In the centre of Brussels, close to the remains of the old wall that surrounded the city, you can find an inviting square filled with restaurants called Place St Catherine. Beware the people who need everything spelt out, though.
The place stretches in front of the recently spruced up church dedicated to St Catherine and also along the northern side of the church just above one of the metro lines. (Indeed, there is a metro stop just there called Place St Catherine)
Not many people know that the river Senne used to extend into the square. When the locals felt that having a river in the city centre was a rotten idea, they diverted the canal at the north-western part of the city. This led to small inland harbours like the Place St Catherine to dry up.
Nowadays, the metro runs along the old river bed. Train enthusiasts will note that the metro station here is the only one that does not have a mezzanine level between the platforms and ground level – this is because the river was shallow here. The only vestige of this maritime history is the name of the streets along this square: Quai aux briques (Bricks Dock) Rue de Chien Marin (Sea Dog Street) and Quai a L’Houille (Coal Wharf).
The city has placed a small pond right in front of the church – perhaps to lend a little ambience, or to recall times gone by. It is a dank, lonely pond with no life in it unfortunately. Diners at the local restaurants can get the sense that they’re dining by the water, if they close their eyes and think really hard.
What worries me is that they felt the need to inform people about this:
“Water is not potable”
You don’t say?