In the first of a new series, I will be taking you through some of Belgium's least edifying tourist sites. No, don't thank me.
The Museum of Musical Instruments
The MIM takes unpromising subject matter and hides it in dusty semi-darkness behind a wall of ultra-hostile Dutch speaking staff. Being located in one of the most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings in the city is no bar to utter joylessness. A bearded man with a wintry expression hands you a pair of giant headphones like something from a 1950s science experiment as you go in. Actually, that's inaccurate. First you must run the gauntlet of depositing everything you are carrying in the lockers, following an arcane ritual that no one will deign to explain, merely waving you away irascibly if you try and ask.
Finally you are released into the sepulchral gloom of three floors of dusty ancient musical instruments. If you squint hard, you might be able to spot a series of slightly different sets of moth-eaten bagpipes behind the ultra-reflective glass. Then again, you might not. What you can do is try and stand in the right area for your 1950s headphones to assault your ear drums with a selection from "Now that's what I call atonal bagpipe droning Volume 27". Again, this is somewhat aleatory. You might get nothing, you might get bagpipes, you might get plainsong chant. Or a gamelan. Whatever. If your headphones are too loud, a cat's arse faced attendant will tap you on the shoulder and make disapproving gestures.
"Is this it?" whisper your children, their tiny voices quavering with anticipated disappointment after two floors of dusty instruments topped with "Ne pas touchez" signs made of yellowing cardboard. They are cowed by the funereal atmosphere, and slightly scared by a menacin series of clavecins. Their giant headphones have flopped onto their shoulders and are threatening to strangle them like plastic boa constrictors.
"No, it can't be!" you declare bracingly, but with a creeping sense of doubt.
You go down to the basement which tantalisingly advertises itself as "The Sound Garden".
The "Sound Garden" consists of a single guitar string mounted between two blocks of wood, and an ancient piano whose keys are so silted with chewing gum and waffle crumbs it cannot even muster the WHAM PLUNK BISH BASH ZUNK of St Custard's skool piano, chiz. A couple of TV screens show a mystifying pattern of flickering static. The whole place smells of old lecture halls and mouse droppings. Also in the basement and in a startling concession to modernity, the twentieth century is represented by a Moog synthesiser and a waxy looking model of Johnny Hallyday. Shielding your children's eyes, you repair to the shop, as an assault on the parental purse is always guaranteed to lift their mood.
In the chilly, deserted shop, a man with a waxed moustache sits behind the till listening to 15th century Breton folk songs and stroking a selection of eminently breakable bibelots. You gaze wildly around at the collection of CDs by monobrowed Eastern Europeans in rollnecks and the single wooden recorder and make a break for freedom. Yet another unprepossessing man with facial hair makes you produce a vial of blood and a fragment of the true cross, perform a short minuet and sign a seventy page waiver before he deigns to give you your coat back.
You escape. It is raining. You don't even care.
Tariff: Adults €5, Children €4
Opening Hours: Tuesday - Sunday 10:00 - 17:00
Better alternatives: gouging eyes out with a sharpened twig, being attacked by a swarm of killer bees, chewing own limbs off, death.
Next time on Belgium's Worst Tourist Attractions (which may be as soon as this evening, I feel oddly inspired by my subject matter): Mini Europe and the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée.