Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Antwerp twerps! Leaving Brussels behind.

Sorting through the pictures on my hard drive, I came across the last of my vacation pictures from last fall. Including the photos of my favorite place we visited in Antwerp! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

After our days in Brussels, we headed back towards the Netherlands with a two-day stop in Antwerp. Another Grote Markt! Another grand cathedral! More art by the Great Masters! And yes, more old buildings that make American buildings look like wimpy little pups!!

Speaking of the Cathedral, what can you say about such a gorgeous and imposing piece of architecture? It dominates the skyline and draws you in.
Antwerp skyline

And as you approach it, it grows more beautiful.



Inside there was a special exhibition of the religious works of Peter Paul Reubens. But honestly, the cathedral itself is so spectacular that the works of the great master paled in comparison. I have to admit, I am not a deeply religious person. But the stillness, the heavy blanket of calm that falls upon you when you enter a great church moves me. It moves me more than any religious service, any sermon.




Lots of buildings in Antwerp, especially near the cathedral, feature Madonna and child sculptures. Many of them, like this one, are finely wrought and quite beautiful!
Madonna and child.

(More Cathedral pictures available here.)

After leaving the cathedral, we wandered to the Grote Markt. And once again, as in Brussels, it is STUNNING. Smaller, more compact than what Brussels offered. A bit less grand perhaps but no less beautiful.
Grote Markt

Grote Markt


Grote Markt, detail. Antwerp

And it’s just as beautiful at night!

Grote Markt. Antwerp.

We also spent a large part of the afternoon wandering around the city. No definite destination in mind other than finding the Scheldt and seeing the waterfront. What we happened upon was ‘t Steen.
Steen on the banks of the Scheldt

It is the oldest building in Antwerp-- 800 years old! So old that above its front gate is a pagan fertility god. But when the Spanish came, they chipped away his very large penis—the Inquisition would not allow something so obscene and unholy to remain!!

Fertility symbol on the Steen.

It was closed and rather deserted. But it was beautiful and they had a boardwalk behind to watch the river barges go by. It used to house the Maritime Museum but that was being relocated into a better facility in 2010 but in the meantime was kept next door in a group of open-sided warehouses.


It, too, was absolutely deserted. I can’t imagine that every happening in the States!! A deserted warehouse FULL of boats and no one even noticing or trying to steal anything!

We then wandered back to the Grote Markt, through one of the older sections of the city. I loved the narrow, winding streets, and small doorways. It felt like being on a movie set of a medieval movie.

Medieval Antwerp.

The road that leads to the Grote Markt:
Antwerp night.

In a sense, Antwerp is an odd city. The older city center has a heart, a character that appeals. But outside the old city, a modern city sprang up that seems to have lost its spirit. Maybe it’s the diamond trade that did that? The drive of such a hungry, greedy industry has to leave its mark.

(You can see more Antwerp photos here.
One more day in Antwerp. One more chance for Antwerp to wow me!

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