A morning at Musée Hergé

Louvain-la-neuve is a small university town, and in another life maybe the kind of university town I would have loved to have lived in. Anyway, the purpose of my very brief visit there was for the Tintin Museum which is right around the centre of the town.

You can get all the information you need on timings here.

Draft of Captain Haddock

Why the museum?

Growing up in the ’80s, Tintin comics were an aspiration possession for middle-class Indian children. We usually read it at libraries and if we were lucky we’d go to the birthday party of some rich kid and discover his trove of comic books (DC Comics! Tintin! Asterix!).

So what do you do when you are finally 38, and finally on a small European trip? You go to the Tintin Museum ofcourse!

I think, I hope, that they will [finally!] be accepted and that, dare I say it, adults will be reading them as much as children. I hope that the world of comic strips will no longer be so barren, villified as the source of all evil and a business that stultifies its readers, in some people’s eyes…”

Herge on Comic Strips in the future, 20 Jan 1969
An early version of the most adorable little Snowy

Worth going there?

The museum, I must caution, is for hardcore Tintin fans & of-course quiet travellers. I would call it (thankfully?!) low on the experiential front. If I may dare suggest, maybe the museum needs to loosen up a tiny bit and get a bit creative in the experience of Tintin.

What if they had designed the rooms to feel like we were walking into one of the adventures of Tintin?

On the other hand, perhaps that is a good thing…why must everything always have to sell itself? Why can’t some places just be who they are and draw the people they need to.

“Hitler est un fou”.. Hergé survived the post-war years despite being called a collaborator by the Belgian Resistance. His crime..having continued to work at the pro-Nazi Le Soir’s children’s supplement. The case was later dismissed and Hergé called this period “an experience of absolute intolerance. It was horrible, horrible!” (Wikipedia, Hergé)

What’s there?

The museum has multiple sections that walk you through Hergé’s life. There are sections devoted to the evolution of the characters. Some others walk you through key influences on Hergé- for instance the vaudeville & westerns make you realises how much Tintin was a product of the times.

You can also end your trip with some mementos. I had to buy these three tiny little statuettes of my dear childhood friends!

My old friends from Belgium came back to India with me 😉

Louvain-la-Neuve

There is a small university town in Belgium called Louvain-la-Neuve (LLN) that I added to my itinerary. Solely to pay my respects at the Hergé Museum 🙂 After all, these are my strange & curious adventures.

Hergé. He reminds me of my grandfather. Like him, Hergé filled my childhood with stories that even today I go back to. It’s my comfort food of sorts.

Getting to LLN was a bit crazy for me. The German DB dropped me with all punctuality and railway-waffles at Bruxelles South. However at the station I missed the connection for reasons I still cannot fathom. Long story short, after much self-blame and dumbfounded staring on windy platforms, I finally reached the town. It was early May and a cold wind that any tropical person would call ‘an Arctic wind’ swept into my face.

The town is built around the main square, and I was struck by the fact that this entire area has been built on the principles of New Pedestrianism. An ethos that sounds like it sprang from the social-democratic values that are still, thankfully, visible across northern Europe. New Pedestrianism gives priority to low-impact transportation: walking and cycling. Houses are built with easy and scenic access to footpaths. Cars are driven below the ground level with almost camouflaged parking lots. The world needs more of this. Unfortunately the world swings more and more to the other extreme.

Hidden discretely: the parking lot

LLN is small and it’s pretty. There are apparently other interesting places to visit here and I would have loved to see the student life. The accomodation I took was a self-sufficient apartment very close to the main square. (What more does one want than a bed, a kitchen, a toilet and.. peace and quiet?). It was in one of the Student Project flats, possibly with rent control.

A nice and very quiet evening at a student accommodation that was rented out through AirBnB

I was beginning to journey into places where capitalism had made inroads. Places where capitalism had also continued to encounter institutions with dreams that were more than simply commercial. Places that I hope survive into the next mutation of our times.