December 16, 2012

Antwerp and Brabo, last night

                                       photos by Graham

The seasons' spirit also made it to Antwerp. The first two pictures show the town hall and the good observer notices the statue of Brabo right next to the Christmas tree. Even though the word "Antwerp" is said to be derived from " aan de werpe"  (translated as "at the throw")  referring to where the river throws its sand, the Brabo story tells it differently: "More than 2,000 years ago, when Antwerp was just a small settlement in the Roman empire, Druoon Antigoon - a giant from Russian descent - built a large castle along the river Scheldt. He exacted a toll from every passing ship sailing down the river. The giant cut off the hands of sailors who were unable or unwilling to hand over half of their cargo, and threw their hands in the river.One day, the Roman soldier Brabo sailed along the giant's castle. He refused to pay the toll and challenged Antigoon to a duel. Brabo managed to defeat the giant, cut off his head and hand and threw it in the river. According to popular etymology the city's name - Antwerpen - is derived from the act of Brabo throwing the hand ('handwerpen' in Flemish). The hand symbolizes the free waterway, which was vital for the city's survival. The hand also became a symbol of Antwerp and appeared on city seals as early as in the 13th century.Even today it is prominently visible in the city: the hand is displayed on the city's coat of arms and a local delicacy, known as 'handje' is shaped like a hand"