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Photographer's Note

This morning I got up early,
got the kid to school,
took the tram to the other side of the river
and shot some morning pictures.


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Here's the story of my hometown...my version!!!


Antwerp is the biggest city of Flanders. It lies by the river Scheldt, at a bend in the river, which is where it got its name, though most people prefer the ancient legend about a giant's hand that was cut off and thrown into the river.

The people of Antwerp pride themselves in their city's rich history. During the 16th and 17th century Antwerp was one of the most important cities in Europe.

Its role as the leading harbour of North-West Europe got a severe blow after a civil war lead to Dutch independence, the river Scheldt being blocked and mass migration to the north. But the city's artists remained top of the league for some time more.

Though we locals joke about our city being "a village with a tram",
Antwerp has always been an international place.

This sets it apart from the rest of Flanders, which until very recently has always been farming land. Hence, the relation between the city and the rest of Flanders can be troubled and the inhabitants of the city have a reputation for being big-headed and arrogant, to which our typical reply would be that we just don't care about their opinion...which probably only reinforces that stereotype!

These days Antwerp is a small European city with a fascinating history. Though not as famous as Bruges (thank god), Antwerp draws quite a lot of tourists. It is particularly popular with international art lovers, Dutch shoppers, the fashion crowd and all kinds of beer drinkers and hell raisers.

While Japanese tourists know Antwerp as the setting of the immensely popular "The Dog of Flanders" story, for many Americans Antwerp was their ancestors' port of migration and they come in search of their roots.

Our city also harbours a sizeable (orthodox) Jewish community, which has traditionally been engaged in diamond trade, though much of that business these days has been taken over by Indians.

Twentieth century immigrants include people first mainly from Spain and Portugal, then from Morocco and Turkey and now also from Eastern Europe. And then I haven't mentioned the Chinese, the Congolese...

These days about half of the children born in the city have at least one parent who does not have Flemish ancestors.

I moved over to the city from a small village in the north.
Antwerp has been my home for almost 20 years now.

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This picture was taken from the left bank of the river Scheldt. Though connected by several tunnels and officially very much a part of the city, most people still consider the largely undevelopped left bank to be "across the water", "over 't water" as we say in Flemish.

The main tower in the middle is the Cathedral of Our Lady. Next is the Boerentoren ("Boer Tower"), which is owned by a bank and is reputed to be Europe's oldest 'American style' skyscraper. The third tower block is the Oudaan, which is the headquarters of the police force.

Which of the three you find the most important, probably depends on your politics.
As on most things in life, the people of Antwerp agree to disagree.

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Additional Photos by Benny Verbercht (BennyV) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2816 W: 35 N: 5742] (30636)
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