Doel, the ghost town
I love discovering new places that are beautiful, inspiring and lively. But every now and then, I enjoy discovering places of a different kind. Doel is one of those. This little village near Antwerp has been abandoned for years and has faced the same faith as the remains of the Berlin wall: it became an urban, open-air museum; a canvas for street artists to show their talent. And by doing so, this ghost town developed its own kind of beauty. But first, let's stop in Antwerp for some late breakfast, shall we?
Divers (located Volkstraat 9, closed on Sunday) opened in September 2016 and quickly became a bloggers' favorite thanks to its very photogenic smoothie bowls. The concept is fairly simple: you take a smoothie, you take a bowl, you put the one into the other, you add some other goodies (seeds and fruit) and there you have it! It is super healthy, super beautiful, super delicious. Divers' founder Esther, a young and cheerful lady, believes in pure, clean foods to feel and look at your best. Speaking of which, the place itself looks gorgeous, with lots of plants and cozy seats. Make sure there's one for you by making a reservation.
After you had your healthy fix, take your car and drive to Doel, located in Beveren. It is an experience like no other. The streets are empty, the houses are in ruin and there is not a sound. On the day we went there, the village was covered in a blanket of fog which made it extra spooky. At first I was feeling uncomfortable, but this quickly faded as we met other people wandering the streets looking for beautiful street art. Because that's what it's all about: looking for the special graffiti, those few gems that look like true works of art.
The story of Doel is quite sad actually. In the 70s there were some 1300 inhabitants in this 400-year-old village, but now they're down to just about 25. The reason why people left is because a state-funded corporation wants it off the map to make room for the expansion of the port of Antwerp. With much perseverance, the last inhabitants have been fighting over the past 20 years to keep the village from being razed and nobody is quite sure how and when the story will end. But in the meantime, the village has been given a second life as a creative hub for street artists and as such, attracts many tourists every year. Go discover this surreal place for yourself while it's still here.
How to get there:
Doel is located at 25 min by car from Antwerp. If you're looking for parking near Divers, I suggest the Vlaamsekaai where you can park for free.