One of my favorite things to do when I'm visiting a city is to wander around, look things over, look for answers to the questions raised by what I see, and to collect far too many pictures.
My few days' visit in February was my first time in Antwerp, which meant there was a lot to see and question, and now to share some of the 'seens.' With only a short time, most of my wandering was in and near the city's historic core; I'll have to visit again!
Arrival was by train, at the magnificent Centraal station, a real 'cathedral for trains.'
The fellow above, standing outside the Het Steen fort, is Lange Wepper, one of the city's two well-known giants. Born from an assortment of vegetables, he was a good guy until he became a giant shape-shifter and prankster. But, the story goes, he had an aversion to the Virgin Mary. To protect themselves, the story goes, city residents adorned their homes with a multitude of Madonnas.
More likely, though, the many small shrines reflect religious fervor and to a degree Protestant-Catholic tensions of the 16th century.
The other giant, Druon Antigoon, comes with an equally unlikely story. He was an evil giant who demanded a toll from every ship that sailed the Scheldt River, and cut off a hand of any who refused. Eventually, a Roman captain (it's a really old story) confronted the giant and cut off his hand and threw it in the river, ending his reign of terror.
The statue, on the Grote Markt in front of the city's Town Hall, shows Brabo hurling the hand. Some would have you believe the city's name comes from Dutch 'hant werpen' or 'hand throwing' but the no-fun crowd insist it's really from 'anta werpum' or 'at the wharf' of the port.
On our arrival day, we walked to the Grote Markt area to find dinner at Appelman's, a Flemish restaurant with a wonderful stew, incredible frites and very well-prepared veg. It's named, by the way, for the father and son who were the principal stonemason/builders of Antwerp's cathedral. That's one of them, giving orders in this 1930s sculpture just outside the cathedral.
While we ate, the evening darkened, giving our walk back some different views than on the way, such as these two views.
For some, the day's work doesn't end at dusk...
While others only sit and wait...
If I hadn't been looking up to spot more Virgins, I might have missed some of the second-floor sights... and the bicycle that helped George G recognize our One-Clue Mystery answer.
An unusual doorknob...
At the moment, the cathedral's steeple, one of the tallest, is undergoing some work and bears an inscription on the screening that covers it. The onion-like dome was added after a 14th century fire; all those windows put a lot of light inside!
A car that belongs to a company selling high-end doorknobs, cabinet fixtures, hinges and the like.
This one is definitely in the Ivy league...
Near the waterfront, the Hansa House marks the spot where the Hanseatic League's trading offices in Antwerp were, starting in the 16th century. Antwerp was one of Europe's great ports even then, and the Baltic cities of the Hanseatic League, the first modern trading conglomerate, did a big business there. The present building, though, is 19th century and connected only by the name.
Het Steen is near the water, also, almost facing the Hansa House. After its time as a fortification, it went through other uses and now houses exhibits about the city and its growth, including a sculpture called 'the Generous Gatekeeper' and a series of cartoon-style murals showing different events in the city's life.
And the horse he rode in on...
Heading back now to the area around Centraal, for some more sights. The Antwerp Zoo, next door to the station, has been there longer than the station. The Royal Zoology Society's elaborately-decorated building is topped with a likely unique statue of a boy on a camel. The bird was a volunteer.
And a last look at cosmopolitan Antwerp. Chocolate to the right, Chinatown up the road, and a Brazil-influenced bakery and coffee chain on the left.