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Antwerp calling

Europe's diamond capital boasts a rich history and a vibrant culture. photo by Rupali Dean

travel Updated: Feb 17, 2010 09:46 IST

Chocolate, beer and waffles will do me no harm'. With this thought in mind, I planned a trip to Antwerp, Belgium. The first impression on arrival at the grand Central Station in Antwerp was that the place is majestic. This impressive building has an old-Europe feel that is balanced by an Art Deco-style letter 'A' -- for Antwerp -- recurring throughout the station. It is made from Lego blocks. Obviously, the tourism department is innovative with its choice of logo! After checking into the hotel, hunger pangs struck. 

I sat down at a famed tea-room, Del Rey, for waffles. Belgians eat waffles as an afternoon snack -- either warm with fruit, cold, plain or dipped in chocolate. Also on offer was a selection of pastries, biscuits and of course, loads of chocolates.

Steeped in history
Uptil the 17th century, Antwerp was often spelt as Hantwerpen. The city can truly pride itself on a rich past, and the museums and churches here are treasuries of it.

De Kathedraal, a wonderful Gothic-style cathedral, has several Peter Paul Rubens panels -- for example, The Raising of the Cross (1609), The Resurrection of Christ (1612) and The Descent from the Cross (1612). There are also nine confessionals, made of beautiful oak paneling that was moved to Antwerp after the French Revolution. The paintings, and the cathedral, are stunning.

City life
My first stop the next morning was the Theaterplein, where markets sell olives, breads, fresh meat, seafood and flowers in the traditional Belgian style.

There was even a standing champagne-and-oysters bar. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves even at 10 am. Later in the day, I visited the Diamond Museum. For those who don't know, Antwerp is the diamond capital of Europe and has the world's biggest diamond museum. After a day spent shopping, eating chocolate and seeing a magnificent diamond jewellery collection, what more could a woman want?