After months of closure, Mini-Europe, the outdoor museum at the foot of the Atomium which allows visitors to travel all over Europe in a few hours, has reopened to a different Europe than the one it closed to.
The park, containing over 350 miniature monuments and figures from across the different member states, used the time away to work on refurbishing existing features, including the Arc Du Triomphe, whilst adding ones that comment on current affairs.
“We respond to current events without losing our sense of humour in these difficult times. For example, throughout the park ten scenes have been set up that wittily refer to the corona crisis,” Thierry Meeùs, the owner of Mini-Europe, said.
Mini Europe ignores Mini-Brexit
Another major event of the last year, Brexit, couldn’t go unnoticed by this miniature representation of the European Union - the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU. But in response, Mini-Europe decided to make very few changes and announced its monuments should not be removed.
"The UK played an important role in the history of the EU. That is why the country still deserves a place in Mini-Europe. This is undoubtedly good news for our visitors: the Houses of Parliament, alongside Big Ben, remains one of the most popular maquettes of the park,” Meeùs said.
It did mark the occasion by setting up customs posts and a dotted line between the mini-EU and the “mini-United Kingdom,” alongside a miniature version of Boris Johnson with a sledgehammer in his hand and with the slogan “Get the Brexit done.”
The very events that the park is now able to immortalise - namely, the coronavirus crisis - nearly spelled the end of the attraction, which was at one stage facing closure at the end of 2020 due to the 'Neo redevelopment project' of the Heysel area, which will include a large shopping, housing, and leisure complex.
However, at the start of this year, an agreement was reached between Mini-Europe and the City of Brussels to include the attraction in the redevelopment. Mini-Europe itself will also construct a new building with a restaurant on the site.
Upon its re-opening, the park hopes to be welcoming more people from within Belgium, who are looking to experience some form of travel during this pandemic. Last year, it saw a slump in the number of visitors, which decreased from 400,000 visitors in 2019 to just 64,000.
Mini-Europe is limiting the number of visitors allowed on the site during the current health crisis based on advice from the National Security Council, and people have to reserve a slot before their visit. The existing restaurant on site has also been closed due to the coronavirus fighting measures.
The Brussels Times