Posted: 2/9/2009


     Antwerp, Anvers,or Antwerpen is Belgium's diamond capital and home of THE MOST amazing train station in the world, a true architectural gem designed by Louis Delacenserie. Opened in 1905 the stone clad art nouveaux terminus has a vaste waiting hall 185m x 44 m high, and an iron and glass train shed designed by Clement Van Bogaert. It was recently made into a 'thru' station at great expense so that the high speed THALYS train linking it with Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and Cologne can call. It is my favourite station in the world. Just stop at the former first class waiting room, now  Le Royal Cafe, with its beautiful windows and ambience, for a snack.

      From the station its a brisk 1.5km walk throgh elegant streets to the Grote Markt (big market) and the renaissance Town Hall and the 16th Century guild houses. On the way the shopping streets such as De Keyerlie and Mier are attractive, elegant and interesting. Stop at Stadsfest Zaal  an elegant small shopping centre off de Mier with a fantastic champagne bar and up market shops and decorations.

      The local club Royal Antwerp is 50% owned by Manchester United, and although languishing in the 2nd Division they attract 12,000 fans regularly to their Bosuilstadium, capacity 16,600, and bigger fan support than many top division clubs. I was off to Ghent to see KAA Gent v Racing Excelsior Mouscron from near the French border. The special attraction at this Jupiler League match at the Jules Ottenstadion was the 2 coaches, former Belgian stars Michel Preud 'Homme, 2 World Cups, 58 caps and the Yashin Award for best goalie at FIFA World Cup 1994. He had played for Standard Liege, Benfica, KV Mechelen and had walked out as coach at Standard last year after taking them to their first Belgian championship in 25 years.

       Facing off this evening was Vicenzo 'Enzo' Scifo, once the golden boy of the country. Four World Cups and a star with Anderlecht, AC Milan, Bordeaux, Torino and Monaco.

      The field was in poor condition and would cut up badly and had a large swathe of turf replaced. The club is supposed to move into a new stadium, Arteveldestadion with 22,000 seats, 10,000 more than the Jules Ottenades Stadion.  The club is nicknamed 'De Buffalos', since Buffalo Bill performed his last Wild West Show in town in the early 1900's and their mascot was dressed in an all white  Buffalo Bill suit with a red, white and blue head dress.

     2-0 to 'De Buffalos' with goals by Zlahn Ljubijaki after 40 minutes and the decider in the 88th from Costa Rican Randall Azofeifah. Very steep stands for great viewing.