Saturday, November 24, 2012

Red light, Green light

Red Light, Green Light

Have you ever played the game Red Light Green light?  I think about it every time I pass the Red Light District in Antwerp.  The picture above is the actual Red light in the Red Light District.  It is located between a few streets about 1/2 mile from where I live.  This you will love...within the district (and you can't make this up) is a street called  Oude Manstraat translation "Old Man Street".  Known as the Sailor's Quarters, the original district was for the sailors that would come into port.  This is the only area in Antwerp where prostitution is legal.  Much like Amsterdam, the ladies (for the most part) are in windows and scantily dressed.  I added "for the most part" because a friend and I cut through the district as a shortcut the other day. I am going to admit right now I am just too immature not to I look and this lovely lady is sitting on a chair in her sexy little outfit and guess what she is not?  NOT a lady.....will let you use your own imagination how I knew.

I paid $45 dollars for an 8 1/2 pound turkey for Thanksgiving.  But where do you get a turkey in Belgium?  Naturally, in Chinatown.

This is a picture of Sinterklaas. (Short for St. Nicholas).  The arrival of Sinterklaas to town is a huge public event.  An event that Marty and I could not miss.  Sinterklaas arrives by boat after spending the off season in Spain (no North Pole for this guy)  Sinterklaas, a precursor to our traditional Santa Claus is part of the holiday events here in Belgium, Holland, and other low country areas.  He is the patron saint of children and on the eve of his birth, Dec 5 he comes and delivers presents to children in sacks that are left at their house. And of course, he has helpers.  This is where Marty and I had a jaw dropping experience. Once Sinterklaas comes off the boat to the applause of the town you notice that he is surrounded by some others known as Zwarte Piets.  Translation  Black Pete (s).  Now it is clear that Sinterklaas is not so politically correct...They were all blackfaced white men. uncomfortable.

The story goes that Black Pete was a slave of Sinterklaas and he freed him.  Black Pete was so grateful that he stuck around  (How funny that this bothered me but the man in girls clothing 1/2 naked in a window did not).  The Black Pete story evolved over time to say that he was actually a white man that got soot on him when he went down the chimney to deliver the sacks.  Sinterklaas travels around on a grey horse that flies....not what normal child would believe...everyone knows only reindeer fly.  It is also traditional for children to dress up on the arrival of Sinterklaas as a Black Pete.  

The town was electric, the children were delighted and we notched another euro event on our belts topped off with a cava (my new prosecco).


I think these are the bomb!  There is a large Hasidic Jewish community in the southern part of the city.

Are they not the hippest? They are called shtreimels.
from wikipedia:
"a shtreimel is a fur hat worn by many haredi Jewishmen, particularly (although not exclusively) members of Hasidic groups, on Shabbat and Jewish holidays and other festive occasions."

And so now I bring this chat full circle.....Red Light Green Light... how many of you played that game?  Mother May?  Swinging Statues, Tag...your it!...Hope that you did.

Here is a red light that you must obey.

It is hard for Americans to stay still.  Why would you wait if a car is not coming.  Because of the bike, car and pedestrian traffic in this city, not only is it important to stop when you see the red guy because you may be hit......there is also a 75 euro fine for crossing when it is not green.   That is $96.75 USD.

Hope you are bringing out your Holiday Merriment items....mine are out.

Wishing you all a Cool Yule!