At the end of October 2020, the Governments of Belgium – yes, plural – announced a second lockdown as a coronavirus countermeasure. To be fair, the lockdown is not a full confinement. But we were and are allowed to go outside. So even if the nature of measures change, the lockdown provides an excuse to explore our hometown of Antwerp.
The River Scheldt or Schelde in Dutch and Escaut in French is vital to Antwerp. The river provides the city’s wealth with the Port of Antwerp. It provides songs, it provides romance, it provides vistas and it provided Antwerp its name.
Early recorded versions of the name include Ando Verpia on Roman coins found in the city centre, Germanic Andhunerbo from around the time Austrasia became a separate kingdom (that is, about 567 CE), and (possibly originally Celtic) Andoverpis in Dado‘s ‘Life of St. Eligius‘ (‘Vita Eligii‘) from about 700 CE. The form Antverpia is New Latin.
A Germanic (Frankish or Frisian) origin could contain prefix anda (“against”) and a noun derived from the verb werpen (“to throw”) and denote, for example: land thrown up at the riverbank; an alluvial deposit; a mound (like a terp) thrown up (as a defence) against (something or someone); or a wharf.If Andoverpis is Celtic in origin, it could mean “those who live on both banks”.
There is a folklore tradition that the name Antwerpen is from Dutch handwerpen (“hand-throwing”). A giant called Antigoon is said to have lived near the Scheldt river. He extracted a toll from passing boatmen, severed the hand of anyone who did not pay, and threw it in the river. Eventually the giant was killed by a young hero named Silvius Brabo, who cut off the giant’s own hand and flung it into the river. This is unlikely to be the true origin, but it is celebrated by a statue (illustrated further below) in the city’s main market square, the Grote Markt.
I apologize for the in your face cliché, but the river is a meeting place. It’s a place to soak up the sun, to have riperian entertainment, to jog, to watch the sun go down. Go down yes because the river lies west of the city centre.
Certainly in lockdown times people turn to Scheldt for sports and entertainment.
The Scheldt Quays are transforming. On the website Onze Kaaien you can follow the plans the City of Antwerp has with the quays. The Droogdokkenpark is already there and so is the southern end of the quays. That part reminds me of Bordeaux.
In this walk, I started at the Waagnatie. This event hall houses Darklands and is situated near ‘t Eilandje neighbourhood and the Museum Aan de Stroom (MAS). Southwards you encounter the Stone castle, Antwerps medieval fortress, the Zuiderterras Footbridge, the St. Anne’s Pedestrian Tunnel and the Waalsekaai and Vlaamsekaai.
Go and have a walk, sit on a bench.