Ugly But Cool

Ugly But Cool

It’s been already more than a year since I arrived in Antwerp to do the industrial part of my PhD at Aquafin. During this time I have really come to love the city and Belgium in general.

Catalonia is lovely, there is no doubt about it, but Belgium is curious and with all due respect, lovely can get boring after a while. Belgium on the other hand is keeping my interest. There is something about the weirdness of it all, there is time and again when I do the mistake of starting a sentence like “But this doesn’t make sense…” before reminding myself it’s Belgium and it’s just not their thing. No house looks like it’s neighbor, horses are grazing in suburbian villa landscapes, all the administrative information for foreigners is in Dutch, but it’s fine. Things somehow work out anyways, and sometimes much smoother than in Sweden in fact. There, it’s like a shiny gloss of progress has been smeared over things that don’t work. I can download an app and see my medical prescriptions on-line, but it takes weeks to actually get to see your doctor. Here I was in shock the first time I was going to see my house doctor; they apologized time and again that they didn’t have any free slots for the moment, I would have to wait until tomorrow! I think this is really telling, because Belgium has a great mix of old and new. In Antwerp you still have bars that has been around for a century, but also the avant-garde fashion academy. There is also a strong sense of heritage here, be it musical, industrial or cultural. But it is slightly hidden away, because there is definitely no bragging going on. For this reason you can find one of the last surviving Decap organs in the back of a seemingly ordinary pub, or one of the world’s greatest beer cellars in a regular Belgian brown café. And this is the fun part, to seek out the hidden gems.