Mechelen - My love
For almost two years I have lived in the beautiful Mechelen and I think it is time to make an evaluation. As I am considering buying a place rather than renting one, the time has come to decide if Mechelen is the place to be settling upon. Not Antwerp, or Brussels or Leuven, where I have lived for 3 years.
In the beginning of our story I didn’t much like Mechelen. My grandparents used to live here and it was a dreadful place. If there was any word to describe it, it would be the word Grey. If you would have told me ten years ago I would be living here, I would have called you insane. The many social houses, the lifeless playgrounds and the scared old ladies walking their dogs. I didn’t like it very much.
Another downside of Mechelen is that many of the people I would like to avoid, happen to live here. From insane aunts and nieces to I-would-rather-forget ex-in-laws. I always like to think I don’t have many people I dislike, but if I do, they almost all live in Mechelen.
But Mechelen is close to where I work and reasonably close to where I teach gymnastics and to where my friends live, so I decided upon Mechelen. I rented a house in the Great Beguinage, Groot Begijnhof, which is really one of the most beautiful parts of town. In the beginning I wasn’t quite interested in getting to know Mechelen, in truth I had lost my heart to Leuven. (Yes, I am sure not everyone gets the sentiment of losing your heart to a city) It was only after a few months that I started to explore this town that I had settled in.
Mechelen had changed a lot from when I was a kid, or a teenager. There were cute little cafés now, coffee bars, small shops, exotic restaurants and a vibe that I have only ever felt in Leuven. When I walked the streets I saw the sun glide over the roofs of the townhouses and hear my heels clicking on the cobblestones. I heard the children playing their musical instruments in the music school right next to the water and walked past the little fountains that followed my steps. When I went running in the evening at 9 or 10, the streets and the market place were completely deserted and I was free to admire the buildings in the quiet with the shine of the moon.
Little by little I was beginning to see Mechelen with an uncluttered mind. I decided upon my favourite coffee bar, my favourite café, restaurant, wine bar... I knew the way to my favourite parts of town and took walks along the river path, looking at the houses on the riverbank. I went to look at the boats in the tiny harbor and laughed at their names; I took my friends out for brunch or picnics in the park; invited my family and showed them around the town. (Father and stepmother skipping hand in hand on the big market place).
I wasn't avoiding Mechelen anymore, I was embracing it. From its culturally diverse inhabitants to its more commonplace weekend market. Mechelen, where the new and the old find a balance. Where water runs through the city like blood run through the veins of our body, to supply our system with sustenance. Where great beer is brewed and served with a Moroccan tajine in my favourite restaurant.
I befriended Mechelen and its share its treasures with me. I think we passed our evaluation.
PS: The only thing I am not quite sure about is the image representing the city, displayed on all the flags and all the brochures. The image of a little boy on his back and a tower combined, but I'll let you do the deciding. :)