visit—my advice is to always limit museum visits to maximum two hours—you have many other sections to explore and get lost in—I wonder if people working there know all the rooms. We walked through the gallery of evolution, the shell hall and the insect hall, where we watched a stunning collection of tarantulas—alive!
image credits © Ruskin in Brussels