Monday, March 27, 2006

Antwerpen's Diamonds

Yesterday I learned that Antwerpen and the world's diamond industry have been intertwined since the 15th century. Needing to know more of the city, I had gone wandering with my long-suffering yet patient guide ... I'm not sure how many times he heard Could you please spell that for me?' and 'Wait, I just need to note that down'. Anyway, I've been living in one the world's most important diamond-trading centres without realising it ... forgivable when you realise that the entire diamond district is actually contained within one square kilometre and tucked away on the west side of Centraal Station. I was surprised to learn that 85% of the world's rough diamonds, 50% of the cut diamonds and 40% of the industrial diamonds are handled here. The Diamond Exchange is the place where the world's diamond traders spend hours assessing, buying and selling the product behind maximum-security doors. The guidebook claims that those deals are still sealed by a handshake and the traditional phrase 'Mazzel und Broche'. We passed by the small Portuguese synagogue, built back in 1913 and used by the Sephardic Jewish community. It was the scene of a bombing in the early 80's ... 3 people were killed and more than 100 were injured. The news seemed out of place in the Sunday silence of this small corner in Antwerpen. We checked out the food in the window at Hoffy's Restuarant on Lange Kievitstraat and made a note to go back one day soon. It was a quiet tour, I'm curious to go back on a blue sky day working day and see how it is.


J said...


You'd be surprised how rich this city really is. Part of the Flemmish culture is to frown upon "pride". Therefore, you can live and work in a Flemmish city, and just like you, not realize what it means.

I suggest you go down on around the cathedral during a normal week night and enter a bar, sit at the counter and engage in conversations. Almost everyone speaks English, and you'll be amazed at what you'll find out about this city.

Most seem cold and distant, but upon closer inspection, "Antwerpenaars" are one of the most open and welcoming people around.


woman wandering said...

Hi j

Pride ... ahhh, just like New Zealanders.

I love the way the cityscape has slowly opened as I've explored it but sometimes, when the paperwork and time passing seems to have gone on a little too much, I focus on the things that make me sad.

I guess I just need to learn patience with the friendship thing here.

Thanks for writing. Your comment did make me smile.