Day 3: A Day for Museums...and Waffles
For centuries, Antwerp was a place of meeting, encounter, and exchange. The port is the second biggest in Europe and what's most remarkable is it's 20 miles from the North Sea so the river here must be very deep. This morning we visited the MAS (Museum Aan De Stroom) where the welcoming message said, "Come and meet Antwerp in the world. Come and meet the world in Antwerp.
The MAS was recently opened and is ten floors with a panoramic view from the top. Each floor covers a different theme beginning with Visible Storage. This is an opportunity for visitors to see what is normally kept behind the scenes until the story of the objects can be told. Artifacts include treasures brought over by sea captains and archaeological finds. Other floors display wooden ships, scrapbooks owned by voyagers complete with photos and illustrations, Pre-Columbian masks, and even jars of rubber dating back to the 1800s during the days of the Belgian Congo. What was most impressive to me was the technology used. Visitors are given an iPod to scan codes to learn about each artifact and old journals on display with photos and illustrations can be examined digitally. In one room is an ancient game of Snakes and Ladders from India and the modern version left out for visitors to play. Another interesting exhibit was a display of counterfeit W innie the Poohs which we're seized in the port.
After visiting the museum, we visited the Stroom Cafe on the bottom floor for a delicious freshly made cibatta. There's also a two starred Michelin restaurant at the top with a panoramic view.
This afternoon while a cool fresh breeze settled over the city, we visited the Rockoxhuis House which is temporarily housing a collection of artwork from the Royal Museum. The exhibit featured a Rubens, religious paintings, and curio cabinets filled with exotic shells. In the small quiet courtyard is an herb garden. My mother taught me as a child how to carefully touch a tiny leaf to extract enough oils to identify each herb and I found myself doing just that. Small wooden boards propped tastefully around the garden featured paintings of animals you might see there. One had a simple pigeon which depicted it as quite beautiful in this setting.
Tonight was a special occasion in Antwerp: Museumnacht. This means the museums are open until 1:00am and each one has activities or a concert. We visited the Rubenshuis where beautiful live music played in the courtyard. We then visited two more museums: Maagdenhuis Museum which was a former orphanage for 400 years, and the Meyer van den Berg, a collection of paintings which were owned by one collector. The highlight was a Brueghel referred to as Mad Meg. It was a weird scene of people and demons and art historians cannot agree about what it depicts. I didn't like looking at it.
Our evening ended back at Desire de Lille for another waffle which was light and fluffy. Tomorrow we're off to Amsterdam.