Monday, December 10, 2012

ANTWERP, Belgium: Part 2

After a good night's sleep in Antwerp, we headed out to see a different part of the city the next day, about a 30-minute walk from city center.  We knew we HAD to see the central train station, which is considered one of Europe's finest.

On a foggy Saturday morning, this is what we saw as we approached her.

In our peripheral vision, just off to the left of the station, is the Antwerp Zoo.
It's the oldest zoo in Belgium and one of the oldest in the world, from 1843.
Another day.  Another time.

 When we entered the train station.....W. O. W.

The station, finished in 1905, has 4 levels with 14 platforms.
And what wondeful light!

After touring the inside, we exited at the back (or another front?)
 and saw the Church of Our Lady, Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedraal, from the day before.

At this side of the train station, were veered off to the left into the Jewish neighborhood....

...where all the Antwerp diamonds are!  HA!
Antwerp is one of the biggest centers of the world's diamond industry
and is home to the Hasidic Jewish community of ca. 15,000 people.

 Totally unplanned by us, we just happened to be walking through the neighborhood late morning...
just as worshippers were leaving their synagogues on the Sabbath!

OMG!  Talk about being "short of eyes."
I tried to be as discreet as possible, of course, while taking pictures.
At one point Astrid stopped one of the men with the big fur hats
and found out they are Polish Jews, wearing the hats of their grandfathers' grandfathers!

As we continued walking around, we started "collecting" Mezuzah doorpost blessings.
Notice the two spots where they've been removed!

Happy Chanukah!
And with Astrid's foot, she's pointing to a shoe scrapper in the outside wall.

At that point we walked back to the train station for a koffie break before continuing on.... Chinatown, on the other side of the train station, where we first entered earlier.
What a shock, to go from the Jewish section to the Chinese section of town!
Talk about two sides of the same track!

As I've worked on my images these past two weeks, I have many impressions, of course.

 Surely you know that Belgium is a country known for its beers!
I wonder if "99 bottles of beer on a wall" came from there?
Except, make it 300 or more.
There are 178 breweries in Belgium.  Count them.
Wouldn't it be fun to visit them all!

And just to say we did it, we entered Bier Central with 20 beers on tap
and another 300 in bottles.
No, we didn't sit down to try one because....

...we were on our way to Wagamama for our main meal of the day.
Great beer with edamame...and a main course I forgot to capture!
We LOVE Wagamama, wherever we can find it!

You know me and architecture....

...and gevelstenen (= gable stones) and weathervanes, of course.

Impressions.  Impressions.

And more impressions.

Antwerp in two days.  Now you know why at only an hour's drive away, we have promised each other to go back at least once a year...if nothing else for the mussels alone!  If you liked mussels as much as Astrid does, wouldn't you drive an hour away to eat some good ones?!

And now for next week, the Christmas market in Köln, Germany!  It IS that time of the year....


  1. I'm about to head off to slumber-land but had to check in briefly... I'll be back tomorrow to view part 1 (which I missed) and have a longer look at all these lovely images! Love the many collages of the Hasidic people leaving service and the last one with Astrid holding the ladder for the statue is great! More later... I wonder if the comment that just flew in to my inbox as I was typing this is from you. :-) (I did two posts today.)

    1. I had been warned ahead of time by my German friend to NOT take pictures while in the Jewish neighborhood, but as you see, Victoria, I didn't obey. I really tried to be discreet...and my long 300mm lens helped me keep my distance. I think sometimes I hid in front of Astrid, with her back to them, with me peeking over her shoulder. But how could I resist.

      Thanks for stopping by. I'm off to see your own posts....

  2. Oh my...I just loved returning to Antwerp this morning! Ha! You did a splendid job capturing this incredible city. Oh and how lucky you were to have captured so many incredible people shots while in the Jewish neighborhood. Those are fantastic Ginnie. I especially love the one with his black and white cape. AWESOME! I'll look forward to one day going with you all to Wagamamma! :) xoxo

    1. As I just told Victoria, I had been warned ahead of time by my German friend to NOT take pictures while in the Jewish neighborhood, but as you see, I didn't obey. I really tried to be discreet...and my long 300mm lens helped me keep my distance. I think sometimes I hid in front of Astrid, with her back to them, with me peeking over her shoulder. But how could I resist.

      I love that you stood in some of these same spots and know whereof I speak! It really is a great city and worth many returns. And if ever we have the chance, one day we'll take you to Wagamama. I actually crave their food! :)

  3. Ginnie, these are wonderful captures. I had never seen the large furs hats. I took some pictures of Hasidic Jews in Vienna, Austria, last year, but just a couple as I was shy and did not have a long lens like yours. It is tricky to take photo of people. I remember well in Algiers, Algeria and also in Marrakesh, Morocco, how I would feign to take a picture of my travel partner but move my lens to take a native person…

    My father and his brother-in-law (my uncle) used to go to Antwerp to buy diamonds all the time. When my uncle went back to Egypt to live my father would go alone to Antwerp (I wish he had taken me with him...) I had no idea it was such a lovely and historic city. I am waiting for your report on the Christmas market in Germany. I saw that they had a Christmas market on the Champs-Elysées in Paris, but that would not be the same. I told my husband that, if he keeps being well, next year in December we have to go to Alsace and Germany to see these markets.

