Belgium’s second biggest city with a population of 459,805 and home to the largest port. Antwerp (Antwerpen or Anvers in Dutch/French) is the country’s capital of club queens, art lovers and diamond dealers. In the mid-16th century it was one of Europe’s most important cities and home to baroque superstar painter Pieter Paul Rubens, as you’ll be regularly reminded. Despite many historical travails thereafter and severe WWII bombing, the city retains an intriguing medieval heart with café-filled cobbled lanes, a riverside fortress and a truly impressive cathedral. Today Antwerp’s top discoveries are its vibrant fashion and entertainment scene, along with its startling architectural and cultural contrasts.
Although Elle and I only got to spend one full day in Antwerp, it was an amazing experience. We were lucky enough to be there during the time of the Ganesh festival which took place just a few minutes walk from our hostel. I must add that we met a wonderful woman from Hawaii called Mara who encouraged us to tag along with her to the festival. I think it’s safe to safe that we are glad we joined her.
The Ganesh festival consisted of lots of performances; dancing, singing and genuine all round happiness. Then a few people at a time took the stage and knelt before Ganesh, and asked for three wishes that would clear the voids in their lives’ and grant them prosperity. We were fortunate enough to take part. Afterwards there was a food offering and each person received a piece of fruit and a sweet delicacy.
The three of us were the only ones not of an Indian descent at the festival, but we were very much welcomed by the community. Only important people who attended the festival were allowed to wear a bindi, and although we obviously didn’t qualify, they were authorized to give us one as a sign of gratitude for attending and supporting their faith and religion. Despite the fact that neither Elle or I are religious, it was so beautiful to see how much faith and religion meant to these people and to be a part of their day.
Antwerp has a lot to offer, and in the future we plan to visit again for a longer period of time to explore the city a bit more and to see first hand what all the talk is about.