There is a place in Antwerp not many Antwerpeners seem to know of. But that is what makes this location, which Wikipedia calls “oasis of peace”, so special. I am talking about the Begijnhof or beguinage as it is called in English. It’s located in the university district right next to the Ossenmarkt. The Begijnhof was bild in the 13th century and used to be the home of the beguines, very faithful women who lived in order-like communities without taking vows or retiring from the world.
Centre of the Begijnhof is a little garden. The beguines used the garden to grow all sorts of herbs and vegetables. Today it looks more like a little park with a Jesus statue, a pond, some fruit trees and small grass areas. Everybody is allowed to enter the park and to take a seat on a bench or just the grass. It’s a perfect spot to calm down, to read, to learn or just relax. You can also visit the St. Catharina church which is just a few steps away from the garden as well as a little shrine where you can take a look at a rather creepy looking Jesus figure.
Beside Antwerp there a many more beguinages in Flanders as well as the Netherlands but there are no beguines living anymore. The last beguine passed away in 2013 and with her ended an 800-year-old tradition. Today the beguines buildings are mostly used as living spaces.