The last mile is the longest, but it’s still the last. Hang on for just a little while longer, and we can start the biggest party since Y2K. In preparation for that joyous moment, Trot Op! brings you five more places in Antwerp where you’ll probably won’t get corona. Enjoy!
Holy macaroni! There seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The lockdown is on its last legs – hopefully, because things are starting to look grim again – and the vaccination campaign looks to be somewhat kicking off at least. This means we can quietly start hoping for a summer filled with fun, friends and (mutually consensual) fondling. Huzzah! To make the long wait bearable, I went out to look for five more corona-free spots in Antwerp one last time. It’s a matter of hanging on now, and abiding the rules for just a bit longer. You don’t want to be that one schmuck who still ended up in the hospital two days before getting a shot, because he just had to go for an after-work binge drink with thirty of his dumb buddies. So be a good kid, stick with your little social bubble, and take them out into nature or something. Before you know it, this whole circus will be nothing but a bad memory. Yes we can, baby!
The last 5 places in Antwerp where you probably won’t get corona
I’ve already listed a good number of Antwerp’s most quiet spots in my last two posts (read here and here). To find a worthwhile five more, I had to dig a little deeper, but I think I managed nonetheless. The more popular places already too busy (Kaaien, Stadspark, et cetera) were skipped not to make things even worse. What remains are spots where it’s actually still peaceful. Let’s keep it this way, shall we? Go have a look and enjoy the place, but don’t drag along half an army of thrash spreading thugs. The heaps of garbage left at the riverside after the first rays of spring sunshine two weeks ago, were disgusting beyond measure. Don’t do this again, or I will personally find the bottle of Aldi cava you left behind and shove it straight up your littering butthole. There, that’s out of the way, now let’s get on with it.
1. An elderly home of choice
Guess who’s barely dying of corona anymore, geniuses? Indeed: it’s the people living in the elderly homes. They’ve gotten their shots in the past few months – without crying like babies over it by the way – and are now enjoying the consequences of that decision. After a year of tremendous human tragedies, life is now slowly returning back to normal for them. Here are some stats from De Standaard to illustrate reality a bit more. Around 85% of old-timers in these homes are fully vaccinated rights now. Despite the fact it takes a vaccine several weeks to be fully effective, the number of residents sent to the hospital is already 60% lower. The number of deaths even dropped 80% in a month. Not a single old person died as a result of being vaccinated, and none of them seem to be growing any extra arms, legs or tits – for now that is. So quit your yapping, get in line, and stop playing the pseudoscientific Facebook-guru. Refusing any kind of vaccination without a sound medical reason means you’re an idiot. Refusing a covid vaccine without a sound medical reason while you work with sick or elderly people means you’re an even bigger idiot, but also a borderline criminal who needs to start looking for another job. Stop acting like a toddler and get your shot, tough guy.
2. The beguinage
For many, the beguinage might not be a hidden gem, but for me it was for five long years. It took me half a decade of living almost right next to it as a student before I even knew it was there. Call me an idiot, but if last year taught us anything, it’s that I’m certainly not the only one. The Antwerp Beguinage can be found in Rodestraat, right next to Ossenmarkt – in better times the epicentre of the local student life – and hides one of the nicest and most peaceful little gardens in the whole city. The place is completely walled and full of little historic brick houses. Walk through the gate and you’ll hear all the city noises fade away in a few steps. The last nun moved out years ago, so the houses are rented out to regular people now. Still, there are few better places to study or read a book in summer, or to just chill out on the grass and enjoy the sunshine. The gates close at 6pm though, and after that the place is only accessible to those who live there. This is also when everyone gets naked and a massive Playboy party commences. It might be just hearsay though, I was never invited.
Our next stop takes us back to Ekeren. As you know by now, this is a charming little country town now part of Antwerp for some weird reason. Life is plentiful and peaceful here, were it not for the silent threat of the murder cows haunting everyone’s dreams. Right next to Oude Landen – the primary lair of these foul beasts – another patch of nature lies hidden. Behind the residential blocks across the street you’ll find Rozemaaipark: a nice walking area centred around a little stream, mixing forest with open, grassy space. Inside the forest you’ll find a large artificial hill upon which a picnic table was installed. No one knows what’s buried underneath, only the cows do. And the cows, they never speak. *X-files tune*
Mastvest is a nice and relatively unknown park near the edge of the city centre. These days, it’s wedged in between Antwerp Expo and the Ring Road, but it used to a military base part of the Brialmont fortification in early 20th century. The deep moat and the island behind it are the only remnants visible today. Two large stone bridges built for the 1930 World Expo span the water and lead to a large climbing playground on the other side. The moat itself can be freely fished by the way, so don’t hold back. Pretty little park, but there’s more. In the next few years, they’ll start work on Ringpark Groene Vesten. This will be a green trail following the Ring and Singel roads, with a total surface area of 450 football fields (apparently this is a universal unit of measurement now). It will make for new green space, while also connecting the already existing parks along the way (Mastvest, Brilschans, Wolvenberg, Nachtegalenpark, et cetera). The whole fortification will be visible again, but in a much more sustainable way. And if that doesn’t make you happy, it’s time to move elsewhere
5. Het Rot
Het Rot is one of many green areas on Antwerp’s left riverbank, right in the middle of Sint-Anna forest, Blokkersdijk and Galgenweel (all of these were mentioned in my previous posts). It’s a wild and wet area full of frogs, herons and ponds, bordering the grassy plain of Middenvijver (which translates to “Central Pond” but strangely lacks any ponds whatsoever). The area was named after the apparently very annoying Rotbeek (“Shitty Brook”) – which is now my favourite name in all of Antwerp – and got a nice makeover recently. A five hectare pond was added. This allows migrating birds normally breeding in Blokkersdijk to avoid the noise of the ring road construction nearby. There are plenty of birds to be seen already by the way: from nightingales to shelducks, tufted ducks, spoonbill ducks and even gadwalls. Yes, I don’t know how any of these look and have probably never even seen one. I just copied their names from a birding site okay? I’m not perfect.
“To make the long wait bearable, I went out to look for five more corona-free spots in Antwerp one last time. It’s a matter of hanging on now, and abiding the rules for just a bit longer.”
There you go friends: this little list should get you through the last month of lockdown nice and easy. And remember: be a good kid and follow the rules. If we hang on for just a bit longer, we can enjoy the wildest summer (well, more likely the wildest fall) since the Summer of Love in ’69. I’m talking booze! Drugs! Free love! No masks! No pants! We’ll refuse to stop the party when the sun comes up; we’ll stop when it goes down again goddamned, and then we’ll go to bed and start it all over the next morning! Let’s do this shit!
Restaurants are supposed to reopen on 1 May. Are you looking forward to that as well? Then read my posts on the best Asian, Middle Eastern, Italian, Latin American, Dutch, vegan, takeaway and hamburger restaurants in Antwerp and get you appetite going.