Wednesday, 21 November 2012


 After two lovely days in Brussels, it was off to Antwerp, once a big commercial power and still one of the biggest players in the diamond industry.  The whole reason we were going to Antwerp, on this trip really, was because on November 13th, Within Temptation - one of my favourite bands ever - was having its 15th anniversary concert at Antwerp's Sportpaleis.  Otherwise, I didn't know that much about Antwerp but we really enjoyed ourselves.

We especially enjoyed the gorgeous Art Nouveau entrance hall of the train station.  The rest of the station is modernized, with train platforms on three levels, but this hall and the main facade were wonderful.  Probably the nicest train station of the entire trip.

 We stayed in a four-level house filled with rental apartments a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Grote Markt, home to the Cathedral of Our Lady, which is currently filled with a number of Dutch religious paintings, including four or so by Reubens, as Antwerp's art museum is closed until next year, I think.  It was really nice to see these paintings in a cathedral setting, especially the Reubens ones, as most of them were painted specifically to be displayed in this building.

 Another beautiful city hall, also in the Grote Markt.

 On day two, our full day in Antwerp, we headed south to take in the St. Andries district which is described as trendy and is quite a fashion district.  There were many interesting clothing stores and restaurants in this area, all in lovely old buildings.  It was a nice neighbourhood to explore at random.

 Right by St. Andries is the Plantin-Moretus House, a printing museum.  This was possibly our favourite museum of the trip - printing, books, engraving, atlases, libraries, and even a 17th century bookstore, pictured above.  We were in bibliophile heaven.  (Christophe Plantin was the first industrial printer in the Low Countries, or was it in Europe?  Hugely important, in any case.  Moretus was his assistant and then son-in-law and the Moretus's continued the printing business successfully into the 18th century.  The museum is in the family home.)

 Here you can see any printer's most valuable possessions - his type.  Type was very expensive, so generally you kept as little on hand as you could get away with.  Some of it is still in its original packaging; some is packaged in old printed sheets, probably ones with errors that couldn't be used.

The printing workshop.  So many printing presses!

 And cases upon cases of type.

 Me, with one of two of the oldest printing presses in the world.  The other one is on my other side.

 And, as might be expected from a successful printer, a fabulous humanist library, complete with globes and busts.  This is the Large Library.  There is also a Small Library.

And my one, terribly fuzzy photo from the Within Temptation concert, which was fabulous, especially as you can see pictured behind Sharon den Adel and the band the orchestra and choir.  I think I took this during "Ice Queen".  Everyone who was staying in our building (except for Tim, but including our very friendly landlady) ended up going to the concert.  I think all the hotels in Antwerp were filled with metal fans that night.  I ended up riding the tram to the venue with some friendly Norwegians, one of whom had been to Saskatchewan and tried to convince his friends it was even flatter than the Netherlands and Belgium.

We were a bit concerned about how we would get to our next stop, Amsterdam, as there were reports that the socialist rail union in Belgium was going to go on strike the next day, in solidarity with countries dealing with austerity measures.  Did we make it to Amsterdam or not?  Find out in the next installment.  :)

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