Antwerp has its share of folklore. One tale is represented by the statue of a giant and two men shown above. The giant, Lange Wapper, was a ghostly figure who lived in the canals and came out after the sun went down. He was a provocateur with a laugh like the devil, teasing and chasing drunks and cheating while playing with children. Apparently, his ability to change size played a large role in some of his escapades. He was known to be as small as an infant to trick women into giving him their breast milk or so large that he could move from one town to the next with a single leap.
I did not know any of this when I stood below the statue. What I saw was an Art Deco/Disney-style work that I am inclined to believe was a source of great amusement for the artist (made in 1963 by Albert Poels).
I apologize if I offend, but it seems so comical to me. And with the castle in the background, I couldn’t help but feel like I was somewhere in Disneyland. Is it just me? Either way, it’s truly tragic, because the castle is not a set, but a real and historic place.
Het Steen (“stone castle”) or Steen Castle is a medieval fortress beside the River Scheldt and Antwerp’s oldest building (built in the 13th century). Rebuilds and renovations, including the addition of a Neo-gothic wing in the late 18oo’s, have occurred as the castle was adapted to its various uses, including a fortress, a prison, a museum of archeology, and its latest incarnation as the National Maritime Museum (Nationaal Scheepvaartmuseum).
With limited time and not being huge maritime museum fans, we skipped the castle’s exhibits on navigation, shipbuilding, and waterfront life as well as the large collection of barges and boats. Instead, we walked around the castle, taking in the structure’s abrupt changes in architectural style.
This castle’s story appears to be an ongoing one as it has continued to evolve through adaptations to modern life, whatever that time might be.