My study abroad program for Belgium is ISA and because I am in their program they provide day or multiday excursions to see more of the Belgian culture. Last weekend, we journeyed to the Dutch speaking part of Belgium, Flanders, to visit Breendonk and Antwerp.
Our first stop was to Breendonk, Belgium’s only concentration camp. The Belgian government used Breendonk originally as a fortress during the first two world wars, but after the Nazis invaded they soon took over the building. It was used mostly for detainees and political prisoners, it was not strictly a death camp but many deaths took place. It was occupied by 200 prisoners at a time who were put to work by day and tortured by night for information on any and all resistance groups. Because it acted like a prison, some people actually were free to leave Breendonk, after serving their sentence. When Belgium was liberated the Nazis had already fled Breendonk trying their best to destroy all evidence of torture and murder.
We then went to Antwerp, the diamond capital of the world. We started the tour of the city by visiting the gothic church, Our Lady Cathedral. It is the largest Gothic church in the Low Countries originally established in 1124.
After visiting the church we went to the Museum Plantin-Moretus, a printing press museum. Home to the two oldest printing presses in the world and many paintings by famous Belgian artists it was definitely an interesting place to go.
My favorite part about visiting Antwerp, was encountering a different culture than that of Brussels. People in Flanders bike more so there were hardly any cars and Dutch is the primary language so if you ever visit, it’s not a place to try out your French skills. It is also a great place for Belgians to experience great food and shopping opportunities. I would recommend it to anyone looking to experience more of Belgium or looking to get a good price on an engagement ring.