Diamond City

Just 50 kilometers north of Brussels lies a city on the northern coast of Europe. It is not exactly on the sea, but through canals it has a direct port to the Northern Sea. The city actually has the second largest port in Europe (second to Rotterdam) and is the non-official capital of Flemish Belgium: Antwerpen.
Since Antwerpen is so close to Brussels, we thought it would be a pity not to pay a visit. For this reason, last Sunday (getting closer to current time w. my blog entries 😀 ), we decided to go to Antwerpen. Since now we have a car at our disposal, we did not bother to go by train: we went by car, and found a parking spot… in Antwerpen Central Station… Actually it was OK to get there. The central station is marvelous: it combines old-style architecture with its old northern part with a modern, futuristic southern end.

From the train station we decided to start visiting the city by visiting it’s park first: Stads Park. The park is lovely by itself, but what really got my attention (and my camera’s attention), are the abundance of rabbits jumping around in it. I have seen squirrels, swans, ducks even exotic birds, but rabbits, I have never seen so friendly with people. Usually they run away as soon as they see people… these on the other hand very used to people: I could almost go there and touch them… it was really nice 🙂 …

From the park we went to visit the city center: and we started with the Cathedral of Our Lady. It was intended to have two towers but only one was finished to its full size (which is enormous by the way). The cathedral holds some of the masterpieces of the famous painter: Rubens and when we were there there was an expo with some of his paintings. That is why an entry fee of €5.00 had to be payed, but for that at least we were allowed to take photos (without flash of course).

The city center, Grote Markt was covered with huge scaffolds at the time of our arrival, so the center fountain, The Brabo Statue was turned off. Nevertheless these raised scaffolds offered a great support to take photos of the square from “the top”.

Since we arrived a little late, we decided to visit one of the things which make Antwerpen known in the whole world: diamond. Antwerpen is the world’s diamond center, with much of the worlds whole diamond industry concentrating in this city. There is an entire Diamond District in Antwerpen, just next to the central station and there is also a Diamond Museum, which was our destination. The entry fee to the Diamond Museum is €6.00 (€4.00 for visitors under 25) but this includes an audio-guide, without which I think the whole visit would have been a waste of time. With these useful devices, however, it provides an abundance of information about diamonds and diamond trade.

There is however much more to Antwerp than the things we managed to cover in one day: there is an excelent port, which we only saw from the car, there is a huge zoo (which is one of the oldest and most highly ranked in the world) and there is Europe’s first skyscraper (which we actually saw): The KBC Bank Building.

Photos on my Picasa Account.

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