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Botanic Gardens of Meise - oasis of peace & quiet so close to Brussels

October 29, 2016


Huge park (botanic garden – 92 hectares – 18.000 different kind of plants) very close to Brussels (Meise, a smaller village situated at about 12 km north of the centre of Brussels or 3 km north of the Atomium, just inside the Flemish Region, i.e. outside of the Outer Ring Road (R0) around Brussels.) Usually there is plenty of parking space just in front of the entry to the gardens.

The park is an excellent place to have a quiet stroll but the highlight of the visit is most certainly the Plant Palace: 13 interconnected glasshouses, eleven of which simulate the climate of a different region of the world. If you want to go on a special quest: try finding the Wollemia nobilis. A plant that was only known from fossils from 90 million years old and was discovered in Australia in 1994. Scientists were brought there blindfolded to keep the location secret. Well, the Botanic garden in Meise has a specimen!

Belgium wouldn't be Belgium if even a botanic garden wouldn't have been the object of a more than 10 year long political battle between Flanders and Wallonia mainly over the language parity of the 184 employees. This bickering and vendetta mentality between regions is a very long tradition in Belgium and is part of the eternal struggle between the politicians of the North and the South over influence, money, power, etc… The result of Belgium's three regions, three language communities and a federal government, and last but not least 7 parliaments ... If you understood Belgium then it's because it wasn't explained correctly to you...

Unfortunately fantastic attractions like the Botanic gardens get caught in the middle of this Belgian surrealist madness, which resulted in this case in a complete lack of any funding for maintenance for over ten years. The problem seems to be solved now, but it will take at least another 10 years to repair the results of the lack of maintenance to the Plant Palace, damage done by small town politics on a national scale. Another "Belgian compromise" was reached. For the unaware amongst you: the term "Belgian compromise" applies to solutions reached as follows : extremely complex issues are settled by conceding something to every party. The resulting agreements often leave room for free interpretation due to their complexity and therefore often already carry the seeds of the next conflict.

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