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Where in the World?

Posted on 1/26/2016 12:32:00 PM in Travel Trivia

Question: Where can you find this naughty little statue—and his wardrobe of more than 900 outfits?

Answer: Brussels, Belgium—Manneken Pis

Lest anyone accuse the people of Brussels of taking themselves too seriously, the city’s most beloved landmark is a small bronze statue of a young boy relieving himself into a fountain, just a few blocks from the Grand Place. Called “Manneken Pis”—yes, that’s “little man pee” in Flemish—the statue that stands today is actually a replica of the 17th-century original. After several thefts and acts of vandalism—including a brief stint at the bottom of a canal, broken in two, in 1966—the city ensconced the original in the Museum of the City of Brussels for safekeeping.

The statue boasts a quirky history befitting its subject matter. Here are a few colorful tidbits:

  • Costume changes: The Museum of the City of Brussels contains a room dedicated to the hundreds of costumes donned by Manneken Pis over the years—which represent everything from visiting foreign dignitaries to sporting events to pop culture icons. A non-profit organization called Friends of Manneken Pis manages the costumes, a job that entails changing the statue in boisterous ceremonies every few days, recommending which outfits should be reused, and reviewing new designs every year. The statue’s next costume change is scheduled for January 30, 2016, to commemorate the Diablada, a traditional Bolivian carnival dance.
  • Urination yarns: As to why a Brussels sculptor opted to immortalize a peeing little boy, several stories exist. The most popular involves a child who urinated on the burning fuse of an explosive device set to destroy Brussels, diffusing the bomb and saving the city. Other versions feature parents frantically searching for a lost child, who is found (you guessed it) urinating in a garden or street corner. The common theme in all of the stories is spirited rebellion.
  • Bitter brew: On special occasions, Manneken Pis is hooked up to a beer keg and serves up free brews to passersby. Locals don’t have any problem with potentially unpleasant visual comparisons—but the state of Ohio doesn’t share their sense of humor. In 2000, Ohio banned the sale of an imported Belgian beer called Manneken Pis, taking particular offense to the description on the label: “Soft Yellow Colour. Soursweet Aftertaste.”
  • Like brother, like sister: Because one urinating statue clearly wasn’t enough, a local artist created a female counterpart to Manneken Pis in 1985. For a few reasons, Jeanneke Pis hasn’t earned the recognition enjoyed by her brother. She doesn’t have the same storied history, and she’s rather hidden away on a dead end street (the Impasse de la Fidelite) behind a cage of red bars. She’s also more likely to offend delicate sensibilities with her gleeful, squatting pose—regardless of whether you view her as a symbol of gender equality. Perhaps lending her a costume might help.
  • A leg up: Even less famous is Zinneke Pis—a dog hoisting his leg over a pole near St. Catherine’s Cathedral. The term “zinneke” is derived from the Senne River, which once flowed past the very spot where Zinneke Pis takes aim—and where unwanted mutts were often abandoned. Today, Belgians have embraced the word to capture the multicultural character of Brussels. While Zinneke Pis isn’t a working fountain like his human counterparts, his prominent placement on the sidewalk makes for entertaining photo opportunities.

Related Article:

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Seek out Manneken Pis and discover the sense of humor of the city of Brussels with Grand Circle during Romance of the Rhine & Mosel . See what other discoveries await you in this video:

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