Of disco and chocolate.

Brussels' sepia-toned buildings look weary and washed out, as if they were submerged for decades in a tide of newspaper clippings about the war. The New York Times Brussels guide makes me think I'd like to venture into the city and eat rabbit stew there one day, but a British journalist working there reporting on the european parliament told me he found it a horrible place to live.

Still, Brussels has at least two things to offer which help fortify on a long train journey: disco and chocolate.

The train station is not a cheerful place. In dimly lit rows of shops, people hang around looking as if they're waiting for someone to tell them where to escape to. But between the discount shops and indoor cafés, a few candy stores offer small bright refuges. Piles of Belgian chocolate lie neatly, edged by colourful tins of spekulaas spiced biscuits, boxes painted and shaped like row houses. Old ladies with tonnes of hairspray and glasses hanging on cords around their necks say "Bonjour" chirpily from behind the counter.

I went into one to get a block of Cote d'or chocolate and was soothed by the Belgian 80s pop music playing over the shop's sound system. The minute you cross the border into Belgium, the public radio starts throbbing with Phil Collins-esque gents crooning ballads in French over the top of electro. I imagine the singers to have long hair, receding hairlines, denim shirts tucked into blue jeans, and when they sing each new line of the song, they hook their fingers in their belt loops and do a little bob to one side. Broken synthesiser keys scattered under their shoes. Garlic on their breath.

With decades of these electro-ballads over the airwaves, the Belgian dance music scene seems almost anachronistic. I've wanted to visit the parties held by Eskimo Records for a long time, because their compilations are eclectic escapism. Sugary and upbeat: polished like a block of hard dark chocolate. A modern take on their parents' multi-lingual electro-pop tradition. Front242 were no anomaly: it seems that a little bit of electro new wave resides in the heart of every Belgian, like a ganache filling.

Sister Sledge Lost in Music (the Bernard Edwards and Nile Rogers remix) came over the stereo in the candy store, and suddenly it didn't seem so wearisome to be killing time between legs of a train journey.
Brussels might look drab on the surface, but its soul is on a decades-long sugar high.

So I hung around for a few minutes longer, pretending to browse candy canes with plastic dinosaurs attached to them, and tapping my foot.


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