Monday, August 27, 2007

Dinner in Antwerp

Neighboring Belgium, the crossroads between North and South Europe has been receiving a lot of attention lately from the European press. The headlines: Flemish vs. Walloons. A linguist and sociologist would probably say that the rift between the 2 camps may misleadingly masquerade as cultural and political grievances and differences, but in reality, this is but a simple core language dynamics problem - Dutch vs. French.

My favorite Antwerp images: Dusk; You got mail; and Windows and busy women.

Nevertheless, this topic got me intrigued and interested. As a result of my inquisitiveness, I mused on and daydream about some Belgian ambience, a Belgian inspired weekend getaway would be nice. You know, just to have a feel of what’s going on down there. So, how about dinner in Antwerp?

Dutchman complained that Antwerp is too far but I quickly reminded him that it’s about the same drive going to Friesland, just that this is southbound. In the end he gave up and gave in to my wants. I WON AGAIN! lol

Okay, back to the Belgian program.

280 beer assortiments! Just cannot resist not to pose with them...

This is the lone old man drinking beer outside the bar on the trattoir. He is actually engaged in a discussion with the men inside the bar while preferring to sit outside. Next foto are the golden people.

What I had for dinner: (empty shells of) mussels. Charming cafes - the board says, the best place to eat?

And in Belgium, they do not accept €200 notes. In the Netherlands the highest bank note circulated and accepted by establishments is €50. Just shows you how thrifty and conscientious the Dutch are. Okay, re: grammar, something tells me the combination of “u” and “jullie” does not seem right here? Is this a Flemish rule?

More pictures here: Antwerp, Belgium

Trivia: Did you know that Antwerp is the diamond capital of the world?

This falling-out of the northern and southern camps subject matter has been quite knotty, deep-seated, and can probably be traced to eons and moons ago. The Flemish (Dutch speaking part), being the strong camp economically and the party carrying the brunt of Belgium’s financial duties has aired out their exigencies, i.e. more Flemish freedom, less Flemish money going to the Walloons (French speaking part), Dutch language as national language(?), these were just some of their demands. Of course, the Walloons won’t let any of this pass to law.

While everyone is at it, the consequence to this drama has been piling up on the political radar. A few days ago, the Belgian government failed to form the much needed and awaited coalition. This isn’t the second time as it has been 2 months already of battling this long standing pause for political reunification. Research and polls says that lately more and more Flemish appears to agree with exoneration and autonomy from the Walloons, rather, from Belgium. Are they filing a divorce soon!? Tsk, tsk, tsk.

They say it’s about time the king should intervene. But, the Royal Family is part of the problem too. The throne successor, Prince Filip, is under national criticism because of his impeccable (non-)Dutch skills. The image the prince publicly projects, says the press, is an inadequate unreliable prince. He could not even speak 2 intelligible Dutch words. Imagine the Flemish taxpayers choke up and burn in quiet rage. Well, not anymore. This, you can say is the best royal example of adding insult to injury.

Anyway, I am following the news. I am curious what will turn out with this clash of the Belgians series.

On other related local news -- about 2/3 of surveyed Dutch respondents support the fusion of the Flemish region into the Netherlands, and in lucid terms: Flemish region annexed to the Netherlands, while 3/4 have voted for a more intensive partnership.

ADDENDUM: Finally the videos!

These are the charming cafes facing the huge square called the Groenplaats. It is always busy in this area.

I am walking here with the camera beside the cathedral were many cafes and restaurants are huddled with each other. Then I emerged into a small square right in front of the cathedral.

This is the cathedral square, again full of open-air cafe terraces. The jazz player and his music perfected the nice ambience and the setting.

Walking towards the stadhuis [city hall], this is the box-like building with many flags, and having a glimpse of the Grote Markt square.

We had dinner in this Mexican restaurant across the stadhuis. We sat outside because the weather was nice, so I thought why not film the passersby with the stadhuis in the background.

The dinner went well. I had mussels (cooked in natural water version with celery) with kriek beer and Dutchman had mix grill (of meat).

Afterwards, we sat down in the cafe terrace by the Groenplaats square for coffee. The waiter argued with me that there is no double espresso but only mokka coffee. Huh - I didn’t know espresso was called mokka in Antwerp (or only in this particular cafe perhaps)?

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