A Walk Through Tintins Brussels
18 September, 2016
We know that Tintin travelled to America, the Soviet Union, China and South America… he even got to step onto the moon! But, where did the endearing reporter created by Hergé actually live? While the cartoonist never revealed it explicitly, there is no doubt that Brussels, where Hergé lived all his life, is the backdrop in the cartoon strips whenever the amusing reporter and his faithful dog, Snowy, are captured at home. We ventured into Tintin’s haunts and discovered the palaces, museums, hotels, theatres and parks in Brussels which Hergé converted into comic artefacts.
On their return from their first adventures in Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, Tintin and Snowy are welcomed as heroes by a crowd in the Gare du Nord, an exact copy of the former Brussels Gare du Midi. Now featured in the railway station is a mural inspired by a cartoon of Tintin in America to mark the centenary of the birth of Georges Remi, “Hergé”.
In the second of his 24 adventures, the iconic reporter and his faithful friend travel to the Congo, an album which Hergé was likely inspired to pen after various visits to the Royal Museum for Central Africa. Among many other nods, the leopard man that threatens Tintin in the comic is an imitation of the statue sculpted by Paul Wissaert on display in that museum.
The address, 26 Labrador Road, is well known to Tintinophiles. First mentioned in The Broken Ear, don’t waste your time looking it up in a Brussels street finder. Instead, head for 26 de la rue Terre-Neuve, where you will come across an uncannily similar building to the one where the young reporter’s flat was located!
Built in the late-19th century on the south side of the Royal Park, the Royal Palace stands out as one of the most emblematic landmarks in Brussels. This majestic building was where Hergé drew inspiration for the Royal Palace of Syldavian King Muskar XII in King Ottokar's Sceptre.
Dating from 1873, the Flea Market or Marché aux Puces, located in the Place du Jeu de Balle, is the Brussels mecca of collectors, antiquarians, treasure hunters and bric-a-brac seekers. It was at this flea market that Tintin discovered the model ship at the opening of The Secret of the Unicorn.
However, it was most likely in The Seven Crystal Balls that Hergé captured most of Brussels’ architectural landmarks. For example, in this thirteenth instalment of The Adventures of Tintin, one of the city’s most emblematic hotels appears – the Metropole. Also easily recognised in this comic album is La Monnaie theatre, renamed the Music-Hall Palace. And, the mansion where Professor Hercules Tarragon lives is the spitting image of the opulent villa on Avenue Delleur 6.
Also in The Seven Crystal Balls, we come across the character, Rascar Capac, a mummy inspired by a relic on display in the Cinquantenaire Museum. Hergé was a regular at this gallery, where he went in search of ideas. It was also where he discovered the fetish created by the Arumbaya, the focus of the storyline in The Broken Ear.
Another prime magnet for Tintinophiles is the southern Brussels district of Uccle, one of the nineteen districts making up the Belgian capital. In Uccle we find the Brussels Planetarium, an observatory which Hergé portrayed in The Shooting Star. Interestingly, the Centre Culturel d'Uccle has a statue of Tintin on display, while in the district cemetery, a short distance away from where he lived until his death, is the artist’s grave. A plaque at 33 Rue Philippe Baucq, in the more central district of Etterbeek, reminds visitors that this was the birthplace of Georges Remi “Hergé”. (The house is not open to the public.)
At Louvain-la-Neuve, less than half an hour from the centre of Brussels, stands the Musée Hergé. Designed by the French architect, Christian de Portzamparc, the Hergé Museum is three storeys high and has 8 exhibition halls, featuring 80 original prints, 800 photographs and countless documents and miscellanea related to the life and work of the creator of Tintin and Snowy.
Highly recommendable for Tintin lovers in particular, and enthusiasts of the ninth art in general, is a visit to the Brussels Comic Strip Centre (Rue des Sables 20) which features thousands of original works relating to some of the most outstanding Belgian creations in the comic world, notably The Smurfs, Lucky Luke, Spirou and Tintin, among others.
The huge dragon from The Blue Lotus painted on the ground at the entrance to rue de la Colline 13 announces your arrival at the Tintin Boutique. This is the ideal store for stocking up on all types of objects and souvenirs associated with the illustrious reporter and his endearing troupe of cartoon companions.
Fire up and venture into the world of Tintin – book your Vueling to Brussels here.
Text by Oriol Rodríguez for Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
18 September, 2016