I love the feeling of being anonymous in a city I’ve never been to before.
Antwerp is such a class act and an all-time favorite. The city of Antwerp is exuberant and gracious, home to world-renown designer Dries van Noten and known as the diamond capital of the world. I stayed in a lovely room walked the cobblestone streets, had lunch at trendy restaurants and stared at all the impeccably dressed people that passed me in the street.
Wifi spots were scarce though which led to me getting lost. Although detour had me throwing all my carefully curated plans out of the window, all was not lost. Wandering around the stunning city architecture led to new discoveries. There is a beauty in being lost. Anything is possible.
Mooy has been on my list for some time and I was lucky to at least tick this box. I was met with a lush interior of opulent pink as I wandered through the doors. I was immediately smitten and reminded of a Dries van Noten quote: “Elegance is not a way of dressing. It is a way of living, it’s a flair. How you do things, how you approach things and look at things also.”
This extraordinary place takes feasting in style to a whole new level. I could taste the love in each homemade dish and I couldn’t keep my eyes of the delicate food and stylish people. I reveled in every second as I sipped my cappuccino and read my newspaper.
The Dog Of Flanders
The dog of Flanders was one of my favorite stories growing up. My heart broke all over again when I came to this artwork of Nello and Patrasche with the cobblestone street as their blanket. They lay in front of the Antwerp Cathedral of our Lady. The Belgium artist, Batist Vermeulen, did an amazing job of bringing this sad story to life. The sky cried with me.
The novel, the Dog of Flanders, was written in 1872. A Japanese filmmaker made the animated version that became such a big hit that it was even translated into Afrikaans (my native language). The story of Nello and Patrasche is about an artistic orphan boy (Nello) and his friendship with an abandoned dog (Patrasche). They live through many hardships and they often visit the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp to admire the paintings by Rubens. Due to the multitude of setbacks life throws them they end up dying in the cathedral together, underneath one of Rubens’ paintings. The thing is most of these setbacks could have been prevented if the people in their community were a little kinder. A little more caring. This visit served as a reminder to always be kind to people, you don’t know their story and the hardship they deal with in life.
This lovely town square is surrounded by extravagant Renaissance buildings. The perfect place to stroll around or sit on a bench and read poetry while eating delicious Belgium chocolate.
The statue below is a sculpture of Bravo and a depiction of how Antwerp (Antwerpen) got its name. Legend has it that a giant called Antigoon who lived near the Scheldt river extracted a toll from passing boatsmen. Those who refused got their hands ripped off and thrown in the river. The young hero, Silvius Brabo, who eventually killed the giant cut off the giant’s own hand and flung it into the river. The name Antwerpen comes from Dutch hand and werpen- to throw.
Antwerp Central Station
Welcome to the world’s most beautiful train station – in my opinion at least. On arrival, I just stared at this exquisite piece of architecture as bypassers brushed past me. The interior and exterior are simply magical! It is no surprise that this train station was once called the Railroad Cathedral.
I just had to stop at Chez Albert for the finest Belgium chocolate waffles. The first bite made me squeal with delight and I almost died from sheer joy on the spot. There was no resisting this bad boy.
After a delicious sugar high, I was ready to take on all the splendor this city had to offer.
Boekenberg Swimmingpond was definitely on my list. I was hoping for sunny bikini weather. I wanted to dive right into those deep rejuvenating waters, but it ended up being a cold and cloudy day instead. The cool thing about this pool is that it is ecological which means it operates on a natural filter process. There are no drying effects of chemicals on your skin after a dip in this pond. Instead of swimming, I grabbed a coffee from the cafe next door and made myself comfortable on the lush green lawn with my new book.
Saints Michael and Saint Peter Church
My wifi hotspot in Antwerp disappeared without me noticing. This means that I was following Google maps without it updating and ended up wonderfully lost in the opposite direction than I meant to wander into. Not that I cared. It led me to this incredible church that is not regularly visited by tourists. It is also built by no other than the architect master, Frans Van Dijk.
I was delighted to stumble upon this hidden treasure. For those who care about architecture, this church has is a unique basilica church with a neo-Romanesque exterior and outline and neo-Byzantine interior. Our main man Frans found his inspiration from the Latin-Byzantine, Romanesque architecture in France and early Christian churches.
For some reason, this church pulled me in and I pushed the heavy wooden doors open, unaware that the keeper was prepping the church for service. At first he seemed surprised to see me and spoke to me in what sounded like Flemish, a language I understand due to my Afrikaans tongue. He saw that I was a tourist and welcomed me in. He told me that service will start in half an hour and that they never get tourists visiting the most beautiful of all the churches in Antwerp but that he will show me around. He pulled me into a quiet church filled with lavish ornaments, decorated with symbolism and remarkable polished monolithic pillars, confessionals in white marbles and multiple brass and granite mosaics.
He continued to tell me the history of Saint Michael and Saint Peter Church. I didn’t hear a word, instead, I found myself quietly standing in front of a golden mosaic. I was in awe and forgot all about the man next to me. That is until he squealed with excitement and told me to stay right where I was as he ran off. He moved away and put on lights that brightened up the mosaic. The lights made the gold shimmer and gave the entire artwork an angelical feel. We both just stood there in silent appreciation and shared the moment.
St Paul’s Church
I spent a good two hours in this Gothic wonderland with its Baroque tower. St. Paul’s Church (Sint-Pauluskerk) is a Roman Catholic church close to the river Scheldt. I lost myself between the 200 statues and 50 paintings. I was in awe being surrounded by masterpieces from artists such as Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens and Van Balen. But especially Rubens. Growing up my obsession with Rubens sprung from Nello’s obsession with this master’s work and how looking at his paintings could make the world a better place.
Losing myself in art built up quite an apatite and I craved silent reflection and decompression. I stumbled upon this quite trendy coffee shop whose name I can’t for the life of me remember. If you know this place please send me its name in the comment section.
Antwerp Opera House
There is so much to see and do in this lovely city! I want to live here at some point in my life. I ended my incredible stay with the Macbeth Opera at the Vlaanderen Opera house. It was Bloody good. For those who don’t know the play, Macbeth and Banquo are the leaders of the Scottish army. They meet a group of witches who prophesy their future. The witches address Macbeth as Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland and tell Banquo that he will be the father of Kings. The two men try to learn more but the witches vanish. By his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and takes the Scottish throne for himself. He is then wracked with guilt and paranoia and goes mad – in a nutshell.
After spending hours on foot this was a welcome haven to come home to. Breakfast came with a side of Belgium chocolate each morning.
Antwerpen filled my days with historic charm and a pinch of modern class. I am already planning my next visit.
Touch Of Class