Monday, March 27, 2006
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.