We were in Saint-Josse-ten-Noode (also known as Sint-Joost-ten-Node in Flemish) last weekend to check out the flea market. While we were in central Brussels, it felt like we were somewhere else in Turkey!

Several streets were closed off to traffic on the occasion of the flea market which, disappointingly, was selling mostly brand-new, mass-produced junk. Barbecues were set up outside of restaurants and bars, tempting passers-by with the smell of freshly grilled food. The smoke drifted with the breeze, reminding me of one Sunday afternoon when I passed the Bosphorus and families who were fishing and having a barbecue by the river.

Back to Brussels… Saint-Josse-ten-Noode is the smallest commune in the city of Brussels and is also the most densely populated in Belgium (apparently it is comparable to Mumbai in this regard). It is also home to many Turkish immigrants, alongside people from Morocco and Italy. Together with the adjacent commune of Schaerbeek, this Turkish neighbourhood is often referred to as “Little Anatolia”.

Brussels is a relatively small city compared to Istanbul, which is home to some 15 million people. My neighbourhood has a good mix of people from all over, including Portuguese, Turkish and even Japanese. Similar to when I lived in Singapore and Paris, I tend to spend most of my time in Brussels in the areas around home and near work.

The few times when we walked around in other neighbourhoods such as Saint-Josse-ten-Noode and Schaerbeek , we were always struck by how different they were from the communes that we’re familiar with such as St. Gilles and Ixelles. The buildings may look similar with a handful of gorgeous Art Nouveau or Art Deco townhouses alongside ugly, generic modern blocks. But many of the people who live and work in them seem to belong to another community that is foreign to me. I think we need to explore more of Brussels and discover other facets of this city.

This photo was taken with my iPhone and edited with VSCO cam. I saw the boy at the flea market, walking with a balloon of a minion that was bigger than his head. I took two quick shots without removing my sunglasses and hoped that I got the exposure right and that the ‘dancing’ balloon would show properly. I was lucky. The timing and exposure were just right in the first photo. While this picture is not particularly vivid in terms of its colours, I think that it captures the lively ambiance of this particular afternoon in Saint-Josse-ten-Noode.

4 replies on “Little Anatolia in Brussels

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