I cannot say enough about Antwerp, which is ironic, given that saying too little has never been a vice. My return visit after 14 years has me wondering whether this is the most changed place on earth or have I forgotten what it was like. Were all the restaurants Italian in the 90s? We’re the guys this handsome?
The symbol of Antwerp is expressed in a bronze statue of a naked Adonis, running over adoring virgins, holding aloft the severed hand of a freshly slain giant, with the intention of tossing said hand into the sea. How do I know the recent timing of the giant’s death? Well, the sculptor has added the nice touch, a tad gory one might think, of having a stream of blood spurting from a still pressurized wrist vein, though in a breach of verisimilitude the townspeople have substituted water for something more theatrically crimson, doubtless a conceit to decorum in obvious pander to the sidewalk cafés and restaurants overlooking the square containing the 30’ statue.
Having handily vanquished their mythical Goliath, the citizens are free to shop, drink beer, savor chocolates, and maraud the streets with gay and straight abandon—both being great company in my opinion. A favorite vignette of mine happened upon us in the mid afternoon, where Rod and I were enjoying a cold brew in the shade of the cathedral (a juxtaposition that finally gives the church a useful function), when a half-dozen high school boys sat at the next table. They ordered a cocktail, which earned a salty comment from the waiter and left to return with six beers. Bravo Antwerp! The young men drank at a civil pace, shared a few laughs in some form of Flemish tongue, then grabbed their backpacks to wander off in search of maidens or…[insert imagination here, leave me out of it].
The sculpture, depicted in the sketch and nestled into a corner of the cathedral’s exterior, is a peculiarly proper homage to the men who labored in the building of the church, instead of a redundant obeisance to dead martyrs or an implausible virgin. And it gave me an irresistible, if pointless, pun.