Sunday, December 17, 2006

Out and About in December

For the second year in a row, I found myself standing in a square here in the city, taking in the sights and the sounds and the smells of Antwerpen's Christmas Market.

It's warmer this year but the ice rink is up and operational over in Grote Markt and I felt something like nostalgia when the big red A's lit up the buildings surrounding the square as the afternoon darkened.

We had paused for a lunch of super-large bratworst in a bread roll, with that odd tasting, almost cinnamon tomato ketchup they've been serving up lately.

We found me a warm jersey and wandered back to the square ... smoutebollen were next on the list of things that must be eaten. We shared a paper cone filled with 7 icing sugar-covered piping hot smoutebollen. Gert claimed they weren't hot, I say they were.

He devoured 4 in the time it took me to gingerly nibble my way through two. He waited a while after his first two but I told him to chomp on ... clearly this is some kind of natural talent.

He then horrified me by putting an entire smoutebol in his mouth ... I continued to knaw away at mine.

The day had begun with a jaunt to the Rosada factory outlet in the Netherlands. It's about 45kms from Antwerpen and it's a little collection of shops that sell Levis, Nike and etc.

Gert found some shoes, I resisted all, finding nothing that tempted me. I have a tendency to fall in love with my clothing and avoid settling for less than that love-thing unless I'm caught in an in-process immigrant kind of experience where money and the life you knew before aren't really options.

no matter ... Rosada Factory Outlet can be found here .


Manic said...

Why do I suddenly have this urge to go shopping now? But I can't, I have to study. Life's not fair at all, is it?

So nibbling on smoutebollen ay, you need to devour them. That's the proper way. Pick up with hands, open mouth, throw it in and swallow. That's not so hard, is it?

Yea, it's too hot to be Christmas. I want snow and ice and cold and ahh heck I don't want that, I wouldn't be able to enjoy it all coz I would be inside studying. Let it snow in February, then I'm free, free, I tell ya.

V-Grrrl said...

I'm a love-at-first-sight shopper grrrl too. While I enjoy window-shopping and leafing through magazines, I very seldom see anything I truly want to own. When I do see something that really grabs my fancy, only an extreme price tag will talk me out of it.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good day! I like Christmas markets, as long as they're not so crowded that you can't move.

Alex said...

Do you have Christmas markets back in New Zealand? We don't really have them in the UK. They seem to be a very European thing. I love them - they add a lot to the feeling that Christmas is coming.

And, er, what is a 'smoutebollen'?

woman wandering said...

Hi Alex, I guess we do have Christmas markets but not on the same scale and it's summer ... so it's different.

:) and no, they don't make me feel like Christmas is coming, on that winter is here ... Christmas is cherries and strawberries in the shop, it's hot weather and holidays ... sigh.

Smoutebollen is this deep-fried kind of round dough thing ... a type of batter. They're about 2 inches in diameter - sold in paper cones, to be eaten hot and coated in icing sugar.

I'll try and photograph some for you in the weeks ahead.

Peter said...

The "spirit of Christmas" unfortunately also attracts massive crowds (I had problems getting my regular groceries due to a crowd never seen before near the Antwerp Hilton) and the associated December crime wave.

The Antwerp white/blue police helicopter constantly passed my balcony today, while a close friend was assaulted with a knife by armed Moroccan youths while walking home near Antwerp central station last Friday.

Since 2005 the influx of impoverished Eastern-block juveniles has caused a considerable increase in street assaults in downtown Antwerp.

For some people, Christmas is a just the perfect time to rob you....

woman wandering said...

Hi Peter, I don't envy you the crowds around your place ... it looked crazy on the news tonight and to imagine how it would be to have to use the supermarket there ...

I stayed down around Centraal Station today, working on a project with my camera this afternoon, mindful of your friend's mugging. It made it difficult to relax and I realised I'll have to find another way of completing the work I want to do there.

Coming home, and there were police with serious weaponary as I passed by on tram 24 ... someone was bleeding, nothing was clear.

But you ... perhaps you'll have to shop early, buying in enough medicinal wine to have a very merry christmas?

Take good care of yourself.

Peter said...

Thanks for the advise Di, but I guess I'm going to try spending at least a part of the holidays away from the Antwerp riverbanks. Although I really like this area, the seasonal crowds can get too much.

Crime is a very disconcerting part of downtown living and I've witnessed way too many violent incidents to believe anyones rhetoric anymore.

Parts of Antwerp are undeniably unsafe at night: if you walk for instance from Antwerp Central station towards the new Central library (The Koninckplein) your chances of getting assaulted are +10x greater than while walking through the park in Deurne.

woman wandering said...

Well, I hope you find somewhere nice to go Peter. It doesn't seem fair that you're driven out but perhaps it's a small price to pay ... I would love to live over where you live.

I think city living is like that ... the haves and the have-nots in close proximity. When I talked of finding a different way of working down centraal station way, I realised that I have to go in and talk to the people who live there about why I'm wandering around with my camera ... but for you there's no solution really.

Istanbul was like that too, there were some beautiful areas that were too dangerous to go in the night and one of my friends lost more than one phone around Taksim late at night.

You'll just have to come out and visit bucolic Deurne some more ... Rivierenhof isn't so bad, nor is Boekenberg ... lol but here I am, telling a local of local things. Ignore the annoying immigrant chick :)

Peter said...

lol - I know the area you live in very well indeed - it's green and quiet, with large area's being almost 100% residential.

Last summer I almost had to push away the TV reporters in front of my door before I could get out to buy my groceries :-)

woman wandering said...

I love Grote Markt and environs, just for the change of scene and the feeling I'm actually 'in' Europe.

Stunning fog here tonight ... I guess everyone stays home, even the thieves perhaps.

I thought de lijn were stopping mid-route 'yet-again' today but they were just announcing the presence of pickpockets ... I guess it's the time for it.