It’s strange to think millions of people who visit Brussels hunt out a statue of a little boy urinating into a fountain. Stranger still, to think they might search for a similar statue of a little girl doing the same. And yet, that’s just what I found myself doing when I visited the city.
Mannekin Pis is a statue known worldwide. The origins of the statue are sketchy, but some of the theories will certainly bring a smile to your face. The popular story told to tourists is of a merchant who was visiting the city with his family when his young son went missing. They searched frantically for him, only to discover him urinating in a garden. As a token of thanks for helping to find his son, the merchant donated the statue to the city.Whatever the true story may be, the statue has been in Brussels since 1619 and although it has been stolen several times, it has always been replaced. It is now as much an icon of the city as the beer and chocolate, and the locals like to dress the statue up for special occasions. In fact, there’s even a museum you can visit to see all of the outfits he’s worn!
The lesser-known statue of Jeanneke Pis is tucked away in a side street of Brussels, amongst the hustle and bustle of the surrounding restaurants and pubs. Making an appearance in 1987, she was intended to be the female counterpart to Manneken Pis, and is a statue of a small girl urinating in a fountain. A bit more tricky to find than Manneken Pis, Jeanneke Pis is tucked away down a side street just a few minutes walk away. Bars cover the statue to protect it from vandalism, and there’s a good chance you’ll be swarmed by a tour group if you stay in the deadend street too long.While I was in Brussels, I went on the hunt to see the two statues. Manneken Pis was pretty easy to find, and for the most part I just followed the crowds. The statue itself is on a street corner close to Grote Markt, and both times I visited there was a small crowd jostling for a photo – bit of a giveaway of where the statue is. Jeanneke Pis, on the other hand, was tricky to find. I had it marked on the map where the statue is, but what the map didn’t show is that the street only has one way in. This meant that my boyfriend and I tried to approach from the other street, only to find that there was a wall where I thought the street should be.
Heading around the block, we tried again. The little street is just that – little. It is more a side alley than an actual street, and we walked past it twice thinking it was just the side of a bar. Looking closer, we ventured down the dimly lit alley and spotted the railings that protect the statue. Bingo! After posing for a few photos, we started to wonder whether many people found the statue, as we were the only people there which hadn’t been the case at Manneken Pis. No sooner had we spoken the words than a swarm of giggling school children descended upon us, led by their umbrella-wielding tour guide. It’s really not spacious enough to accommodate more than 10-15 people, and we’d taken all the photos we wanted, so we made our way back to Grote Markt to check out the evening light show.
Have you visited either statue? What did you think?