It occurs to me that some of you may like to hear a little about what my life is like here. I’m staying in an apartment that I arranged on AirBnB. Like many rentals at that site, it’s quite inexpensive – under $50 a day for a three room apartment with a large kitchen. (You can see it here: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/6672914). It’s heated by lots of old radiators and so it’s kept me warm through several very cold days. Appliances are small and often rare in Europe. This apartment has the typical 3-foot-tall refrigerator but it also has a washing machine (!!!) which in theory also dries but hasn’t for me. Astrid, the landlady, recently added a dishwasher but it’s not connected yet and I really don’t need it. The apartment is in a building that probably dates from the mid-1800s (pictured above). My only concern/complaint is this: the apartment is on the third floor at the top of 48 very skimpy, narrow stairs.
The apartment is in the part of town called “Eilandje” which is Dutch for “Island.” This is the old port district that’s in the process of being rehabilitated – a process that began around 1980, was probably slowed by the Great Recession, and is now in full bloom! There is construction everywhere around me, most of it on high-rise apartment buildings. Yesterday afternoon the view over the bit of water visible from my kitchen was nice so I took the picture shown below. It also shows a bit of the pair of 15-story apartment buildings clad entirely in metal. Rather odd, I think.
The “Eilandje” district is at the north end of old Antwerp, but it’s an easy walk of a mile or less to the center of the oldest part of town. Buses are nearby and take me to the train station or to the historic district. There are lots of small restaurants in this district. One I’ve dined at twice is just around the corner. It’s called “Den Hut” (which I think means “the hut” – Americanisms are everywhere in the local language). It’s “trendy” with mostly vegetarian dishes from a variety of nations. The young chef is very good and friendly and his food is fine. I especially like his shrimp & broccoli in Thai noodles.
Barbara asked me what the name “Antwerpen” means. Here’s Wikipedia’s very complete explanation of three different answers, edited for brevity:
- According to folklore the city got its name from a legend about a giant river. He exacted a toll from passing boatmen, and for those who refused, he severed one of their hands and threw it into the river. Eventually the giant was killed by a young hero named Silvius Brabo, who cut off the giant’s own hand and flung it into the river. Hence the name Antwerpen, from Dutch hand werpen, akin to Old English hand and wearpan (to throw), which has evolved to today’s warp.
- A longstanding theory is that the name originated in the Gallo-Roman period and comes from the Latin antverpia. Note that the river Scheldt, before a transition period between 600 to 750, followed a different track. This must have coincided roughly with the current ringway south of the city, situating the city within a former curve of the river.
- However, John Lothrop Motley argues, and so do a lot of Dutch etymologists and historians, that Antwerp’s name derives from an ‘t werf (on the wharf, in the same meaning as the current English wharf).
You can read the complete explanations here if you like along with a history and description of the city: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antwerp.
PS: I did find one other American in town. He’s shown above. Try to guess how I knew he was an American and enter you guess in the “Comments” section below. The right answer might win a prize!