Greetings from Belgium! I finally have internet, or to say the least ELECTRICITY! Well I knew that in Europe they use different plugs from what we tend to use in England but the last couple of days before I left home I didn’t think about it and completely forgot.
I am currently staying in a city called Antwerp or Antwerpen as they have it here. It is a very vibrant city with a lot to do and a lot to see. It’s very similar to what you have in England but everything is not in English. It’s a city where 1in3 own/ride a bicycle, motorcyclists casually ride on the pavement, and everything move very fast and it rains when it wants.
About the language, I knew everyone would be speaking French here, reason why I bought a mini French language book with the basics (for tourists). Little did I know that our location also hosts people speaking in Dutch and German. Because of this it has made it difficult to try and integrate with what people are saying as well as choosing programmes to watch on TV. What I always wish is to learn before I come and attempt to speak the language that they speak also. It is just the same concept as if people visit England you expect them to know a bit of English to at least buy an ice cream or say hello and thank you.
Fortunately I did learn French at school which has helped me to understand a bit of what people are saying. The problem is that the people speak EXTREMELY fast so it’s rather difficult to understand when you are not used to it. Luckily majority of the places we have visited have workers who speak English, it is just some of the shop workers that don’t.
Anyway besides language the area we are staying in is near the Antwerp Central train station in the centre of town. Antwerp is internationally famous for its diamonds, and rightly so: about 85% of the world’s rough diamonds, 50% of cut diamonds, and 40% of industrial diamonds are traded in Antwerp each year. With a total annual value of more than $12.5 billion, diamonds account for roughly 7% of total Belgian exports.
On the day that I arrived we saw a lot of Jewish people walking about and to our assumption we thought they were having some kind of crusade or summer meetings. But few hours of seeing them it turned out to be an area which they all live in. I decided to google it and found out that around 15,000 live in this area which then put everything that we were seeing into perspective.
Many diamond dealers and traders belong to the Antwerp’s Orthodox Jewish community, which has a long tradition of handling diamonds. More than 80% of the city’s Jews are involved in the diamond trade and Yiddish is the main language of the diamond exchange. It’s amazing how much of a tight nit the Jewish community is. They own most of the shops in the area, which the other Jewish people buy from, their own Jewish Religious Schools, meaning their money only circulates in their community, quite amazing! If you have been to Manchester it’s the same as the area of Prestwich.
We had also seen soldiers with rifles standing on our road which was a little bit intimidating as we are here on holiday not to join a war or live in an area which has conflicts. It turns out a Jewish man was attacked by a man with a knife, cutting his throat. Luckily the man survived in hospital after treatment. We now understand why they have soldiers on their streets just in case something happens.
Other than that everything here is amazing (except driving on the right), which does really confuse you if you are not used to it. Hopefully the rest of the week will be good before we return home!