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Europe

'Isn't it over yet?' Brussels inches towards normalcy, one week on

Parliament's back in session, the airport is working to reopen, and underground trains are even passing through the Maalbeek metro station hit in last week's attacks. Gradually, Brussels is getting back to business.

Security was tight in Zavantem on Tuesday, as police protected Brussels' airport. The airport ran test exercises on Tuesday, aiming "at best" to open and offer a very limited service on Wednesday, according to CEO Arnaud Feist. Feist told the daily "L'Echo," however, that it could take months to resume full, normal service.

Police and military personnel guarded the roundabout on approach to the terminal, only allowing approved vehicles through. The island in the roundabout's center became home to a small flock of TV reporters and correspondents, permitted to go so far and no further.

A police officer directs traffic at a Zavantem roundabout, as part of the detail looking after Brussels' airport.

Police kept traffic and the media in check near the airport

The tests were carried out away from the media's glare, mainly for the sake of staff - most returning to the site for the first time since last Tuesday's attacks. "And secondly, this is to ensure that the tests are representative and conclusive," airport spokeswoman Nathalie van Impe told DW.

Back in the city center, too, normality threatened to rear its head. With the Easter weekend and Belgium's national period of mourning now both at an end, the capital woke to something approaching a normal working day. On Rue de la Loi, the country's parliamentarians made the same commitment, reconvening in parliament under tightened security.

'Isn't it over yet?'

For residents on Schaarbeek's Rue Max Roos, site of the flat where the bombers had prepared their explosives and then set off into the city by taxi cab, Tuesday brought with it what has become a whole new type of normalcy.

The front door of 4 Rue Max Roos, Schaarbeek, Brussels. In the top floor flat of this building, the Brussels attackers prepared their explosives. March 29, 2016.

One of Brussels' more notorious front doors, to the locals' dismay

"Isn't it over yet?" asked a man in his forties on seeing DW's reporter and camera crew on the corner overlooking house number 4. "Just like last week, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday - reporters all the time. It's still not over?"

He was happy to talk, but not on camera, he said, a sentiment echoed by most in the area. Three young men were chatting near the building as we approached; they were also reluctant to talk about their experiences the previous week. One, however, was bold enough to point out that he had taken aerial photographs of the police raids, showing them to us. "If it interests you, you could buy it."

Close to the European Union buildings and the city center, Schaarbeek by no means has the reputation of a bad neighborhood among the locals; it's popular with all manner of people.

Opposite the bomb-makers' former base - a top-floor flat in the unremarkable, if drab building - stands a döner kebab restaurant. The owner said only that the past week's events had severely impacted his business, and that he hoped memories would prove short.

Going underground

For many commuters, Tuesday also marked a first return to public transport or the city's underground Metro service since the bombings.

Brüssel Maelbeek Metro Haltestelle Blumen und Postkarten

While Maalbeek remains more of a memorial above ground, trains can now pass along the tracks below

The subway station targeted, Maalbeek, remains shut and heavily damaged, but services are now running through the station without stopping. The next stop along, heading out of the city center and away from parliament, is Schuman, right by the European Commission and European Council headquarters.

People walk along Rue de la Loi, Brusels, past the European Commission and an entrace to the Schuman Metro station. March 29, 2016.

A week on, commuters and visitors were back on the streets around the European Commission

Three passengers spoke with DW TV, all of them taking the subway for the first time since the attacks. "I'm not worried at all," the first, a young man, said - explaining that he tended to walk or cycle anyway but would not now avoid public transport. Next, a woman leaving the underground described the journey as "important," her eyes welling up as she said it was sad to see a glimpse of the damage at Maalbeek, most of which is screened-off from view. Lastly, one lady heading down the escalator towards the trains simply said: "I'm scared. I don't want to do this, but I have no other option."

In some senses, Brussels has no other option, either. Back at the airport, Brussels Airways provided a reminder of this on Tuesday, welcoming the test-runs at Zavantem and saying that the shutdown had been costing it $5 million (roughly 4.5 million euros) per day.

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