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Manu | 27 February 2012 | 1 comment

ARRIVING TO THE GROTE MARKT of Antwerpen, the main square of the town, is a joy for your eyes and a dive into the great past of this merchant Medieval town.
On the map Antwerpen appears like a very complicated town, an network of little streets all leading to the heart of the town, under the shadow of its beautiful gothic cathedral that gives thethe impression of protection to all its visitors and inhabitants. if you think you get lost in town, from wherever you are, you can look at the sky and the shape of the bell tower will drive you back downtown.
Antwerpen is quiet and chic, but also warm and sweet. It’s a town that enhances all your senses with its simple good taste for life.
In the street the scents of chocolate and waffles wake your senses up since the morning and brings you to enjoy life sweetness . Some of the best chocolate in the world is produced in Belgium, and Antwerpen is one of those places where you cannot avoid to thing about chocolate at least a couple of hundred times a day.
That’s only the beginning, as you are constantly tempted to try some great delicacies all day long. One of the typical Antwerpen dishes is the mussels, cooked and served in a big pan, ready to be eaten with the hands. I am wondering why, even if not being directly on the sea, the culinary tradition of this town is related to the fish dishes. That’s an interesting point to discover when I will come back.
However, the best part of this culinary visit is for sure the must stop at one of the hundreds bars of the town to start to try out some of the best beers in the world.
That’s the Borgondish life and eating style, that fully wraps you in the streets and in some of its old bars. What I loved of the bars in Belgium, is the fact that tasting a beer is itself an experience. Every beer has a different glass, and every glass has a different shape, that enhances the taste of what you are drinking. Enjoying the beer with some cheese and a good company is the best you can have in your daily life.
Just in front of the cathedral I found a small bar full of old church statues of saints everywhere, of all dimensions, making the atmosphere unreal but also cozy at the same time. You can never say you felt alone in there! I love the fact that if the glass of the beer you ordered is not available at the moment, the waiter comes to you apologizing for that, and explaining you why he choose another one similar to the original. That’s a great concept and also tells you so much about the drinking tradition of these people, different from the surrounding countries.
And last but not least, in order to finish the evening in the happies way, it is impossible not to stop in one of the old bars of the town and enjoy a shot of genever. There is a bar just around the corner of the main square, where they produce all kind of genever you can ever imagine. A booklet of about 7 or 8 pages has a list of all the different genever tastes they have. When you ask for a shot, the barman gives you a little glass and then fills it all with genever, so that the first sip of it has to be done with the glass on the table. Once you start to taste the sweet flavors of the best shot in the world ( you should try pistache and coconut milk to discover the happiness!), you cannot stop, and it happened we stayed there with the the people of the town, until the bar almost shut at 3 in the morning, leaving it with a promise to come back for sure.
But Antwerpen entertained and surrounded me at the same time with its beautiful old buildings and shapes, too.
By chances with my friend we found an old house with  a tavern restaurant at the lower floorand  a museum on the top, the houses was of a rich merchant of the 15th century in the Flanders.
The guide who showed us the house museum was a real character. My theory was that he had been a teacher in the old times. And a strict one! It was the most weird museum visit ever done in my entire life. The man explained us all the characteristic of the house in the Middle age, and very often was interrupting his speech with questions about what he had just said, just to keep our attention high. Sometimes his accent was very strong and we couldn’t understand everything of what he said, but we were also the only two people in the museum, so after he explained some history of the house, he was asking us some questions to check if we had been listening . It was an unreal and comic scene, alone in this old house, with this old man keeping asking us weird questions and us, like school pupils, in panic, looking for the correct answer. The best part was when he asked us how many people were living in the house ( as he had previously explained) and I answered him “45!”, in panic, with him correcting my stupid answer with a loud “8!” instead!
When we went out of the museum we felt almost relieved by this weird visit, and we went directly to enjoy our dinner at the tavern in the basement of building, where in the candlelight, we had a taste of the best fish soup ever in an atmosphere of other times.
Antwerpen, a town to be definitely enjoyed with all your senses!