March 29, 2019

Belgium - Antwerp - A dog of Flandres

I've spotted this statue on Instagram a couple of weeks ago and promised to go see it in the future, living in Belgium and all. 

And as it happened, on Friday I got an urge to go smell the sea, booked a room and on Saturday afternoon I was walking Luna on the sand dunes near Knokke in Belgium close to the Nederlands. It was nice, relaxing and if I find a story to tell about the Belgian seaside in the spring/winter it will probably make it on the blog.

But as there isn't much to do at the seaside at this time of the year, on Sunday we checked Gent and Bruges and on Monday we went to Antwerp, to see the statue. To be fair I've always wanted to see this new type of statues, integrated into the landscape, cause you have to admit it is unusual. 

And also it fits the story. And the story is the one of Nello and Patrache, the characters in "A dog of Flandres". Nello is a young orphan raised by his grandfather in a town near Antwerp. One day they rescue a beaten dog and name him Patrache (it sounds more Romanian then you care to know). They grow up together selling milk and after a series of unfortunate events, they both freeze to death in the Antwerp cathedral or outside it. So that is why the pavement blanket makes sense for this statue. Spoiler? Go read the book!

The tale also has it's own story. It was written in 1872 by an English author, became famous as a children story in South Korea, Japan and the Philippines, to the point where it is seen as a children's classic. But being based in Flandres namely near Antwerp, got discovered by the Belgians in the 80's and in 2017 this statue was commissioned. And indeed the square was swarming with Asian tourists, but there was no leaflet at the tourism office and frankly the person working there was very intrigued of me, an European asking about the statue. He pointed me towards something written in Japanese and sent me on my way. That's how tourism functions in Belgium, I guess.

"You reap what you sow", I guess and to be fair, Antwerp is not on my favourite list, frankly none of the Belgian towns are. Yes Brussels is the capital, but it is filthy and crowded and the crime rate has skyrocketed, Bruges is very touristy, also crowded, it has some flavour to it, but not that much, Gent is the uncovered precious stone, with a castle in the middle, with cobbled streets and nice museums, but it tends to get very crowded, very fast, and that leaves Antwerp, which to me looks industrial and unvisitable. A question of taste, as I always get into arguments with the people in love with those cities. 

And to answer your next question, I love Amsterdam, I love the countryside even the one in Belgium, I even like Rotterdam the most industrial city in the Nederlands, between Paris and London, I will always choose the latter without a doubt, between France and Germany, I will always choose Germany...well you get the point. I am lucky enough to live just a couple of hours away from all of those cities and form an opinion not based on that first one romantic visit we all take. A question of taste, as I've said.

Going back to the statue, the white marble monument of Nello and Patrasche hugged together under a blanket of cobblestones was created by the local artist Batist Vermeulen, and payed for by a Chinese diamond trader. It was unveiled in December of 2017, in front of the city’s cathedral. That is where I've found it on a cold and rainy Monday. The cathedral was being renovated as it seemed all the city of Antwerp is, so I simply could not find a good angle to photograph the statue. My husband took a picture of us while I was searching all the angles and that is what you see right now. 


Don't get me wrong, you have an industrial and let's face it, ugly, city as Antwerp, you have to capitalise on any nice, charming story. And we two (three if you count Luna) we stopped there on our way home, we payed the expensive parking, we spent a buck or two on a coffee, I would even have bought a nice magnet if there was one with the statue. I am sure the Asian tourists spent even more on the city and I've heard they are very much into shopping and Antwerp offers that as well. Tourism well done and Chapeau! to the Belgians for this one. 

I hope you loved my little post about a marble statue and as usual I would love to chat with you on my social media platforms. You can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle_ralu and on Facebook at


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