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Cafés ..... I love the café culture in Europe! Even in crummy weather, it is common to see Europeans (and their drinks of choice) seated on charming streets at their favorite cafés. There are so many bars, restaurants and cafés in Antwerp. It would be impossible to try them all, but you try your hardest and everyone has a favorite.

My personal favorite café is the Bourla (followed by the Eleventh Commandment). The actual building is much more than just a magnificent café. The Bourla is a Neoclassical theater designed by Pierre Bourla, Antwerp's city architect, in 1827. And, if you didn't know about the café and restaurant up on the second floor, you could easily miss one of the highlights of the city.The structure is one of the most historic treasures in Belgium. It's the last municipal theater on the continent with original stage machinery, filling five levels above and below the stage.

Bourla topped his structure with statues of Apollo and the nine Muses. Below the statues are the busts of seventeen heros of literary and musical drama. In case you are curious, that list includes Mozart, Schiller and Shakespeare.

The theater started to decline in the 1950s. At one point, the delapidation was so bad that there was talk of demolishing it completely. Fortunately, it was decided to restore the building to its original glory as a part of the 1993 celebration of Antwerp as the cultural capital of Europe.

I can't say that I ever saw a performance at the Bourla, but I can confess to an awful lot of cappuccinos.

Copyright 2015 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.