Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Land of Beer

Wine is to France what beer is to Belgium. And here we are in Antwerp, a beautiful city in the Flemish part of the country. It seems there are more types of beer in Belgium than there are leaves on the trees. Each town seems to have it’s own specialities and some are really way out. Take the Lambics for example. They are brewed in open vats where the natural yeast from the River Senne around Brussels settles onto the malt sugars and starts the fermentation process. Then there are the blondes, the dubbels, the trippels, the Trappiste ales, and so it goes on. Some bars boast over 300 varieties and all have to be served in their own special glass. I’ve heard that is the law in Belgium!

We sailed up the River Schelde towards Antwerp in the early morning. The mouth of the river is actually bordered on both sides by the Netherlands. Once we sailed into Belgium we found ourselves amongst a large industrial complex, dominated by oil refineries. Indeed, Antwerp has the largest oil refining facilities in the world next to Houston, Texas.

Once we docked we could see that we were very close to the old centre of the city, dominated by the Catholic Cathedral of our Lady spire.  Many of us took advantage of a guided walk through the old city, a highlight of which was the Rubens mansion. Here are a few images to give you a flavour of this amazing city.

A prominent feature of the central square is the bronze statue of Brabo. Legend has it that the giant “Antigoon” charged for passage across the river and those who did not pay had their hand cut off and thrown into the river by the giant. Brabo, saved the day by doing the same to the giant. The bronze features the young hero Brabo holding the hand of the giant, throwing it away into the river. The coat of arms of the city features two hands to commemorate this legend.