Art & Waffles in Antwerp.
Much smaller than I expected, Antwerp was pretty much destroyed by the Nazis during World War II. After walking into the city from the River Scheldt, you can see what remains of the castle/fort now being restored to become part of the cruise port entry hall along with remnants of the original medieval city walls. Long an important port city, Antwerp was occupied by Germany during the war, briefly liberated, and then virtually destroyed as the Nazis tried to keep the valuable port away from Allied armies. For six months, more than 2,000 V-bombs fell on the city and the surrounding area, until the American anti-aircraft gunners were finally victorious.
Those dark days seemed impossible as we left our riverboat, the AMAPrima, with our cute, quirky guide. She was an English teacher and literature student whose husband was the city’s poet laureate a couple of years ago. During this two-hour walking tour, she offered a delightful and amusing perspective on this breezy, rebuilt city.
My favorite old building was the former Meat Guild. A dominant building conveying the importance and wealth of the guild, it was designed using bricks in red and white to covey the appearance of marbled meat. Who knew subliminal messaging went so far back.
The ornate City Hall is covered for restoration but thankfully pictured on the cover per UNESCO regulations. A pop-up antique market dominated much of the main square where the Brabo Fountain is located. The fountain wasn’t running today, but when it does its meant to look like blood running from the severed hand of a giant; creepy but different.
Nazi bombs also thankfully missed the Cathedral of Our Lady, still a very busy Catholic church, first built in 1124. There are four significant pieces by Reubens housed here and it was a treat to see them a learn a bit more about his symbolism and religious perspective. There were also many other pieces of art on loan from a local museum.
Once our tour was complete, it was time for refreshments and we went to find the café, Désiré de Lille, our guide recommended. I don’t like waffles but wanted to give an authentic Belgian waffle a try, and I’m sure glad I did. They were so light – delicious; with a little ice cream, whipped cream, powdered sugar, and wonderful sauce. Now that I write these ingredients – what’s not to like! We also tried another local specialty, shrimp croquettes, but those tasted pretty ordinary to me and were expensive. Stick with waffles.
Antwerp is often thought of in connection with the diamond industry and for the record, it is not considered a place for individuals to buy diamonds. In various cities in Belgium, you can visit diamond factory/shops to watch demonstrations and no doubt hear a sales pitch. We were happy to pass on that sort of experience.
We are diamond free but waffle happy.