So here we are in Antwerp, where it seems that the friendly face of the diamond trade is now a Russian with watermelon forearms and eyes like a three-day-dead fish. Passed on the diamond-rimed .357 pendant and hit the Koninklijk Museum for a bit of high-culture in low-land light.
An hour of perusing paintings of martyrdom and judgment and Iâ€™d had my fill of the burning, hacking, drowning, beating and skewering (the kind of stuff New York Times pieces on Iraq report generically as â€œsigns of tortureâ€�) that were, until relatively recently, the centerpiece of public diplomacy here.
Back on the street, there was a heavily made-up lady busking in the shadow of the Gothic cathedral. She was pretendingâ€”quite crediblyâ€”to be a statue of the Virgin Mary (she even had a little Baby Jesus on her lap), except, when you tossed a coin in her plate, she came alive and blew you a kiss.
This in the heartland of a vicious, protracted, sectarian conflict that took as a centerpiece Romeâ€™s idolatry and venality. That smashed statues and people with equal abandon.
Nice to see theyâ€™ve learned to crack a smile, toss a coin, and move on. And it only took five-hundred years, a few dozen major wars and a mountain range of corpses.
There are a few more pics of my current European tour here.