I’m a fan of the off-the-beaten path, especially when I travel. Sometimes I even stray further than that. The Belgium Sewer Museum is a great example. It probably starts with the fact that it is a museum that chronicles the building of the sewers in the city of Brussels. The exhibits – in only French and Dutch, not English – also explain the basics of sewer building along with the historic detail. Stairs descend into the actual sewer with walkways over an underground river and waterways. There was even a real rat running through the middle of things. Very different from the cute rat cartoon who is part of the museum’s identity. And, yes, it did smell like a sewer.
As much as all of that was unlike any museum that I have been too, there was something even more unusual. After paying our ticket fees, the clerk called me around to his side of the desk. Rather than give me a map or a printed description of the museum, he pointed to his computer screen. There were 16 thumbnail images of the museum from the security cameras. In his heavily-accented English – accompanied by the occasional whistle to describe moving along a path – he showed me where to go and what to see. I felt like Tom Cruise planning a heist in a Mission Impossible movie. I was waiting for someone to start a stopwatch to make sure we got in and out on time.