    1. It was tricky taking the pictures, Vagabonde, especially since Astrid was very uncomfortable. In the end, all was well. After all, they ARE out in the public, near the train station. Surely they get this all the time? Still, one wants to honor the privacy of people, no matter who they are or how differnet they may seem from us.

      I will love it if you and your husband can make it to the German Christmas market next year. Let us know if it's something you're planning and maybe we can meet up with you there. It's not very far away!

  4. Oh my... I must have been half asleep last night when I commented on part II because I just left you a comment on part 1 that I was off to visit today's post... not realizing I'd already done so! DUH!... but I did promise to come back and I've just had an enjoyable visit revisiting what I was a bit too tired to fully appreciate in the wee hours this morning. I love one particular variety of Belgian beer... their Dubbell style. (cannot recall if it has one or two letter ells) Of course, I have to be careful to not overdo since it is a higher alcohol content! Your collage of the beer bottles makes me want to visit and try some other Belgian beers! And I would happily join Astrid in dining on mussels... one of my FAVORITES! Belgian restaurants are currently enjoying great popularity in the DC metro area and a few other of my favorite restaurants do an excellent job with mussels. Once again... your creativity and artistry shine in the way you have assembled your collages to show us your adventures... and the photography is great as well!

    1. So...I get double the pleasure of your two visits, Victoria. THANK YOU. Astrid and I are wine drinkers more than beer drinkers. However, when in Belgium, you almost HAVE to choose beer! And we did. :) (Actually, not with the mussels from the day before, now that I recall.)

  5. There seems to be a lot of interesting architecture and details there. I always enjoy going round breweries I find them interesting.

    1. All of Europe is an architectural museum for me, Cherry, no matter where I go...including England! But each country does seem to have it's own nuance and style! Thanks.

  6. This is an amazing post. Besides all the things we saw and visited, we were so lucky to be at the right spot at the right time to see the Jews come from Synagogue. Talk about culture. They keep theirs.
    Short of eyes indeed, but I assure you, we will go back, just for the mussels or to have a walk in another part of the City.
    Thank you again for this incredible memory. We must count us lucky to have this all withing an hours drive.....

    1. You know I still pinch myself almost every day, even after 3 years! I love how you are beginning to see how close everything seems to me here in Europe. For you to drive an hour away is becoming "nothing" to you, too. I love it. :) Thank you for being my biggest fan!

  7. How fabulous! The station is incredible; I can just imagine the light, the sound, the feel of it. And those fur hats! I love knowing that they are the hats of their forebears! And I love Wagamama too! The only one I've been to was in Dublin, and we saw Billy Joel, who was in town for a concert. I don't think there is one in the U.S.! And I love edamame. :)

    1. Thank you, Ruth. I loved this second day in Antwerp! And yes, Wagamama is wonderful. I think it would make a killing in America if they ever started it there!

  8. Breathtaking, this post, to say the least. WHY don't they build like they used to? Seriously, the hats of their grandfather's grandfathers?!! Do people keep hats that long? I could look upon your impressions forever - and the edamame is something my daughter has introduced me to - I love the name "Wagamama" - so fun to say. I just am amazed at all the two of you see and do!

    1. You can see why it's so important to me to document everything almost as soon as it happens, Margaret...otherwise I'm afraid it would all be lost forever! Thank you for following this Journey with me/us!

  9. To cover all of this in just one day... You must have been overwhelmed by impressions.

    The Jews seem very special and unreal to me, scenes like cut out of a film. I read those comments of yours where you explained circumstances of taking those photos. Well, it's quite clear why the Jewish community don't want to find themselves in photographs. Anti-Semitism is strong in many parts of the world, I personally heard many times how people I know spoke disrespectfully (and stupidly) about Jews. I can't understand why Jews are so unpopular and hated as a nation. But I can understand that you couldn't resist capturing them, you're a born documentarist. ;)

    The central train station is beautiful, a pearl of architecture. Once I saw a short video shot there, a video which doesn't show much of the station but makes me feel better any time I watch it:

    1. I LOVE that YouTube, Petra. Thank you for including the link here. Sometimes we just need to see the miracle of such fun and surprise! And yes, I understand the concern of anti-semitism and just wish it were not such a huge evil in our world. One day I truly hope there will be peace for all Jews everywhere! For EVERYONE everywhere!

  10. I drove roughly the hour in early 2002 to Antwerp and had many of the same impressions. I know you stopped to look a lot more than I did though for sure. It's amazing what a digital camera really makes you hunt and stop and enjoy much more these days.. Or at least you can show others the slow sightseeing! I love the architecture too and hope you will go back. I remember good eats, that's what I loved at lunch.. :)

    1. I love that you were there, Jen, and can remember some of this incredible city. I'll never forget it. And yes, we will go back again and again, I'm sure.