A handful of Antwerp

It’s a luxury you don’t get living on an island in the middle of the Pacific ocean. For us a university camp is a weekend trip a couple of hours away by bus generally to a private property. It definitely isn’t a weekend trip a couple of hours away to a neighbouring country! This was an immediate highlight of living in Europe on exchange. Our destination? Antwerp, Belgium. As someone who loves getting involved, meeting people and seizing every possible opportunity – as many friends at home would no doubt vouch for – in addition to never passing up an opportunity to travel to a new country, I did not hesitate to sign up for the trip. BELGIUM the land of Chocolate, Waffles, Beer and Tin-Tin and in ANTWERP’s case Diamonds. For those who’ve been to Antwerp and know the story of the tax collecting giant then you should recognise the pun in the title of this post. For those of you who don’t well heres a little story…

Once upon a time Antwerp was a small medieval port. There in a castle at the mouth of the port lived a giant called Antigoon who collected a toll from every ship that sailed down the river. Those of whom were unable or unwilling to pay the toll had their hands cut off  and thrown into the river by the giant. One day a Roman soldier named Silvius Brabo sailed past the giant’s castle and refused to pay the toll. Challenging the giant to a duel Brabo defeated Antigoon, decapitating him, cutting off his hand and throwing it into the river. Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 12.02.49 amP1030418

Legend says the city – Antwerpen – derived its name from Brabo’s act of heroism as the Flemish translation “Handwerpen” means To throw the hand. The hand is an iconic symbol in Antwerp keeping the story alive through the infamous blue fountain in the town square and the interesting design of the MAS (Museum san de stroom) which is covered by small white hands. The museum also has a fantastic roof top from which you can see the whole of Antwerp…when it’s not a foggy day like it was when I was there. Added bonus? Access to the roof top doesn’t cost a cent, which is fantastic as one of my favourite ways to see a city is a view from above! p1000889 P1030424 So like I was saying chocolate and waffles…you are absolutely spoilt for choice since there are a ridiculous number of both! Don’t even think about “being good” and strictly eating healthily whilst in Belgium, you will just torment yourself, and miss out on an incredible cultural and culinary experience, so indulge a little! My go to phrase “When in Belgium.Besides the chocolate literally had my name on it!! P1030454 P1030455 P1030434 10649734_750590278335186_4367232049104955767_n P1030441 Belgium’s architecture is beautiful. As you can see each of the buildings are all a similar style, following the same theme one could say. Tall with orderly windows in perfect rows and columns and with roofs that look like steps to the sky. But every single building is different, with its own charm and character. The entire city looks like this, with cobble stoned winding streets and evidence of stories from the past present at every turn. LITERALLY. 16094_750592098335004_1231412008481423335_n P1030524 On our ghost tour we were told the stories of the Lange Wapper and its role explaining the presence of madonna and child statues on nearly every street corner of Antwerp. The Lange Wapper was an incredibly tall man who had the ability to shape shift his size and appearance, from a giant to a baby and anywhere in between. He was an evil trickster who enjoyed frightening drunk men and children with his terrifying laugh. The town were terrified of him and legend has it the only thing Lange Wapper was scared of was the Madonna. There was a time when Madonna statues were present on every street corner in Antwerp! Legend likes to claim that this was in order to keep the Lange Wapper from terrifying people. Meanwhile a second story claims that the presence of the Madonna statue, illuminated under a light, satisfied the Catholic King enabling the people to avoid paying taxes for street lights as they served the purpose of ensuring the constant presence of the Madonna. The Lange Wapper was also incorporated into the intricate detail of Antwerp’s church (See the foot of the far right statue). He is placed there as she is the saint to have rid the city of his evil. P1030449 P1030496 Antwerp Central Station is location of the Sound of Music Flashmob. As an enormous fan of the movie I not only stood there in awe of the incredible building that is the station but the entire time I had the words to “Do Re Mi” running through my head! P1030538IMG_6233Two and a half days; Midday Friday – Sunday night. In which time I can safely say that we did everything there was to do in Antwerp and I wouldn’t have wanted any longer. We filled up on Belgian culture, visited all the sites, went out at night, wandered the market in the town square, had plenty of time to sit people watching whilst enjoying waffles and chocolate, we shopped for souvenirs – mostly chocolate and my ‘Chocolate’ top that looks like ‘Coca-Cola’ (pictured above in my bike selfie), visited the museums, went on the ghost tour and a bike tour where we were told about what felt like every inch of the city. Antwerp was fantastic and I enjoyed every minute, but there is no reason for me to return there as I feel I have done and seen it all.

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